CDC enacts new documentation requirements for US dog imports

Is your canine patient entering the United States? Soon they’ll need more than just a health certificate. Here’s what you need to know.

By Emily Singler

The temporary suspension of the import of dogs from high-risk rabies areas, instituted by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) on July 14, 2021, will expire on July 31, 2024. Starting on August 1, the CDC will require all dogs entering the United States to have a Dog Import Form completed by their owners and filed prior to arrival in the US. Additional documentation will depend on the country in which the dog was vaccinated for rabies and the countries in which the dog has been prior to travel to the US.  

This update aims to prevent the reintroduction of dog rabies into the United States and is also in response to challenges with “fraudulent vaccine documentation and unsafe conditions for dogs at ports of entry,” said Emily Pieracci, DVM, MPH, DACVPM, lead for the Zoonoses Prevention and Import Regulations Team at the CDC.   

These changes only affect dogs, with no new requirements for cats or any other species.  

Changes that affect all dogs 

  • All dogs must be at least six months old to enter the US, even if they are coming from a rabies-free country.  
  • All dogs must be microchipped, regardless of their country of origin. 
  • All importers (including dog owners returning with their dog to the US from an international trip) must submit a CDC Dog Import Form (available on CDC’s website starting July 15, 2024) prior to entering the US with their dog. CDC recommends printing a copy of the Dog Import Form receipt and traveling with at least two copies of it.  

Importers and dog owners can submit the Dog Import Form electronically; this action will automatically generate a receipt within minutes of submission. There is no fee associated with it. Airlines will be required to verify the presence of a CDC Dog Import Form for each dog boarding a flight to the US. 

Requirements for foreign-vaccinated dogs 

The additional requirements for foreign-vaccinated dogs vary based on the countries in which they have spent time in the six months before entering the US. 

All dogs vaccinated for rabies outside of the US who have spent any time in a country designated as high risk for rabies within the six months preceding import to the US: 

Dogs vaccinated for rabies outside of the US who have not spent any time in a country designated to be high risk for rabies within the six months preceding travel to the US must have one of the following combinations: 



  • a foreign export certificate endorsed by an official veterinarian (that includes the dog’s age and microchip) and veterinary records from the past six months.  

Any documents not written in English must have a certified English translation.  

Requirements for US-vaccinated dogs 

Dogs who leave the US for any reason are still considered an import when they return to the US, said Pieracci.  

However, dogs who were vaccinated for rabies in the US and have traveled outside the country with their owners have considerably different requirements than foreign-vaccinated dogs. 

  • US-vaccinated dogs will not be required to have a rabies titer performed, 
  • They will not need to be held for a quarantine upon reentry.  

As long as their rabies vaccine is current, they may reenter the US with: 

  •  a USDA-endorsed Certification of US-issued Rabies Vaccination form (accessed through the VEHCS Help Page with instructions available here)   


  • a USDA-endorsed export health certificate (international health certificate) that includes the dog’s age, microchip number, and rabies vaccination information (including expiration date) on the form.  

As is often required for export health certificates, the Certification of US-issued Rabies Vaccination form must be submitted to the USDA for endorsement.  This can be done electronically through the Veterinary Export Health Certification System (VEHCS), said Pieracci, and must be completed by a USDA-accredited veterinarian.  

Start ahead of time 

 Veterinarians can and should start preparing for their patients to enter (or re-enter) the US 30-90 days ahead of time so that their owners have all the necessary documents completed, advised Pieracci. This includes ensuring that each dog has a working microchip and a valid rabies vaccination.  

In the case where a dog is leaving with their owner from the US and then returning, US veterinarians should also conduct a physical exam and complete the Certification of US-issued Rabies Vaccination form or export health certificate and send it for endorsement through VEHCS before the dog leaves the US, she added.  

Ultimately, though, it is dog owners, not veterinarians, who are responsible for completing and submitting the CDC Dog Import Form, which should be done 2-10 days before returning to the US. This form does not need to be endorsed.  

Ways to learn more 

Ahead of this change, the CDC is conducting some outreach efforts to help alleviate any confusion around the new requirements. Sheena Tarrant, DVM, CDC veterinary medical officer, will be at the AVMA Convention in Austin, Texas, later this month to answer questions and guide veterinarians through any concerns that they have.  

The CDC has also created DogBot, an online tool to help veterinary professionals and dog owners determine which documents will be required to import a dog into the US based on their history of vaccination, age, and geographical location prior to travel to the US.  

Further reading: 

Instructions for bringing a dog into the US until July 31, 2024 

Instructions for bringing a dog into the US after August 1, 2024 

Frequently asked questions on CDC Dog Importations 


Cover photo credit:  Anna Reshetnikova ©  E+ via Getty Images Plus 

Disclaimer: The views expressed, and topics discussed, in any NEWStat column or article are intended to inform, educate, or entertain, and do not represent an official position by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) or its Board of Directors. 



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