Revised Date: January, 2006

Many clients ask about bringing a foreign pet or dog into the United States.

AIRLINE TRAVEL REQUIREMENTS: The best way to start the process of bringing a foreign pet into the U.S. is to contact the airlines which you intend to use to transport the pet here. Most airlines have the latest information and procedures available to you through their customer service. As one example of current information, there is a U.S. Customs embargo on the import of dogs into the U.S. until September 15, 2003. All airlines which arrive in the U.S. must comply with federal regulations which prohibit the transport of "dangerous or hazardous" baggage or cargo. Typically, the airlines will require a health certificate that the pet or dog has been vaccinated against rabies and is otherwise fit for travel.
Airlines can treat the pet or dog as 1) "baggage", which means the pet travels with a passenger who escorts it to the U.S. and through U.S. Customs, or as 2) "cargo", which means that the pet is checked in with airlines personnel who transport it to the U.S. and through U.S. Customs. Many airlines need six to eight weeks advance notice to transport a pet as "cargo". Naturally, there will be extra airline fees for transport of pets, in addition to standard ticket charges. As concerns air transportation of pets domestically within the U.S., check with your airlines for the latest policy and practice which appears to constantly change.

HEALTH OR CANINE CERTIFICATE: Most countries have an agriculture or other government office which is responsible for health or canine certificates for pets which are scheduled to travel abroad. For example, in Colombia, the Instituto Colombiano Agropecuario which has offices in all the major cities will issue the health certificate for pets. This office will have the application forms, fee schedule, vaccination requirements, and verify the pet and owner's identification. The Inspector will certify the pet as ready to travel and issue the certificate which is then presented to the Airlines office. It is also recommended that the certificate be translated to English by an U.S. Embassy-approved translator. Approved Translators List.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION on this topic, please visit these useful websites:
1. U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Questions and Answers Page.
Type in "Pets" into the Search Engine.
2. U.S. Customs Publication on "Pets and Wildlife" (Adobe PDF File)
3. U.S. Center for Disease Control, Importation of Pets and Other Animals into the U.S.

Please note that the regulations differ slightly for different types of pets (e.g. dog, cat, bird, etc.), and thus it is important to check the rules under the type of pet you are interested in transporting.
Best Regards,

Gary Bala
USA Immigration Attorney
Pennsylvania USA