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7 Crucial Steps to Importing Dogs to the USA

Importing dogs to the USA requires a lot of preparation. I miss my dogs like crazy when I am on vacation and sometimes which I could bring them with me.

After considering the expense, stress and paperwork involved in bringing them outside of the country, I realize it’s not a good idea.

There are different rules and regulations for different circumstances. For example, importing dogs to the USA for commercial reasons has its own set of guidelines. 

Importing companion pets has a different set of guidelines altogether.
If you are moving or importing dogs to the USA for any reason, it is crucial to follow these steps to the letter.

The United States and Canada have similar canine entry requirements which I am going to explain in this post.

Importing dogs from more exotic locations (India, for example) have added requirements including testing and treatment for screwworm and tapeworm.

STEP 1:  Anti-Vaxxers Are Out of Luck When Importing Dogs to the USA!

It’s your business if you decide not to vaccinate your dogs, but if you are going to be importing dogs to the USA, you may find yourself in a predicament.

Any dogs being imported to the United States must have current vaccinations, for which you need to provide proof. The most important vaccine you need to show proof of is the rabies vaccine.

Dogs and cats are at risk of avoidable death from an increase in unproven anti-vaccination “remedies” being sold online, says UK’s Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals

— AVMAvets (@AVMAvets) May 15, 2018

Puppies younger than 3 months of age cannot be administered the rabies vaccine.  Importing dogs to the USA requires proof of rabies vaccination that has not expired.

It’s also important to note that the USA will accept a 3-year-vaccination. However, if your dog has had a rabies vaccination, and has just had a booster, you’re okay to bring your dog in, provided there are no other health issues.

NOTE: Dogs who have lived in certain countries without rabies for at least 6 months or since birth may not require proof of vaccination. Check ahead!

Bottom line: If you have to import your dog into the USA, you will need to have the dog fully vaccinated and show proof.

NEED CLARIFICATION? Plan ahead and contact the National Import Export Services by phone at (301) 851-3300 or email:

STEP 2: This Dog is For Sale!

If your main reason for importing dogs to the USA is for commercial purposes (resale or adoption), keep in mind that there are distinct requirements. You will need to show proof of the following vaccinations: rabies, distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis, parvovirus, and the parainfluenza virus vaccine.

If you have had your dog vaccinated (including boosters), this usually isn’t an issue. Just make sure you have the appropriate documentation from your veterinarian.

However, if the dog being imported is from any of the countries listed in Step 5 below, inspection is required.

STEP 3:  Excuse me Bella, Your Papers Please!

Don’t head to the airport without a valid health certificate and rabies vaccination certificate. These need to be issued to you by an English speaking veterinarian before importing dogs to the USA.

Importing dogs to the USA for sale require a special permit which can be obtained through the United States Department of Agriculture.

STEP 4: Farm Dogs Need Special Treatment

If you are importing dogs to the USA that will be working with, or in close proximity to livestock, expect the dog to be thoroughly examined and possibly quarantined upon entry. The reason for this is to make sure the dogs are free of tapeworms.

Countries exempt from this include: Canada, Mexico, some parts of Central America, and West Indies.

STEP 5: It’s For YOUR Protection!

Importing dogs into the USA from certain countries where screwworms are common requires inspection prior to entry and proof of negative results.  A few of these countries include:

  • Angola
  • Argentina
  • Bangladesh
  • Brazil
  • China
  • Democratic Republic
  • Dominican Republic
  • Peru
  • Philippines
  • Qatar
  • Rwanda
  • Taiwan
  • Tanzania
  • United Arab Emirates
  • Vietnam
  • Zambia
  • Zimbabwe.

For a complete list of countries, please visit:

Screwworms infect animals and humans equally. They are most commonly found in imported dogs and horses. This parasite (fly maggots) feed on living flesh and, if untreated, can be fatal.

STEP 6: Leaving on a Jet Plane?

Not all dogs are welcomed on all flights. The first thing you should do is read the policies of the airline you will be using. Make sure to make arrangements with the airline in advance.

Small dog breeds that can fit into a crate capable of being stored under the seat in front of you might be okay. In some cases, the airline may require your dog be stored in cargo. Make sure you know ahead of time and consider the safety and comfort of your dog.

The following YouTube video will give you some perspective on taking your dog on a plane.

Your dog will be examined at the port of entry to make sure he/she is free from disease.

IMPORTANT: If your dog doesn’t appear to be in good health and must be examined again by a licensed veterinarian, you are responsible for paying the bill. It’s also important to note that any pets traveling alone must be claimed by a legal resident of the United States. That person must also have a valid address.

STEP 7: Companion Dogs Versus Commercial Dogs

There are different requirements for pets entering the United States versus dogs meant for resale.  Any dog meant for resale must be over 6 months old and fully vaccinated.

Importing dogs into the USA as companion pets need to have their rabies vaccine (not before 3 months of age – see Step 1), and must wait 30 days post vaccine before entering the country.

Questions to Ask Yourself before Importing Dogs to the USA.

Before buying from breeders (whether local to your country or elsewhere), consider the number of dogs in shelters. Kill shelters simply euthanize dogs who aren’t adopted within a certain amount of time.

People who love dogs have the best of intentions, but it’s really important to do some soul-searching before settling on a pure breed. In fact, there are pure breeds waiting for a forever home in shelters right now.

The decision to bring your dog with you on a big move is exciting. Some people leave their dogs behind (either to fend for themselves or worse) or give them up to anyone who will take them.

Traveling is stressful for everyone, including your dog. The best thing you can do is make sure all of the travel arrangements and paperwork is completed well before the move.

Don’t forget to check with the airlines before arriving at the gate. Choose an airline that truly cares for animals.

At the end of the day, safety is paramount. Gathering up and providing all of the necessary paperwork might be frustrating, but its designed to protect us all…including our dogs.

We all want our dogs to arrive at the destination free from injury and as unstressed as possible.

Thank you for reading this post.  I want to take a minute to wish you safe travel and best of luck while travelling with your dog.

Do you have any questions or comments? Please take a minute to comment in the form below.  

Of course, you can also email me directly at I love your comments and respond to all.

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