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Bringing a Dog into the United States

CDC regulations require that dogs must be healthy to enter the United States. And with limited exceptions, dogs must be immunized against rabies and have a valid rabies vaccination certificate. These requirements apply equally to all dogs, including puppies and service animals.

Illustration of a sick dog, who has a hot water bottle on it’s head and a thermometer in it’s mouth.

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. Additional information can be found in the Compendium of Animal Rabies Prevention and Control. [PDF – 13 pages]

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

A veterinarian giving a dog a vaccine

Rabies vaccination is required for all dogs entering the United States from a country where rabies is present. Puppies must not be vaccinated against rabies before they’re 3 months old. So the youngest that a puppy can be imported into the United States is 4 months old.

Dogs that have never been vaccinated against rabies must be vaccinated at least 30 days before arrival. Adult dogs older than 15 months of age that previously received a rabies vaccination given no earlier than 3 months of age and that has since expired may be imported immediately after booster vaccination, without the need to wait 30 days.

Dogs must be accompanied by a current, valid rabies vaccination certificate that includes the following information:

Illustration of a veterinarian filling out a dog’s vaccination certificate
  • 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
Illustration of two puppies under the age of 4 months. Image has a slash through it, meaning puppies under 4 months old are not allowed.

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?

Download this poster in English and Spanish for more information about what you need to bring!


Bringing an Unimmunized Dog into the United States

What is an unimmunized dog?

It takes 30 days for the first rabies vaccination to take effect and give full protection to your dog. Dogs must also be at least 3 months old before they’re vaccinated. An unimmunized dog has either NOT been vaccinated or was first vaccinated when LESS than 3 months old or LESS than 30 days before arriving in the United States.

Adult dogs (15 months or older) are immunized if they have a record of previous and current rabies vaccinations. They are fully immunized after their booster vaccination and don’t have to wait before traveling.

Unless an unimmunized dog is coming from a rabies-free country, you must apply for an unimmunized dog permit to bring your dog into the United States.

What is an unimmunized dog permit?

Under limited circumstances, CDC may issue an unimmunized dog permit (formerly referred to as a dog confinement agreement). This permit allows unimmunized dogs into the United States when requested in advance and when certain conditions are met.

This permit will include a confinement agreement, which is a legal document stating you will confine your dog in the United States until your dog is fully immunized against rabies. Confinement means restriction of an animal, by the owners or their agent, to a building or other enclosure isolated from people and other animals (except for contact necessary for its care). The dog must be muzzled and kept on a leash when outside the enclosure. State officials will monitor compliance.

How to apply for an unimmunized dog permit

Apply online for an unimmunized dog permit—one permit per dog. Apply as soon as your travel is arranged and at least 2 weeks (10 business days) before traveling to the United States. Be sure to allow time to receive the permit before you travel. No permits are given upon arrival.

How to submit permit applications

Read instructions on how to submit permit applications.

Conditions for getting a permit

When deciding whether to grant a permit, CDC will consider specific criteria, such as the number of dogs, frequency of dog importations by importer, past compliance, country where the dog has lived, length of stay, and other risk factors. Allow up to 2 weeks or 10 business days for CDC to respond to your request.

Unimmunized dog permits are given only to US residents and visitors staying 30 days or more in the United States. It takes 30 days for a dog to be fully immunized. CDC will NOT issue an unimmunized dog permit for a temporary visit less than 30 days (for example, a vacation or holiday and for shopping or visiting friends and relatives).

CDC reserves the right to deny requests for unimmunized dog permits.

Approved permit applications

If your application is approved, CDC will email the permit to you. Only one permit per dog, per trip. The permit is good until the expiration date. If your itinerary changes, you must email changes to CDCanimalimports@cdc.gov along with your permit number. CDC will revise the permit and resend to you.

Upon arrival at the US port of entry

  1. You must provide a printed copy of your permit to a US Customs and Border Protection officer.
  2. Your dogs will be inspected to verify
    – they are healthy and
    – their appearance and age match the description on the permit.

If not, your dogs may be denied entry.

Other requirements

You must also comply with regulations from both the US Department of Agriculture and your destination state. See ASPHIS’ Pet Travel site.

CDC strongly encourages dog owners to have their dogs vaccinated against rabies before arriving in the United States and travel with a copy of their valid rabies vaccination certificate. CDC regulations serve to protect you, your dogs, and your community. Rabies is a serious disease, and there is no cure.

Send any questions about importing unimmunized dogs to 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).

Frequently Asked Questions about the Federal Register Notice, Issuance and Enforcement Guidance for Dog Confinement Agreements »


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.

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