How to bring animal into U.S.

By Susan Catto

New York Times News Service

Q: A friend in France has offered me a puppy to bring back to Boston. What rules and requirements exist for bringing a dog into the United States? -- Mimi Taylor, Cambridge, Mass.

A: The federal regulations affecting the importation of pets and other animals are set by the Division of Global Migration and Quarantine at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Their focus is to prevent the importation of infectious diseases, said Dr. Paul Arguin, a medical epidemiologist at the division; in addition to rabies, Arguin cites leishmania infection, found mainly intropical and subtropical countries and spread by sand fly bites.

To bring an older dog from France to the United States, you must provide proof that it has been vaccinated against rabies at least 30 days before entering the United States. (Ask the dog's owner or veterinarian for a signed and dated vaccination certificate; it should also state the manufacturer of the vaccine.)


At your port of entry, the dog will be examined for evidence of infectious diseases; if the dog appears sick, it may need to be examined by a licensed veterinarian. Importing a very young puppy is more complicated, as rabies vaccinations are usually given when a dog is 3 months old. An unvaccinated puppy can enter the country, but it must be confined by its owner until it is at least 3 months old, at which point it must be vaccinated and confined an additional 30 days. Confinement is defined by the Centers for Disease Control as "restriction of an animal by the owner or his agent to a building or other enclosure in isolation from other animals and from persons except for contact necessary for its care, or, if it is allowed out of such enclosure, muzzling the animal and keeping it on leash."

An older unvaccinated dog can also enter, provided the owner agrees to vaccinate it within four days of arrival and to confine it bor 30 days after vaccination. In each of these scenarios, the owner must complete a confinement agreement; the agreement can be viewed online at

The vaccination rules are waived if the dog originates in or has spent the last six months in a country that has not reported a case of rabies in two years. A list -- which includes many European countries, but not France -- is available at In addition to federal laws, you will also be subject to state laws regarding the importation of pets. In Massachusetts, dogs require a health certificate from a veterinarian; if the dog has not been vaccinated, the certificate must indicate that it has not been exposed to rabies.

Finally, Arguin advises, be sure to inform your airline that you will be traveling with a dog. Airlines may require a health certificate though the federal government doesn't, he said.

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