Moving to the US with pets – what are the rules?

Moving involves uprooting your whole life and taking it to a new place. This includes everything you hold dear. Starting from your belongings, memorabilia and of course pets. After all, aren’t pets members of the family? As such leaving them behind could be quite painful. However, there are certain considerations to keep in mind when moving with pets to another country. Local laws that you will need to think about to ensure your beloved pet is moved safely. That’s precisely why we decided to talk about what are the rules of moving to the US with pets. So without further ado, let’s jump right into it.

What to think about when moving to the US with pets

Before we dive into the rules of moving to the US with pets, we must first talk about certain considerations you should have when you decide on moving your pets to a new country. First of all, you should check if your kind of pet is allowed in the US at all. After all, having your pet prepared for the relocation only for it to be held at the border would not help your moving stress at all. With that in mind, if you have a pet that would not be allowed in the US, you should really try and find a home for them with someone you can trust, like a friend or a family member.

A group of friends with a dog.
In some situations, it would be more advisable to leave your pet with people you can trust.

Secondly, you should consider how you are going to move your pet to the US. Depending on your mode of transportation, you could take your pet with you. Otherwise, you can book them a flight either in the cargo hold or with a commercial shipper. Just make sure you include the expenses of this in your moving costs checklist and book it well ahead of your move. This is to ensure your pet is relocated in sync with your own move.

Rules for moving to the US with pets for dog owners

If you decided to move to the US with a dog, you will need to take note of certain rules. The CDC website is very helpful here, as it lists special rules for moving to the US with pets, divided into several categories. As far as dogs are concerned, they need to be vaccinated against rabies at least 30 days prior to entry to the US. This may not apply if you are coming from a country that is listed as rabies-free by the US government. The dog also needs to appear healthy. Apart from this, certain states may have special vaccine requirements for your dog. These may include the following vaccines:

  • Hepatitis
  • Parvovirus
  • Bordetella
  • Distemper

While these depend on the state, something you will find in every good moving guide is to check your destination state’s requirements beforehand.  Especially since failing to follow these regulations may result in your pet ending up in quarantine. Even worse your pet could be denied entry altogether!

A couple holding a dog.
Dog owners that are considering moving to the US with pets must make sure their pet had all the necessary vaccinations.

Moving to the US with pets for cat owners

When it comes to moving to the US with pets, cat owners have it a bit easier than dog owners. While cats are not required to be vaccinated against rabies by the CDC, like dogs, some states may still require this. Luckily, the US Department of Agriculture has a list of contacts by the state on its website to make the search easier. Another thing to consider, for both cats and other pets is that in the state of Hawaii and the territory of Guam, your pet may be subject to quarantine up to 120 days. Another thing to consider when moving to the US with pets, especially cats and dogs is that certain areas might require you to pay a pet license yearly.

A cat on a window. Moving to the US with pets is easier for cat owners.
Cats are more easily imported to the US.


Moving to the US with other kinds of pets

Finally, you might be moving to the US with pets that fall off the usual dog/cat spectrum. In these cases, you need to take special note of the US regulations. First of all, you can under no circumstances import the following pets into the US:

  • Bats
  • Monkeys
  • Civets
  • African rodents

Secondly, special rules may apply for some of the following categories of pets:


If you plan on moving to the US with your pet bird, you will first need to obtain a USDA import permit. Furthermore, your bird will need to spend time in quarantine for 30 days, at your own expense. Since this quarantine is held in one of the three USDA animal import facilities, it would be most advisable to reserve a spot for your pet well in advance.

Snakes, reptiles, and fish

As far as snakes, lizards, and fish are concerned, there are not general animal health requirements set by the CDC or the USDA as there are for cats and dogs. On the other hand, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service may regulate the import of these animals. Especially if they are considered an endangered or injurious species. When it comes to turtles, the CDC does not allow the import of turtles with the shell length less than 4 inches. Also, one person can only import six turtles or six turtle eggs, or a combination of these totaling six items.

Moving to the US with pets like a real relocation pro.

And there you have it! After reading through our article you should be ready to move to the US with pets like a real relocation pro. This, however, does not mean the research is over. As you could have seen above, you will still need to look up regulations for your destination state. However, we are certain that you are now pretty much prepared to take this task head-on. It won’t be long now before you are snuggling your beloved pet in your new home!

Latest Posts

Step 1 of 3

City You Are Moving From(Required)
City You Are Moving To(Required)