Bringing a Dog into the United States
CDC does not require a health certificate for dogs to be imported into the United States, although some airlines or states may require them. However, dogs must be healthy upon arrival and be vaccinated against rabies. Dogs may be denied entry if they look like they are sick with a communicable disease or if proof of a valid rabies vaccination is not provided. If a dog appears to be sick at the port of entry, further examination by a licensed veterinarian at the dog owner's expense might be required. See International Travel with Your Pet for more information.
Proof of Rabies Vaccination
Rabies vaccination is required for all dogs entering the United States from a country where rabies is present. Dogs must be accompanied by a current, valid rabies vaccination certificate that includes the following information:
- Name and address of owner
- Breed, sex, age, 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
These requirements apply equally to service animals such as guide dogs for the blind. Puppies must not be vaccinated against rabies before 3 months of age, so the youngest that a puppy can be imported into the United States is 4 months of age.
Importation of Unvaccinated Dogs
Importation of unvaccinated dogs is allowed on a limited basis. Unvaccinated dogs may be imported only if they are coming from a rabies-free country (see below) or if they are being imported for use in scientific research where rabies vaccination would interfere with that research. Questions about importing unvaccinated dogs may be directed to CDC at CDCAnimalImports@cdc.gov.
Persons seeking to import unvaccinated dogs are responsible for contacting CDC in advance at CDCAnimalImports@cdc.gov to discuss their particular situations. Unvaccinated dogs that arrive in the United States without advance CDC permission might be denied entry to the United States and returned to the country of origin at the importer’s expense.
Importation of Dogs from Rabies-free Countries
Unvaccinated dogs may be imported without a requirement for proof of rabies vaccination if they have lived in a country that is considered free of rabies for a minimum of 6 months or since birth.
Following importation, all dogs are subject to state and local vaccination or health certificate requirements. All pet dogs arriving in the state of Hawaii and the territory of Guam, even from the U.S. mainland, are subject to locally imposed quarantine requirements. Additional information can be found in the Compendium of Animal Rabies Prevention and Control [PDF - 20 pages].
Importation of Dogs from Countries Where Screwworm is Present
The United States Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA APHIS), requires that dogs that are being imported from countries or regions where screwworm is known to exist meet the following requirements:
- The dog must be accompanied by a certificate signed by a full-time salaried veterinary official of the region of origin stating that the dog has been inspected for screwworm within 5 days before shipment to the United States.
- The certificate must state that the dog is either free from screwworm or was found to be infested with screwworm and was held in quarantine and treated until free from screwworm before leaving the region.
Please refer to the USDA APHIS website for further information.
Importation of Dogs for Commercial/Breeding Purposes
There are no separate CDC regulations for dogs to be used for commercial purposes, rather than as personal pets. The rules for bringing domestic dogs into the United States are covered under U.S. regulation 42 CFR 71.51. Puppies must not be vaccinated against rabies before 3 months of age, so the youngest that a puppy can be imported into the United States is 4 months of age.