Bringing Animals & Animal Products into the United States
CDC Yellow Book 2024Environmental Hazards & Risks
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) restricts the importation of any animals or animal products into the United States that might pose a public health threat. Any animal or animal product can be restricted from entry if CDC has reasonable knowledge or suspicion that it poses a human health risk. CDC currently has explicit restrictions for specific animals, including bats, cats, civets, dogs, insects and other non-animal vectors, nonhuman primates, African rodents, and some turtles, as well as products made from these animals. Importers must comply with CDC requirements to bring these animals or items into the United States.
Any animal, including service and emotional support animals, that leaves the United States must meet all entry requirements to reenter the United States, even if the animal previously lived in the United States (see Sec. 7, Ch. 6, Traveling with Pets & Service Animals). Many animals also are regulated by other federal agencies or by state governments. Therefore, travelers should check with the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), and the destination state and territorial health authorities for specific rules about importation.
Animal import and reentry requirements vary depending on the countries visited while abroad. Travelers should check entry requirements provided by CDC, USDA, and FWS. Travelers also should check USDA requirements for interstate transport of animals in US states and territories.
Animal Health Certificates
CDC does not require general health certificates for animals entering the United States. Some states or territories might require health certificates for entry, however, and some airlines might require these certificates for transport. Before departure, travelers should check with the departments of health and agriculture at the destination, and with the airline, for any health certificate requirements. The department of environmental protection or department of natural resources of some states and local governments might have additional requirements.
International Pet Rescue & Adoption
Although often done with the best of intentions, rescuing and importing stray animals from foreign countries can create human health risks when those animals are introduced into the United States. Travelers are at an increased risk for bites and scratches from fearful and stressed animals, which could result in injury or exposure to infectious diseases (e.g., rabies). Animals infected with zoonotic diseases might not show outward signs of being ill, but can still spread these diseases to people. Therefore, all rescued animals should be examined by a licensed veterinarian before departure from the country of origin and after arrival into the United States. Travelers who intend on rescuing animals should visit a travel medicine clinic prior to departure to discuss rabies preexposure prophylaxis.
In July 2021, CDC implemented a temporary suspension for the importation of dogs from countries with a high risk of dog-maintained rabies virus variant (DMRVV; see Bringing a Dog into the United States). During the suspension period, dogs rescued or adopted from high-risk countries must enter the United States through a CDC-approved port of entry (Atlanta, Los Angeles, Miami, or New York) and undergo examination and revaccination against rabies immediately upon arrival. Dogs that do not meet CDC’s entry requirements will be denied entry and returned to the country of departure at the importer’s expense.
Importing Live Animals
Bats are reservoirs of many viruses that can infect humans; examples include filoviruses, Nipah, rabies, and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) coronaviruses. To reduce the risk of introducing these viruses, CDC requires a permit for importation of all live bats and does not allow bats to be imported as pets. Bat import permit applications must be submitted electronically. Many bat species require additional FWS permits.
Cats are subject to inspection at US ports of entry and can be denied entry if there is evidence of infection with a disease of public health concern. If a cat appears ill, examination by a licensed veterinarian at the owner’s expense might be required before entry is permitted. CDC does not require cats to have proof of rabies vaccination for importation into the United States, but does recommend vaccination. In addition, many states and territories have rabies vaccination requirements for cats. Importers should check with state and territorial health authorities at the destination to determine whether state or territorial agencies require rabies vaccinations for cats.
Civets & Related Animals
To reduce the risk of introducing severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) coronavirus, the United States does not allow importation of civets and related animals in the family Viverridae. With permission from CDC, however, exceptions can be made for animals imported for science, education, or exhibition. People who want to import civets and related animals should check with the USDA and FWS for additional requirements.
Dogs are subject to inspection upon entry into the United States if they have evidence of infection with a communicable disease or if they have not been vaccinated against rabies. If a dog appears ill, examination by a licensed veterinarian, at the owner’s expense, might be required before entry is permitted.
Rabies vaccination is required for all dogs, including service animals and emotional support animals, entering the United States from a country that is considered at high risk for DMRVV, as determined by CDC rabies experts. Dogs from high-risk countries must be accompanied by a current, valid rabies vaccination certificate that includes the following information:
- Name and address of owner
- Breed, sex, age, color, markings, and other identifying information for the dog
- Date of rabies vaccination and vaccine product information
- Date of expiration of vaccination
- Name, license number, address, and signature of administering veterinarian
Rabies certificates have expiration dates ranging from 1–3 years from the date of vaccination, depending on the type of vaccine. All dogs must be ≥12 weeks (84 days) old before receiving their first rabies vaccination. Rabies vaccinations must occur ≥28 days before arrival in the United States, because it takes 28 days for full vaccine effectiveness. Additional requirements apply during the period of CDC’s temporary suspension on the importation of dogs from high-risk countries.
CDC recommends, and most US state and local authorities require, routine rabies vaccination of dogs. Importers should check with state and local authorities at the final destination to determine requirements for rabies vaccination.
States & Territories with Additional Requirements
All dogs and cats arriving in the state of Hawaii or the territory of Guam, even those arriving from the US mainland, are subject to locally imposed quarantine requirements. See more information about animal importation into Hawaii and more information about animal importation into Guam.
Importation of insect vectors and infectious biologic agents are regulated under the same program as bats. In some circumstances, known vectors of human disease (e.g., ticks, mosquitoes), can be imported into the United States with a permit from CDC.
Nonhuman primates can transmit a variety of serious diseases to humans, including Ebola virus disease and tuberculosis. Nonhuman primates can be imported into the United States only by a CDC-registered importer and only for scientific, educational, or exhibitory purposes. All nonhuman primates are considered endangered or threatened, and they also require FWS permits for importation.
Nonhuman primates cannot be imported as pets. Nonhuman primates kept as pets in the United States that travel outside the country will not be allowed to reenter the United States as pets.
African rodents are a known source of communicable diseases (e.g., monkeypox) that can be transferred to humans. CDC does not allow the importation of these animals. Exceptions might be made for animals imported for science, education, or exhibition, with permission from CDC. Importers should check with USDA and FWS for additional requirements to import African rodents.
Turtles often are kept as pets but can transmit Salmonella to humans. CDC restricts the importation of some turtles. A person can import ≤6 viable turtle eggs or live turtles with a shell length <4 inches (10 cm) for noncommercial purposes. More live turtles or viable turtle eggs can be imported with CDC permission, but only for science, education, or exhibition. CDC does not restrict the importation of live turtles with a shell length ≥4 inches. Importers should check with USDA and FWS for additional requirements to import turtles.
Travelers planning to import horses, poultry or other birds, ruminants, swine, or dogs used for handling livestock or for commercial resale or adoption should contact the National Import Export Services, a part of the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, at 301-851-3300, to learn about additional requirements.
Travelers planning to import bears, wild birds, wild members of the cat family, fish, rabbits, reptiles, spiders, or other wild or endangered animals should contact FWS at 800-344-9453 (toll-free general number) or 703-358-1949 (FWS Office of Law Enforcement).
Importing Animal Products
Imported animal products often include items intended for human consumption. Bushmeat, generally raw, smoked, or partially processed meat from wild animals, might harbor infectious or zoonotic agents that can cause human or animal disease. As people have migrated around the world, bushmeat has become a growing commodity in the global wildlife trade.
CDC prohibits importation of bushmeat from CDC-restricted species into the United States. Bushmeat from other species also is restricted under USDA or FWS regulations. In addition to the human and animal health risks, many of the wild animals commonly hunted for bushmeat are threatened or endangered species protected by international wildlife laws and treaties (e.g., the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species [CITES]).
For additional information about importing animals and animal products into the United States and for permit applications, travelers should visit the website or contact 1-800-CDC INFO (1-800-232-4636). To request CDC permission to import a CDC-regulated animal or product, send an email to CDCanimalimports@cdc.gov.
Trophies & Other Animal Products
Travelers often want to import animal skins, hunting trophies, or other items made from animals when returning from a trip. These items must either be rendered noninfectious or be accompanied by an import permit. CDC restricts products made from bats, nonhuman primates, African rodents, and civets and related animals in the family Viverridae. These products also might be regulated by other US federal agencies.
CDC has the right to restrict other items known to carry infectious diseases. For example, CDC restricts bringing souvenirs made from goat hide (e.g., goatskin drums) into the United States because they have been associated with cases of anthrax in humans. Travelers who want to import hunting trophies or other products made from animals should check with CDC, USDA, and FWS to make sure they comply with federal regulations.
The following authors contributed to the previous version of this chapter: G. Gale Galland, Robert J. Mullan, Kendra E. Stauffer
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