You are currently viewing Major changes to U.S. entry rules for dogs

Ah, we all missed the content on entry rules related to health and vaccination, right? Jokes aside, now you probably know that checking the country’s entry requirements is literally the only mandatory step in planning any trip. But sometimes there are rules for dogs too! 

The U.S. has very few rules for Canadian travelers — no, your passport doesn’t have to be valid for 6 months like travelers from some other countries (or like many other countries require for Canadians).

But they do have new requirements for what they call importing a dog (even just for a short trip), so here are the details.

 

Overview of the new rules

The U.S. CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) is about to make drastic changes to its entry requirements for dogs. Since the U.S. is by far the most popular international destination for Canadians, many bring their 4-legged friends along for summer road trips or snowbird winters.

Here’s the infographic that provides an overview of the new rules.

See the full-size infographic

 

Here are the basics of the new rules:

  • Apply starting August 1st, 2024
  • Apply to all borders
  • Apply to all trips
  • Apply to all dogs

Nothing changes up to and including July 31st. While The Science of COVID-19 was different depending on the border, at least this applies uniformly at all locations. All trips are the same, no matter the length or anything else. The rules really do apply to all dogs, even service dogs, U.S. citizen dogs, and U.S.-born dogs.

Here are the 5 new entry requirements for dogs:

  • Dog must be at least 6 months old
  • Dog must “appear healthy”
  • Dog must be microchipped
  • CDC Dog Import Form must be completed
  • Specific documentation required must be provided 
    • Proof of rabies vaccination OR veterinary records
    • Depending on where the dog has been in the last 6 months
    • Details below

Everything is relatively simple, except for the last part which is a little more complex. It’s going to be a good practical application of the importance of reading well, an absolutely crucial skill to travel well.

Here’s more information on each element.

 

Minimum age of 6 months

It’s pretty crystal clear. If your dog is less than 6 months old, he simply can not enter the United States. Yes, the U.S. has declared war on foreign puppies.

 

Healthy appearance

This is obviously the most subjective of the requirements. They don’t define this part at all, so it’s hard to say what it takes to be considered “not a healthy appearance”. 

We can imagine that if your dog looks too unhealthy to enter the U.S., you’ll probably notice it too, and suspect it. But who knows?

If the dog doesn’t appear healthy, veterinary examination, testing, and isolation fees may be charged by customs. This is at the dog owner’s expense, of course (we’re talking about the U.S. here, after all).

But that’s probably by air. By land and sea, you can probably just turn around and avoid all fees.

 

Microchip

All dogs must have an ISO (International Organization for Standardization) certified microchip. The microchip number must be indicated on all required forms and documents.

If proof of vaccination is required for the dog (depending on where it has been in the previous 6 months), the microchip must have been implanted before the vaccination.

 

CDC Dog Import Form

The free form will be available on the official CDC website starting July 15. Like just about everything else in the universe in 2024, it will surely be very easy to fill out in just a few clicks.

They recommend filling out the form 2 to 10 days before arrival, but it’s not mandatory. You can do it in the customs queue if you’ve forgotten. On the other hand, if you’re traveling by airplane, the requirements may be checked by the airline at check-in (as is often the case with requirements for humans).

If the information changes between the time you fill in the form and your arrival, you’ll need to fill in a new one and indicate that you’re modifying a form you’ve already filled in. This includes the border post you indicate for entry into the country, which must also be the correct one.

The form requires a clear photo of the dog. If your dog is less than 1 year old, the photo must be taken within 10 days of arrival.

 

Proof of vaccination or veterinary records

The documentation part of the new U.S. rules for dogs is logical at least: they apply depending on which countries the dog has been in the 6 months prior to entering the U.S. (like many countries’ yellow fever rules for human travelers, for example).

The Science of COVID-19! It's important to remember, as it's never too late to learn in life, and to know that you shouldn't blindly believe governments — for example when it comes to safety in such or such country! Many countries' COVID-19 rules were contrary to WHO recommendations and were so logical that entry restrictions were often passport-based and not even based on where you'd been before, which made as much sense as just about anything else. If you had a passport from a country where there was a large outbreak, even if you'd been in a COVID-free country for 2 months, you were considered a public danger.

Anyway, rabies vaccination isn’t necessarily mandatory for dogs, but it is “strongly recommended” by the CDC, notably because they mention that some individual states may require it. Since there are obviously no state borders, I’m not sure how that would be enforced… but those are the rules apparently.

So here are the 3 scenarios for this last requirement:

  • If your dog hasn’t been in a high-risk country in the previous 6 months
    • For example, if your dog has only been in Canada for 6 months
  • If your dog has been in high-risk countries in the previous 6 months
  • If your dog has been vaccinated in the U.S.
    • Rare case for Canadians, but the rules are different

Here are the documentation requirements for each scenario, which are obviously in addition to the requirements in the overview above.

 

If your dog has not been to a high-risk country

If your dog has only been in Canada for the previous 6 months (or just in other countries not on the list), you must have 1 of the following 5 documents:

  • Certification of Foreign Rabies Vaccination and Microchip form AND 1 of 2 additional documents (valid rabies serology titer OR veterinary records which list the microchip number)
    • Certification must include the endorsement by an official veterinarian of the country where the dog has been located
    • The additional document must be from the exporting country for the previous 6 months
    • Form must be completed within 30 days before arrival to the United States
  • Certification of Dog Arriving from DMRVV-free or Low-Risk Country into the United States form AND veterinary records which list the microchip number
    • Form must be endorsed by an official veterinarian in the exporting country
    • Veterinary records must be from the exporting country for the 6 months before traveling to the U.S. 
    • Form must be completed within the 30 days before arriving to the United States
  • Certification of U.S.-Issued Rabies Vaccination form 
    • Endorsed by USDA before the dog departed the United States
  • Valid USDA-endorsed export health certificate that either:
    • Is for the country where the dog’s return itinerary originated (the form will only be valid for 30 days if it does not contain rabies vaccination information), or
    • Documents a valid (unexpired) rabies vaccination administered in the United States (the form will be valid for the duration of the rabies vaccination, which is 1 or 3 years)
  • Foreign export certificate AND veterinary records which list the microchip number
    • Certificate must document the dog is at least 6 months of age, list the dog’s microchip number, and be endorsed by an official veterinarian of the exporting country 
    • Veterinary records must be from the exporting country for the previous 6 months

The document must be from the country from which you are entering the U.S. (or from the U.S.). For example, you can’t use Canadian documentation if you’re entering the U.S. from Europe by air, or from Mexico by land.

Best option! The first 2 options seem the simplest, as they just require having the veterinary records and a form endorsed by a Canadian vet.

 

If your dog has been to high-risk countries

If your dog has been in any of the countries on the list for the previous 6 months, the requirements are obviously more strict:

  • Have a complete Certification of Foreign Rabies Vaccination and Microchip form
    • For the vaccine to be considered valid, the dog must have been microchipped before receiving the rabies vaccination and the number must be recorded on the veterinary documents
    • Dog must have been at least 12 weeks (84 days) of age when vaccinated against rabies
    • Dog must have a valid (i.e., non-expired) rabies vaccination: if it’s the dog’s first vaccination or if the dog’s vaccination coverage has lapsed, the vaccine must be administered at least 28 days before arrival to the United States
    • The Certification of Foreign Rabies Vaccination and Microchip form must be completed by your veterinarian AND endorsed by an official veterinarian in the exporting country
  • Have a valid rabies serology titer
    • Titer not required if dog has reservation for 28-day quarantine at a CDC-registered animal care facility
    • If the dog does not have a valid rabies serology titer, it will be required to be quarantined at a CDC-registered animal care facility for 28 days after the dog is revaccinated by the facility’s veterinarian
    • Blood sample must have been drawn at least 30 days after the dog’s first valid rabies vaccination and at least 28 days before entry to the U.S.
    • Dogs with a history of multiple valid rabies vaccinations administered after the microchip was placed may have the sample for the rabies serology titer drawn at any time after a rabies booster vaccination as long as the dog’s first vaccine was given at least 30 days before the blood sample was drawn and there has been no lapse in vaccine coverage (if a lapse occurs, the sample must be drawn at least 30 days after the valid booster vaccination was administered)
    • The sample must be sent to a CDC-approved rabies serology laboratory
    • If there is no CDC-approved laboratory in the country, the veterinarian may draw the sample and send it internationally to a CDC-approved laboratory
    • Passing results must be obtained in order for a serology to be valid
    • Rabies serology titer results will be considered valid for the life of the dog as long as the dog’s rabies vaccination coverage does not lapse (if a lapse occurs, a new rabies serology titer will be required and that sample must be drawn at least 30 days after the new vaccination was administered)
  • Have a reservation at a CDC-registered animal care facility for examination and revaccination (and quarantine if the dog does not have a valid rabies serology titer)
    • All foreign-vaccinated dogs that have been in a high-risk country in the previous 6 months must have a reservation for examination, verification of age, documents, and microchip number, and administration of a rabies booster vaccination at a CDC-registered animal care facility immediately upon arrival in the United States
    • Dogs that do not have a valid rabies serology titer must also have a reservation for quarantine
    • Dogs will be quarantined at the facility for 28 days at the importer’s expense after being revaccinated by the facility’s veterinarian
    • All CDC-registered animal care facility expenses, including exam, revaccination, and quarantine (if required), are the responsibility of the importer
    • The facility will need copies of all required documents prior to confirming your reservation
    • Ensure the dog meets any facility-specific requirements (contact facility for additional information)
    • If after arrival the CDC-registered animal care facility determines that your documents are not valid or the dog’s microchip number, age, or description does not match the paperwork provided, the dog may be denied entry and returned to the country of departure at your expense
    • Dogs that have evidence of illness or are not healthy will be required to have testing to confirm they do not have contagious diseases before they will be eligible for release, which may extend the required quarantine period beyond 28 days
    • Any required testing or extended stay in quarantine will be at the importer’s expense, so please ensure dogs are healthy upon arrival (including no evidence of fleas, ticks, or skin diseases)
  • Have an international flight that arrives directly at the airport with the CDC-registered animal care facility where the dog has a reservation
    • Dogs must arrive in the U.S. at the airport where the CDC-registered animal care facility is located (this must be the location where the dog has a reservation)
    • This must also be the airport listed on the CDC Dog Import Form
    • Domestic flights or other forms of travel to other locations in the U.S. are not permitted until after the dog receives required follow-up services at the CDC-registered animal care facility and is cleared for entry

True to the general level of competence and clarity of government entities, it doesn’t mention anything about a dog that would have been in a high-risk country within 6 months but then wants to enter by land from a country like Canada. Either that means you absolutely have to go by airplane, or their information isn’t complete.

One exception that is mentioned is for service dogs traveling with their handlers and arriving by sea. The last 2 requirements don’t apply in this case, but the rest do. Emotional support dogs are not considered service dogs.

Best option! Unless you’re moving to the USA or going for a long time, it seems simpler to just not enter the country for 6 months after a visit to a high-risk country.

 

If your dog has been vaccinated in the United States

If your dog has been vaccinated in the U.S., the rules are a little different, but again depends on whether it has been in a high-risk country in the previous 6 months.

If it hasn’t been in a high-risk country, you must have 1 of these 2 documents:

  • Certification of U.S.-Issued Rabies Vaccine form that was endorsed by USDA before the dog departed the United States
  • USDA endorsed export health certificate that demonstrates the dog is 6 months of age or older, lists the microchip number, and either:
  • Be for the dog rabies-free or low-risk country where the dog’s return itinerary originated (the form will only be valid for 30 days if it does not contain rabies vaccination information), or
  • Document a valid (unexpired) rabies vaccination administered in the United States (the form will be valid for the duration of the rabies vaccination, which is 1 or 3 years)

If it’s been in a high-risk country, you’ll need this document:

  • Certification of U.S.-Issued Rabies Vaccine form that was endorsed by USDA before the dog departed the United States

But during the transition period (not defined), the USDA-approved export health certificate used to export the dog is also accepted if it includes details of the vaccination administered in the USA (and the vaccine has not expired).

In those 2 cases, here are a few requirements for the Certification of U.S.-Issued Rabies Vaccine:

  • Ensure your dog will be at least 6 months of age on date of entry into the U.S.
  • Have your dog microchipped with an ISO-compatible microchip (implanted before any required rabies vaccinations)
  • Once your dog is at least 12 weeks (84 days) of age, have a USDA-accredited veterinarian vaccinate your dog against rabies with a U.S.-licensed vaccine in accordance with manufacturer instructions
  • Ensure the veterinarian scans the dog for the ISO-compatible microchip and records the microchip number at the time of vaccine appointment (rabies vaccines administered prior to microchip implantation will not be considered valid)
  • Ensure the rabies vaccination will be valid for the entire duration of your travels
  • If your dog’s U.S.-issued rabies vaccination lapses while overseas and your dog has been in a high-risk country in the past 6 months, your dog will need to be revaccinated overseas and meet requirements for foreign-vaccinated dogs to return to the U.S., including having a rabies serology titer, arriving at a specific port of entry, and possible quarantine requirements
  • Your dog’s first rabies vaccination must be administered at least 28 days before travel
  • Have the USDA-accredited veterinarian that administered the rabies vaccine to your dog complete the Certification of U.S.-Issued Rabies Vaccination form
  • Ensure the veterinarian submits this form to the USDA for official endorsement through the VEHCS portal
  • Obtain a copy of the Certification of U.S.-Issued Rabies Vaccination form from your veterinarian once it has been officially endorsed by the USDA
  • Your dog must travel with a printed copy of the official endorsed form upon your dog’s return to the United States if your dog has been in a high-risk country within the 6 months before returning to the U.S.

This form must be completed before the dog leaves the U.S., otherwise other rules apply, not those for dogs vaccinated in the United States.

 

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Summary

U.S. entry rules for dogs will change drastically, starting this summer. If you want to travel, you just have to check the entry rules. And you need to consider that sometimes countries will have rules for dogs too.

 

What would you like to know about bringing a dog to the USA? Tell us in the comments below.

 

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Featured image: Dog in a car (photo credit: Unsplash+)

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Andrew D'Amours

Andrew is the co-founder of Flytrippers. He is passionate about traveling the world but also, as a former management consultant, about the travel industry itself. He shares his experiences to help you save money on travel. As a very cost-conscious traveler, he loves finding deals and getting free travel thanks to travel rewards points... to help him visit every country in the world (current count: 71/193 Countries, 47/50 US States & 9/10 Canadian Provinces).

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