Regulations Regarding Travel with Animals
The regulations for travel with animals are extensive and may seem burdensome (see Table: Government Agencies and Other Organizations with Information on Pet Travel). Remember, there are good reasons for such regulations: protecting your pet’s health, protecting pets and other animals in the destination state or country, and protecting humans from diseases (such as rabies) that can be acquired from animals.
Government Agencies and Other Organizations with Information on Pet Travel
Each state has its own set of regulations for movement of animals across its borders. The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) web site provides links to the regulations for each state. In general, the pet owner should carry proof of current rabies vaccination and a current health certificate when traveling between states with dogs and cats.
A particular situation to take note of is travel to Hawaii, even from other US states. Because Hawaii is rabies free, its government has instituted a quarantine law to ensure that rabies is not introduced. This law covers all dogs and cats regardless of age or purpose. As an alternative to lengthy quarantine, a detailed process involving vaccination at specific times, microchipping, a blood test for rabies, and a 120-day waiting period may be followed. Successful completion of these requirements will allow the animal to be quarantined for 5 days or less; if not, the animal may be quarantined for up to 120 days. A similar requirement is in place even for animals originating in Hawaii and later returning, although the timing and waiting periods are different. The rabies requirement does not apply to horses, but the horse must originate in an area or county free of equine encephalomyelitis and be vaccinated prior to import. Please check the state of Hawaii’s Agricultural Gateway web site for current details.
The island of Guam is also rabies free and has a quarantine period for import of dogs and cats. As with Hawaii, the quarantine time can be shortened significantly if specific microchipping, vaccination, and testing requirements are met prior to travel.
If you plan to travel to other countries with your pet, you will need to research possible travel restrictions, vaccination requirements, quarantine, and other policies of the country or countries you will visit. The nearest consulate or embassy for that country and/or the country’s government web site are places to begin your search for information. Your veterinarian may also be able to assist you by providing information on the federal and international agencies that should be contacted prior to foreign travel and/or possible re‑entry with pets. Some countries require a health certificate and proof of rabies vaccination signed by a US government official.
If there are still questions or concerns about exporting animals to a foreign country, you should contact the US Department of Agriculture’s Veterinary Services Area Office. Your veterinarian should be able to help you get in touch with the correct officials.
Required quarantine periods in some countries might be quite lengthy—as long as 6 months or longer in some cases. Animals must be kenneled or stabled during the quarantine period, which also can be expensive, so owners might consider leaving the pet behind should the cost and effort (not to mention the stress of quarantine) outweigh the benefits of pet companionship. In particular, the United Kingdom’s requirements for importation of pets are quite rigorous and can be found on their web site. It is important to remain up to date on requirements for importation, as they can change from one year to the next.
Various US federal agencies have rules for importing (or re-importing) pets, especially the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, a unit of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). Both the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and the individual state veterinary services should be contacted regarding the importation of horses into the US and its territories. In addition, the US Customs Service also issues licensing and health requirements for both pets and wildlife. The CDC also has rules dealing with other imported animals, including horses, cats, turtles, birds, snakes, fish, monkeys, civets, rodents, rabbits, and others. Furthermore, each state within the US has its own requirements for health and rabies vaccination certification.
Nearly every country has a different set of rules and regulations for the importation of pets, and these rules change periodically. For those reasons, it is difficult to summarize all the pertinent regulations here. However, some guidelines and examples of current regulations are provided below. In general, countries that are rabies free have the most stringent requirements for importation of dogs and cats.
European communities have become more open to international travelers. However, some countries in Europe, including the United Kingdom (UK), Sweden, and Norway, continue to require lengthy quarantines for animals from other countries.
The United Kingdom’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) is an important resource for people traveling to the UK or throughout Europe with pets. DEFRA also sponsors the Dog and Cat Travel and Risk Information (DACTARI) surveillance scheme. DACTARI provides for the reporting of exotic disease in dogs or cats whether they have been abroad or not. DEFRA encourages all pet owners to consider the potential risks of traveling in areas where exotic diseases occur and to seek veterinary advice before traveling overseas. Current regulations should always be checked in advance.
Australia is a rabies-free country and requires a 30-day quarantine of dogs and cats entering the country from the US. Horses must be quarantined in the US in an approved facility for 21 days, followed by quarantine in Australia for at least 14 days. These quarantine requirements are in addition to the various vaccinations and documentation required prior to import. Australia does not allow certain breeds of dog (such as American Pit Bull Terriers) into the country at all. Current regulations should always be checked in advance.