Bringing a Dog into the United States
CDC regulations require that dogs imported into the United States are healthy and are vaccinated against rabies before arrival into the United States. These requirements apply equally to all dogs, including puppies and service animals.
If your dog is imported from a rabies-free country, CDC does not require rabies vaccination. However, every state requires that dogs be vaccinated against rabies, and 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 depending on their rabies vaccination status.
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 that have never been vaccinated against rabies must be vaccinated at least 30 days prior to arrival. Adult dogs older than 15 months of age that have previously received a rabies vaccination given no earlier than 3 months of age and that has since expired may be imported immediately following booster vaccination, without the need to wait for 30 days.
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 who administered the vaccination
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.
These requirements apply to all dogs, including service animals such as guide dogs for the blind.
Crossing the Mexican or Canadian border with your dog?
Importation of Unvaccinated Dogs
Importation of dogs that are not vaccinated against rabies is allowed on a limited basis. Unvaccinated dogs may be imported if:
- They are arriving from a rabies-free country where they have lived for the past 6 months or since birth (check the country list here),
- They are being imported for use in scientific research where rabies vaccination would interfere with that research, or
- They meet the criteria specified in the Issuance and Enforcement Guidance for Dog Confinement Agreements.
Unvaccinated dogs that arrive in the United States from countries that are not considered rabies-free may be denied entry to the United States. Importing a dog purchased outside of the United States or that originated in the United States does not meet the criteria for a confinement agreement. All dogs are expected to meet CDC’s dog importation regulatory requirements. Importers are expected to exhaust all other reasonable options for delaying the importation of dogs until they are fully vaccinated against rabies before being considered for a confinement agreement. Questions about importing unvaccinated dogs may be directed to CDC at CDCAnimalImports@cdc.gov.
Issuance and Enforcement Guidance for Dog Confinement Agreements
On July 10, 2014, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) posted guidance on the Issuance and Enforcement Guidance for Dog Confinement Agreements. This guidance describes the factors that HHS/CDC will consider in deciding whether to issue a dog confinement agreement or deny entry of a dog being imported into the United States that has not been adequately vaccinated against rabies. Dog confinement agreements are covered under 42 CFR 71.51. This guidance became effective on August 11, 2014 (30 days after publication).
Importation of Dogs from Rabies-free Countries
Unvaccinated dogs may be imported without 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 - 13 pages].
Importation of Dogs from Countries Where Screwworm is Present
The U.S. 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.
- Page last reviewed: September 1, 2016
- Page last updated: September 1, 2016
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