Are you moving to the United States and have a pooch at home? Don’t worry, whilst it can seem like a difficult process to bring how to bring dogs to the US, it is actually relatively simple!
Importing your pooch into the United States is a straightforward process and you will be happy to know that there is no quarantine. Although, in general, the US rules are generally simpler and much easier to follow than those of many other countries, there is still a level of careful planning that is needed. This will ensure a smooth process for you and your pooch, so you can enjoy the excitement of moving to the US without any added stress or worry.
We have compiled the most frequently asked questions, lists of our recommendations to ensure a smooth process, and details of all the paperwork you need before, during, and after your relocation to the United States.
What Paperwork do you need?
When you are bringing your dog into the United States you MUST have the following or they will not be permitted entry upon arrival which will cause you, and your dog a lot of stress.
- A veterinarian issued a health certificate that states your pet is healthy, vaccinated, and fit to fly. This certificate must be completed within 10 days before the date of travel.
- A microchip, The United Stated accepts both AVID and ISO microchips.
- Proof of the rabies vaccination.
Puppies cannot be vaccinated before they reach 3 months old, and their rabies vaccine must have been completed at least a month before travel. Therefore, your puppy must be at least 4 months before they will be able to enter the United States.
If your dog is traveling from any of the countries that are listed here, then your dog’s rabies certificate must be in English or have a certified and signed English translation. If you do not have your dog’s rabies vaccine translated by the veterinarian who issued the vaccine, then your pet runs a huge risk of being sent back to its country of origin.
Optional vaccines which are good for your pooch but are not required include:
For dogs originating in countries affected by screwworm, the following is required.
The dog must be accompanied by a certificate signed by a full-time salaried veterinary official of the region of origin stating (reference: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE)
- The dog has been inspected for screwworm within 5 days prior to shipment to the United States; and
- The dog is either free from screwworm OR was found to be infested with screwworm, was held in quarantine, and was treated until free from screwworm prior to leaving the region.
Importing dogs for sale or adoption
Please note that if you are importing a dog for sale or adoption you need different paperwork. Importing dogs into the United States for resale, whether through retail or wholesale channels or fee-based adoption, is now also covered under the Animal Welfare Act.
To import a dog into the U.S. for resale purposes or adoption, the dog must be:
- in good health
- vaccinated for rabies and distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis, parvovirus, and parainfluenza virus
- at least 6 months old
Specific paperwork must accompany the dog on its trip to the United States. This includes:
- a health certificate and rabies vaccination certificate, issued in English by a veterinarian that has a valid license to practice veterinary medicine in the country of export
- an import permit issued by APHIS.
To obtain an import permit, fill out the application form and submit it to APHIS. The application requires information including the name and address of the individuals exporting and importing the dog, the number of dogs, and the date and purpose of importation.
Frequently Asked Question
What is a Valid Rabies Vaccination Certificate?
All dogs must have a valid rabies certificate that shows they are vaccinated for rabies and fully immunized. It does take 28 days for the rabies vaccine to fully immunize and protect your dog. Any documents must be in English or have a certified English translation and must be completed out by the veterinarian who gave the rabies vaccine. All documents must be complete and accurate at the time of arrival. Just like a passport, your dog’s rabies certificate should not expire during the length of your trip. The rabies vaccination certificate must include all of the following information:
- Name and address of owner
- Breed, sex, date of birth (approximate age if date of birth unknown), color, markings, and other identifying information for the dog
- Date of rabies vaccination and vaccine product information
- Date the vaccination expires
- Name, license number, address, and signature of veterinarian who administered the vaccination
Do dogs have to quarantine when entering the United States?
No, quarantine for dogs is not required by most states and territories. However, Hawaii and Guam do have some quarantine requirements for pet dogs that are being imported into the United States.
Can you buy a seat on the plane for a dog?
You cannot buy an extra seat for your dog. Travelling with a dog this way is essential as carry-on luggage, which usually incurs a lower fee than if it travels in the belly of the plane. A dog in its carrier counts as your carry-on bag.
Can you ship a dog through FedEx?
FedEx does not accept live-animal shipments. As either part of its regular-scheduled service and does not transport household pets such as dogs, cats, birds, and hamsters.
Do dogs have to have a vaccination to enter the United States?
Whether returning or coming to the United States, all dogs must appear healthy. And if your dogs are coming from a high-risk country for rabies, they must have valid rabies vaccination certificates to enter the United States. Dogs must be at least 12 weeks old to get the rabies vaccination.
What dog breeds are banned in the United States?
Some dog breeds have a reputation, rightly or wrongly. This means that some are banned in some states. Below is a list of the dog breeds that are banned across most US States although it is very important that you check the specific state you are travelling to, and also which states you will pass through to see their policies.
- German shepherds
- Pit bull terriers
- Cane corsos
- Staffordshire terriers
- Great Danes
- Doberman pinschers
Is there a limit to how many dogs I can take to the United States?
Legally no. Although many states or cities have their own limits. Many cities limit dogs to two or three per household. In rural areas, how many dogs you keep on your property is normal completely your own business, as long as your dogs aren't a nuisance to your neighbors. But many cities across the US now restrict the number of dogs per household, often to just two or three, so you need to check the rules of where you are moving to.
Which airlines allow flying with dogs in-cabin?
The following airlines do allow flying with dogs with you in-cabin:
- Alaska Air
- Air Canada
- American Airlines
- United Airlines
- Aegean Airlines
- Air France
- Air Europa
Different airlines have different prices and policies and it will depend on the size of your dog. Please note many airlines have additional carry-on pet charges that you must pay upon check-in at the airport.
Can I take my dog on a transatlantic cruise?
Generally, no, however Cunard’s Transatlantic crossing on the Queen Mary 2 is the only current cruise liner that allows you to bring your pet along for the ride. This is a great option if you or your dog is afraid of flying.
Can I take dog food into the United States?
If you must bring pet food with you across the border, it must be:
- In its original packaging
- Under 20kg
- Have a label with a clear list of ingredients
- Place of origin
Certain animal by-products are not allowed in the US, including pet foods that contain any sheep or goat meat. It is our strong recommendation that you do not bring dog food into the United States as it can be a big hassle and you can buy extremely good brands once you’ve landed.
Does my dog need a visa to enter the US?
Dogs do not need a specific visa or visa-like paperwork to enter the United States. Dogs must however be accompanied by a current and up to date, valid rabies vaccination certificate that includes the following information:
- Name and address of owner
- Breed, sex, Age, Color, Marking
- Other identifying information for the dog
- Date of rabies vaccination
- Vaccine product information
Our Recommendations on How to prepare your dog for air travel
Take your dog to your veterinarian and have them examined for a travel health certificate. It’s a great idea to make two copies of the certificate, so you can leave one copy with your boarding documents and one taped on your dog’s carrier for travel.
If you have questions about whether your dog can handle air travel, be sure to ask your vet and get their feedback for your dog. They will be able to give you the perfect health advice when it comes to travelling with your dog.
Know the rules
It’s very important that you know the rules surrounding travel for dogs. Each airline has specific policies for dealing with pets.
In general, your pet will need to be older than 12 weeks, have a certificate of vaccinations and good health, and you will need to provide them with plenty of food and water for any longer journeys.
No online booking
This can seem crazy in this day and age but it is better if you can purchase a ticket for yourself in person or over the phone. Inform the representative that you’ll be travelling with a dog, as there will be a fee and more information required for your pooch. The fee you need to pay may depend on where your dog will fit: Remember, smaller dogs can often stay in their carrier underneath your seat whereas larger dogs will typically ride in the cargo section.
Get a carrier
You will need a lead and a carrier while you are on your flight. Purchase a dog carrier that is large enough for your dog to turn around comfortably and we recommend that your dog gets used to it before the flight to reduce stress.
Make sure you label the carrier clearly with personal contact information and then mark the top and sides of the carrier with “Live Animal” in bold writing.
It is a great idea to leave your dog’s favourite toy in the carrier with him and their favourite blanket. Some dogs can find comfort if you leave a shirt in that smells of you and don’t forget to cover the floor with a towel to safeguard against accidents. Educate yourself on the carrier rules and restrictions.
Prepare your dog for the carrier
As we mentioned, make sure to acclimate your pooch to the crate he will be traveling in ahead of time. You can try this by placing your dog in its carrier regularly. Then let them get used to staying in confinement for longer and longer periods of time until you cover the length of the flight and more covering any delays.
You should also practice the motion of travel by placing your dog in the carrier and then driving.
Double-check that you have all you need for your travels. The most important thing first is that you have your dog’s health certificate with all your boarding materials and then the copy taped to your dog’s carrier. Also, check that the carrier has all the right labels that it needs as well as your details.
Food and water
Avoid giving your dog food for around five hours before the flight, although water is okay. Toilet breaks are really tough at the airport. If your dog is going to be staying in the cargo area, fasten a bowl for water and a bowl for food to the inside of the carrier. You should also tape a serving of food to the outside of the carrier for flight attendants to use, if there is any delay but be mindful that you are following the rules regarding dog food. Your airline will provide you with more information.
Arrive early with plenty of time to spare
Arrive at least an additional hour earlier than is recommended, and remind airline employees that you are travelling with your dog when you check-in for your flight. Maybe you can ask employees to show you where the cargo area is, for loading if your dog is not staying in the cabin with you, this will save you a lot of time and stress.
Before you take off
The absolute best way to prepare your pup for air travel is to keep them as active as possible up until boarding. Having them tires and burning off energy will help with any anxiety. Resist the urge to give your dog a sedative unless directed to do so by your vet. The more comfortable you can make your pups flying experience, then the better it will be for the both of you.
The USDA provides additional information on the requirements and exceptions under the AWA and complying with other applicable Federal, state, and local laws and regulations. They encourage you to read through these materials to gain an understanding of the regulations. It can help you determine whether you need an import permit from Animal Care before importing dogs into the United States and with more resources for you.
- Questions and Answers: Importing Dogs for Commercial Sale or Adoption into the United States
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) requirements on the importation of dogs
- Are you traveling with a Pet? Learn about Pet Travel requirements.
As you can see there is a lot of things to consider when taking your dog from Europe to the United States but compared to years ago the process is relatively simple. As long as you follow the guidelines carefully and keep yourself up to date with policies and procedures you and your dog will have a safe journey.
Laura is originally from the United Kingdom but currently resides in Spain after spending years travelling around the world. Laura works as a full-time blogger and author, and when she’s not writing, she can be found wandering along the beach, relaxing with her dog or journalling at a coffee shop.