Frequently Asked Questions

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Frequently Asked Questions

On July 10, 2014, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published Issuance and Enforcement Guidance for Dog Confinement Agreements in the Federal Register. The guidance was posted because of the substantial increase in the number of unvaccinated dogs entering the United States and because many importers have not been complying with CDC’s requirements for dog importation. The guidance became effective on August 11, 2014.

Rabies Vaccine Requirements

What are CDC’s requirements for importation of dogs?

CDC regulations require that dogs imported into the United States are healthy and are vaccinated against rabies before they arrive in the United States. Dogs that have never been vaccinated against rabies must receive their first vaccination at least 30 days prior to arrival. Puppies must not be vaccinated against rabies before 3 months of age, so the youngest that a puppy can be imported into the United States is 4 months of age. These requirements apply to all dogs including service animals.

If your dog is imported from a rabies-free country, CDC does not require rabies vaccination. However, every state requires that dogs be vaccinated against rabies, and all pet dogs arriving in the state of Hawaii and the territory of Guam, even from the U.S. mainland, are subject to locally imposed quarantine requirements depending on the dogs’ rabies vaccination status.

What does it mean to “import” a dog?

A dog is imported whenever it is brought into the United States. This could be for a wide range of purposes such as vacation, temporarily moving to a seasonal residence, passing through on the way to another country, or permanently relocating.

How do I prove my dog has been vaccinated against rabies?

Dogs 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 the vaccination expires
  • Name, license number, address, and signature of the veterinarian who administered the vaccination

Do dogs imported from rabies-free countries have to be fully immunized against rabies?

No. CDC regulations allow the importation of unvaccinated dogs from countries that have not reported rabies cases in land animals in many years. A list of these rabies-free countries can be found on CDC’s Animal Importation website. This list is subject to change at any time, so be sure to check the list before attempting to import an unvaccinated dog. Dogs may be imported without a requirement for proof of rabies vaccination if they have lived for a minimum of 6 months, or since birth, in a country that is considered free of rabies.

Following importation, all dogs are subject to state and local vaccination or health certificate requirements. All pet dogs arriving in the state of Hawaii and the territory of Guam, even from the U.S. mainland, are subject to locally imposed quarantine requirements. Additional information can be found in the Compendium of Animal Rabies Prevention and Control   

Does my dog need a health certificate to come to the United States?

CDC requires dogs to be healthy upon arrival but does not require a veterinary health certificate. Please check with your airline for additional health certificate requirements.

If my dog has a pet passport from the European Union or a rabies tag, is this sufficient?

No. You must also have a 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 the vaccination expires
  • Name, license number, address, and signature of the veterinarian who administered the vaccination
  • A rabies tag alone is not sufficient documentation of rabies vaccination.

Are there any fees for bringing a dog into the United States?

No. CDC does not charge fees for the importation of dog to the United States. Dog imports are duty free under U.S. Customs regulations. Airlines or other private companies might charge fees for their services involved with importing dogs.

I am unwilling to vaccinate my pet dog against rabies. Can I still import my dog into the United States?

The only circumstances where you might be able to import a dog that you are unwilling to have vaccinated against rabies are when:

  • The dog has spent the last 6 months (or its entire life) in a rabies-free country.
  • The dog’s final destination in the United States has exemptions that allow you to not vaccinate your dog against rabies if a veterinarian can certify that vaccination would harm the dog.
  • Before bringing a pet dog into the United States, be aware that:
  • Every state requires that dogs be vaccinated against rabies, and very few allow exemptions such as the one noted above.
  • All pet dogs arriving in the state of Hawaiiand the territory of Guam, even from the U.S. mainland, are subject to locally imposed quarantine requirements depending on the dog’s rabies vaccination status.

Please check with the local government at your destination to learn about state and local vaccination or health certificate requirements. Additional information can be found in the Compendium of Animal Rabies Prevention and Control   

Confinement agreement

What is a confinement agreement?

The confinement agreement is a legal document stating that you agree to confine your dog at an approved location in the United States until the dog is vaccinated against rabies. It is typically issued at the port of entry when a dog arrives that does not meet CDC’s rabies vaccine requirements.

Confinement agreements are not issued automatically and must be approved by CDC. Importers who sign the confinement agreement, but who do not confine their dog until it is fully vaccinated against rabies, may be subject to criminal penalties.

If I were issued a dog confinement agreement, where would my dog be confined?

Dog importers must choose one location where the dog will be confined during the entire confinement period. This is often the importer’s home, but it could also be a veterinary clinic, kennel, or similar facility. Dogs under a confinement agreement may not be moved from the specified confinement location, even if confinement would be continued at the new location.

What does “confinement” mean?

Confinement is defined as isolation away from people and other animals, except for contact necessary for the dog’s care. Conditions of the confinement agreement are as follows:

  • The dog must be kept confined at a place of the owner’s choosing, including the owner’s home, until a rabies vaccination has been obtained. Dogs must be at least 3 months of age to be vaccinated against rabies. If it is the dog’s first rabies vaccine, the dog must continue to be confined until 30 days have passed since vaccination. Older dogs with expired rabies vaccines can be released as soon as they receive a booster.
  • If the dog is taken out of its place of confinement before the confinement period has ended, the owner must muzzle the dog and use a leash.
  • The dog may not be sold or transferred from the responsibility of the importer during the confinement period.

What if I arrive with my dog and CDC decides not to give me a confinement agreement?

If you arrive with a dog that has not been vaccinated against rabies and CDC determines that you are not eligible for a confinement agreement, your dog may be sent back to the dog’s country of origin at your expense.

Exceptions to the rabies vaccine requirements

What does the Issuance and Enforcement Guidance for Dog Confinement Agreements say?

This Federal Register Notice explains the situations CDC will consider when deciding to allow the importation of dogs that are not vaccinated against rabies. When deciding when to administer a confinement agreement, CDC will consider

  1. The number of dogs presented for importation
  2. The frequency of dog importations by the importer
  3. Whether the importer has complied with CDC-issued confinement agreements in the past
  4. Presence of rabies in country of origin (country where the dog has lived during the 6 months prior to arrival, or since birth if the dog is less than 6 months of age), and
  5. Any other risk factors as determined by the CDC director.
  6. CDC reserves the right to deny requests for confinement agreements.

Is there any way I can import a dog that does not have a current rabies vaccine?

Importation of dogs that are not vaccinated against rabies is allowed on a limited basis. Unvaccinated dogs may be imported if

  1. They are arriving from a rabies-free countryand have spent the last 6 months or their entire lives in that country
  2. They are being imported for use in scientific research where rabies vaccination would interfere with that research, or
  3. They meet the criteria specified in the Issuance and Enforcement Guidance for Dog Confinement Agreements.

In most cases, unvaccinated dogs that are permitted to enter the United States under CDC regulations will still have to be vaccinated against rabies as soon as possible upon arrival at their final destinations in the United States.

Importing a puppy purchased outside of the United States does not meet the criteria for a confinement agreement. Importers are expected to exhaust all other reasonable options for delaying the importation of dogs until the dogs are fully vaccinated against rabies before being considered for a confinement agreement. Unvaccinated dogs that arrive in the United States from countries that are not considered rabies-free may be denied entry into the United States and returned to their country of origin at the importer’s expense. Questions about importing unvaccinated dogs may be directed to CDC at CDCAnimalImports@cdc.gov.

Importing puppies that are not old enough for vaccination

I want to get a young puppy (less than 4 months of age) so that I can socialize and train it as soon as possible. How can I get a young puppy and still comply with CDC regulations?

People who want to get a puppy that is younger than 4 months of age may either get the puppy from a source within the United States or may import the puppy from a rabies-free country. In most cases, unvaccinated dogs that are permitted to enter the United States under CDC regulations will still have to be vaccinated against rabies as soon as possible upon arrival at their final destinations in the United States.

I want to get a puppy from outside of the United States and import the puppy before it is fully immunized against rabies. Can I get a confinement agreement?

CDC advises people who want to get a dog outside of the United States to make arrangements to delay importation until the dog is fully immunized against rabies. Puppies can be vaccinated as early as 3 months of age and must be vaccinated at least 30 days before arrival in the United States. Therefore, dogs must be at least 4 months of age to be imported to the United States, unless they are being imported from a rabies-free country. In most cases, CDC will not allow the importation of puppies that are not fully immunized against rabies. Questions about importing unvaccinated dogs may be directed to CDC at CDCAnimalImports@cdc.gov.

Importing unvaccinated dogs into the United States

Can I bring my unvaccinated pet dog to the United States with me on vacation?

No. CDC advises people who want to bring their unvaccinated pet dogs with them on vacation in the United States to either arrange for the dogs to be vaccinated against rabies at least 30 days before arriving in the United States or leave the dogs at home in the care of a family member, friend, veterinarian, or kennel. CDC will not allow the importation of unvaccinated dogs by people who are temporarily visiting the United States.

Can I bring my unvaccinated pet dog on vacation with me outside the United States and then bring my dog back to the United States?

No. CDC advises people who want to bring their pet dogs with them on vacation outside of the United States to arrange for the dogs to be vaccinated against rabies at least 30 days before returning to the United States or leave the dogs at home in the care of a family member, friend, veterinarian, or kennel.

I have imported unvaccinated dogs in the past and received a confinement agreement. Can I still get a confinement agreement?

Maybe. The confinement agreements are only intended to be used under limited circumstances when the importer of the dogs has no reasonable alternative to delay importing the dogs until they are fully immunized as required by CDC regulations. CDC views confinement agreements as a last resort when there is no other reasonable way to avoid importing dogs that are not fully immunized against rabies. Questions about importing unvaccinated dogs may be directed to CDC at CDCAnimalImports@cdc.gov.

I am unexpectedly moving to the United States permanently, or for an extended period of time, and will not have time to have my dog vaccinated against rabies before I move. What do I need to do to be able to import my dog to the United States?

The best course of action is to make arrangements with a family member, friend, veterinarian, or kennel to keep the dog until it is fully immunized against rabies, and then arrange for the dog to be shipped to your home in the United States. If this is not possible, CDC will consider allowing the dog to enter the United States under a confinement agreement. People in this situation should contact CDC at CDCAnimalImports@cdc.gov to discuss their specific circumstances.

My dog was previously vaccinated against rabies, but the rabies vaccination certificate has expired. What do I need to do to be able to import my dog to the United States?

Adult dogs older than 15 months of age that have previously received a rabies vaccination given no earlier than 3 months of age that has since expired may be imported immediately following booster vaccination, without the need to wait for 30 days.

Importers of dogs that have been previously vaccinated should be prepared at the U.S. port of entry to show the previous, expired rabies vaccination certificate in addition to the new, valid rabies vaccination certificate. Alternatively, importers can ask the veterinarian administering the rabies booster vaccination to indicate on the vaccination certificate that the vaccination is a booster.

Additional Information

Is CDC issuing this guidance to protect the domestic dog breeding industry in the United States?

No. CDC’s primary mission is to protect America from threats to human health, safety, and security. This guidance and all CDC importation regulations are intended to protect public health and not to favor any domestic industry.

When did the guidance go into effect?

The Issuance and Enforcement Guidance for Dog Confinement Agreements went into effect on August 11, 2014. Before that date, inadequately immunized but otherwise healthy dogs arriving at a U.S. port of entry were admitted to the United States if the importer signed a dog confinement agreement. As of August 11, 2014, confinement agreements will be issued at CDC’s discretion.