Pet Relocation – What You Need to Know About Moving With Your Pets to the United States

Pet Relocation – What You Need to Know About Moving With Your Pets to the United States

Whether importing pets into the United States for the first time, or simply making a domestic move within the country, the health requirements for your animal companions are relatively simple when compared to those of the vast majority of other countries.

The first step, assuming that you own a dog or cat, is to ensure that your pet is up-to-date on its rabies vaccinations. While this is not always “required” for domestic moves, many airlines and drivers will refuse passage to non-vaccinated animals. When importing a dog or cat into the United States from another country, however, a valid rabies vaccination is required. It is necessary that dogs and cats receive the rabies vaccination at least 30 days prior to entry into the US, with the exception of puppies or kittens younger than three months old or pets originating from areas considered to be free of rabies. Dogs and cats coming from areas not considered free of rabies must be accompanied by a valid rabies vaccination certificate. If a vaccination has not been performed, or if the certificate is invalid, your pet may be admitted to a place of the owner’s choosing immediately upon arrival into the US, in which a rabies vaccination must be administered within four days after arrival to the final destination. Your pet will then need to be confined at said location for 30 days following vaccination. It is also recommended to have all other vaccinations current, such as DHLPP for dogs and FVRCP for cats, in the event that your pet comes into contact with any other animals while in transit.

Next, your pet will need a health certificate issued by your local vet (or an international health certificate if traveling from another country). This certificate is issued once your vet performs a brief physical to ensure your pet’s health prior to travel and is required by all airlines. The health certificate needs to be issued within 10 days of departure or else it is considered null and void. It is also important to note that all pets entering the US are subject to inspection at ports of entry for evidence of infectious diseases that can be transmitted to humans.

Exotic pets such as snakes, turtles, fish, birds, etc. often require additional documentation and travel crate arrangements. For example, nearly all birds entering the US require a CITES import permit issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. They may also need:
– An International Health Certificate (issued within 10 days)
– An USDA Import Permit (VS Form 17-129)
– A Fish and Wildlife Services Certification
– A 30-day Quarantine in an USDA Animal Import Center at one of these locations:
– New York, New York
230-59 Rockaway Blvd., Suite 101
Jamaica, NY 11413
Phone: 718-553-1727
Fax: 718-553-7543

– Miami Animal Import Center
6300 NW 36 Street
Miami, FL 33122
Phone: 305-526-2926
Fax: 305-526-2929

– Los Angeles, California
Los Angeles International Airport
11850 South La Cienega Blvd.
Hawthorne, CA 90250
Phone: 310-725-1970
Fax: 310-725-9119

Remember, exotic pet moves are tailored to individual species, so it is important to contact the USDA and US Fish and Wildlife to ask for any import requirements they might have in place.

Three other key things you can to do make the move much less stressful for your pet and to reduce any risk of injury are crate training, choosing a “pet-friendly” airline that adheres strictly to a pet-safe policy, and never sedating your pet. Sedation is one of the primary reasons animals run into problems when flying.

Pet-Safe policies ensure your pet will always be kept in a climate controlled environment, never left out on the tarmac, and always be the last one on the plane and the first one off. The airlines we recommend using are Continental (PetSafe Desk Booking Number: 1-800-575-3335) and Northwest (Live Animal Cargo Booking Number: 1-800-692-CRGO). Keep in mind that direct flights are not always available, but in the event of layovers, pet safe airlines, such as those listed, have a professional and knowledgeable staff on hand to make sure your pet is very well taken care of every step of the way.

Although transportation via ground or sea may seem like a viable method of transport, please keep in mind the airlines are really the safest way to go. Ground transport is much more stressful on your pet, the travel time is much longer, and can actually be more expensive than flying. While it may be tempting to go with some contracted third party truck shipping service for a cheaper price, consider your pet’s health and safety, which in situations like that, are not every company’s first priority – you often get what you pay for. You may also run into many of the same problems when considering traveling by boat. Just because it may make you feel better to have your pet on board with you does not necessarily mean it is what is best for your pet. The best method to use is always the one that will be the shortest transit time and facilitated by professionals.

These are some of the issues to take into consideration when planning a move to, or within, the United States. With advanced planning, you will be able to save yourself, and your pet, from a lot of stress and hassle!