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Trip to America with a pet - What to do?

trip to america with a pet

Do you have  to travel to the U.S.A in the near future? Are you a pet owner and you need to bring it with you?

Although most of us leave our pets at home, we often have the desire or the necessity to bring them with us, both to have fun with them during an holiday or for a transfer. Regardless of why you want to travel in the USA with your pet, there are some important points that you will need to know .

The first step to travel in the USA with a pet is to make sure you can do it. Although most of the airlines, will allow the fly to pets on their planes , there will be others which will deny the consent .So you better inform yourself in advance about the procedures to be adopted for travel by plane with your own pet.

Allowed animals to travel in the U.S.A

When you travel by plane with your pet you have to take account of international rules governing the transport of animals between different countries, in this case between Europe and United States.

In United States are allowed pets like :

  • dogs, cats , and birds (these ,subject to some rules that we will review later)
  • fishes
  • reptiles (snakes and lizards)
  • small mammals like hamsters, ferrets , bunnies and other similar species.

Obviously all kinds of animals which can be introduced in the USA must pass customs controls to prevent dangerous or endangered animals from entering American territory.

To travel to the USA with your pet you will need a…

Health certificate

To travel from Europe to USA with your pet , European governments requires a health certificate like a real passport for the animal . The health certificate for the journey of animals must be completed both in the native language and in English and is issued by the Local Health Authority that belongs to the territory of residence.

The health certificate must contain the following informations:

  • The animal identification : breed , date of birth if it’s possible and the gender.
  • The owner identification.
  • Animal’s current conditions

The health certificate also must state that the animal has been subjected to a veterinary examination on the same day of it’s issuance which shows that he is in good health. Obviously , the status of vaccinations must also be indicated, especially anti-rabies vaccination, which must be administered at least 20 days before departure to the United States and no later than 11 months after the issuance of the certificate and departure.

To get the certification you will need to pay a fee. Since not all the ASL offer the possibility to do an on-site visit, you will have the opportunity to get a certificate of good health, signed and dated by your trusted veterinarian, no more than 48 hours before the appointment to the ASL .

PLEASE NOTE: The health certificate issued by the ASL is valid for 6 days. For this reason it’s better if you request it before the departure from italy to U.S.A

The health certificate has an international value and it must been shown to the customs officer at the airport of departure at the moment of the check-in of the animal.

Travel to the U.S.A with your dog

It is not difficult to travel to the USA with your dog, you simply have to respect some rules.

The american government body that deals with the control and entry of pets into the USA, (in this case for dogs) is the CDC (Center for Disease Control). As for dogs, the CDC doesn’t require health certificate for their entry into the United States even if for some airlines, such certificate is required.

At the time of boarding dogs will be visited and if they show symptoms of some infectious disease, they may be denied entry into the USA. In case of suspected pathology at the boarding controls, the dog will be visited at the owner’s expense. The dog must have a certificate stating that the animal has undergone an anti-rabies vaccination not earlier than 30 days after departure to the USA. the same speech must be done for accompanying dogs for disabled people and guide dogs for blind people.


Puppies are those dogs under the age of three months that can not be subjected to rabies vaccination because of their age and for this reason they will not be certified.

They will also be allowed to leave provided that the owner signs an agreement with the american authorities ( form downloadable on the site of the CDC ), with that he undertakes to keep the puppy in isolation until the time that will allow its vaccination, followed by an additional 30 days of quarantine to allow the vaccine to take effect.

For this reason when you have to travel In USA with your pet for vacation is not recommended if the animal in question is a puppy. The same must also be said for all non-vaccinated dogs, and for those who import puppies or adult dogs for commercial or reproductive purposes.

Travel to USA with your cat

Unlike dogs, Traveling in the USA with the cat is easier, in fact the american authorities of the CDC, do not require neither the health certificate nor the certificate for vaccination against rabies, but some airlines can demand it (like for dogs). So it’s better you inform yourself in advance at the airline that you will use to travel in the USA with your pet.

Cats , like dogs should also be inspected before departure, during this time they should not show any signs of disease that may be transmitted to humans. In case of doubt, a veterinary examination will be required, the cost  will be charged to the owner.

Important: If your journey is to Hawaii or Guam, and you want to take your cat with you, you should know that the territorial regulations for these territories impose a quarantine period for the animals.

Travel to USA with other animals

Let us now dedicate ourselves to the other animals that we can take with us on a trip to the USA.


In the USA, the import of birds is regulated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and is protected by the CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) and WBCA (Wild Bird Conservation Act) protocols which represent international agreements governing the exchange of birds belonging to alien or endangered species.

Most domestic exotic birds, such as parrots, macaws and parakeets, are subject to the regulation of CITES and the WBCA, this one requiring that to import a bird of a species other than one of those present in the United States, the residence of a year outside the US territory of both the bird and the owner and imposes a limit of 2 domestic birds per year per person that can be introduced into American territory.

If you intend to take a domestic bird with you on your trip to the USA, you have to follow some steps :

  • You must apply for an import permit at the government website http:///
  • You must have the health certificate issued by your local health authority

The imported bird must stay in quarantine for a period of 30 days, in a structure of the Department of Agriculture, in order to prevent the spread of viruses such as avian influenza.


There is no specific rule concerning the import of fish into the USA. Here, too, the matter is regulated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that in cases of importation of fish species at risk or environmentally harmful, may require compliance with a specific practice.


The importation of reptiles into the United States is also regulated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The regulations for reptiles, as well as for fish and all endangered species are explained on the government website.

In general, it’s possible to introduce reptiles on American soil, provided that they do not belong to endangered species. It is forbidden to bring turtles whose shells are less than 4 inches into the USA.

Small mammals

If these animals are not subject to embargoes or regulated import rules, because species dangerous or harmful to the environment, they can safely be imported into the USA, even if there are regulations applied by individual states. For example, in California it is not possible to introduce ferrets. Regulations can be viewed on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service website.

Frequently asked questions about traveling to the USA with pets

If the journey is by land or sea and not by plane, are the regulations the same?

There is no difference for importing your pet into the USA between plane, car or ship. The rules to be respected are the same for each means of transport used for entry into the USA.

Air travel with stopover, where do I take the animal?

The animals that are with  us during our trip are considered as normal luggage and therefore subject to the procedures provided for luggage. If your pet will not be quarantined, you can choose  to pick up the pet at the airport and then redo the security check, or pick it up directly at the final arrival airport.

you must include the animal in the Customs declaration ?

Yes you must enter your pet in the Customs Form that is provided by the flight attendants before landing in the USA.


When you travel by plane to the USA with your pet, it is important to remember that you will be charged an additional fee, you will need to buy a ticket for him too.

Unfortunately, many not-informed travelers believe they can use the pet carrier as hand luggage or hold luggage. However, that is not how it works. The additional cost varies depending on the airline used for the flight in the USA and the rental of the pet, for example in the cabin or in the luggage compartment.

The previous speech leads to another fundamental point. Some airlines that allow pets, such as dogs and cats, on board their flights do not allow pets to be transported in the cabin in contact with other passengers. This practice is particularly common on small planes where the presence of dogs or cats can cause allergies to passengers and this can be a source of great concern to airlines. If you don’t want to part with your pet, be sure to choose an airline that will allow you to keep it in the cabin with you. That said, remember that even the size of your pet will play a huge factor in your choices.

Regardless of where your pet will be housed, in the cabin or in the hold, it will need to be equipped with a carrier if the pet is small ,a cage if it is large.

Many of the airlines have specific rules and restrictions on what type of transport tool can be used. The information provided by companies often includes the materials used, in addition to the size.

You will need to request this information  in advance so you will be prepared and have no difficulty leaving. When you choose your pet carrier, it is important  you make sure that the dimensions are large enough to give your pet enough space to stand and move around a bit.

In fact, Most airlines will refuse to transport pets that are kept  in too narrow spaces, considering them unsafe for the health of the animal itself.

It is also important to make sure you have your pet checked by your veterinarian. Also make sure that your pet has made all the required vaccinations and is eligible for travel. In addition, the vast majority of airlines require a health certificate issued by the competent ASL, stating that your pet is healthy and safe for travel to the USA.

It is advisable in any case, where possible, to install an identification microchip.

In conclusion for the Trip to the USA with pet the following procedure provides :

  • Inform yourself  about the government sites indicated above for the eligibility of your pet in the USA
  • Choose the airline that allows pets to travel to the U.S.A
  • Purchase of suitable equipment for the USA travel of the animal
  • Application for a vaccination certificate
  • Application for the health certificate issued by the ASL
  • Identification microchip for dogs or cats

Traveling to the USA with a pet, also involves some attention to the preparations for hand luggage for flying and for the types of food eligible for travel. don’t forget: to travel to the United States, you will need to apply for an ESTA permssion if the duration of your trip in the USA is less than 90 days and if you are a citizen of a country that is a member of the Visa Waiver Program. For all information on how to apply for ESTA ,you can consult our guide ESTA for USA Visa.

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