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Travel with pets • 10 minutes to read

Everything You Need To Know About Flying With Pets To The U.S.A.

Traveling with pets can be a straightforward and manageable process or a confusing and nerve-wracking event, and flying Stateside with your furry friends is no different.

There are many factors to consider, from where you’re traveling from, to the airline requirements and the type of animal you’re flying with. These variables can determine how simple or complicated your experience will be when you’re flying with your pet to the U.S.A.

At Kiwi, we aim to make flying with animals as accessible as possible for pet owners. We’ve broken down the necessary information you’ll need, including the requirements to be aware of, airline pet policies, and the best airlines for traveling with cats or dogs.

Can You Fly With Pets To The U.S.A.?

First and foremost, you’re probably wondering if the United States welcomes pets. If you’re traveling with four-legged friends, you’ll be glad to know that the U.S.A. is very much a cat and dog-friendly travel destination. Domesticated rabbits, rodents, ferrets, turtles, and non-venomous snakes are also allowed to enter, but you may have to go through additional steps.

However, depending on where you’re traveling from or the chosen airline, you may be limited on what animals you bring into the country. For example, if you’re flying with your dog with JetBlue, you can travel domestically but not from abroad.

A crucial point to remember is that traveling with dogs or cats to Hawaii and Guam is significantly different from the rest of the U.S.A., as Hawaiian authorities and their counterparts in Guam work to keep the regions free of rabies, but we’ll get more into that later.

Can I Fly My Dog With Me To The U.S.A.?

Travelers flying with dogs from countries that are rabies-free or are considered low-risk are permitted to fly to the U.S.A.

The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) regularly updates the requirements for dogs entering the country and is a great place to find up-to-date information about what dogs can and can’t fly to the United States of America.

What Documents Do I Need For My Dog To Travel To The U.S.A.?

Figuring out which documents you’ll need is one of the first things you should start preparing before traveling with a dog on a plane.

Pet owners with experience traveling with a dog to Europe or traveling with a cat to Mexico may find they’re already familiar with some of the required documentation.

Your paperwork will depend largely on where you’re traveling from and if your pet is re-entering the U.S.A., which we’ll look at in more detail later.

For dogs, you may be required to provide the following documents:

  • A health certificate from a certified vet that states your dog is healthy and fit for travel issued at most 10 days before your flight. International documents like EU pet passports are also accepted.
  • Proof of rabies vaccination, translated into English.
  • A written or verbal statement confirming your dog has not been in a high-risk rabies country in the last six months.

You might need additional documents based on the country you’re traveling from and where your dog has been in the six months before the flight. These include:

  • A CDC-approved Rabies Vaccination signed by a licensed vet if your dog was vaccinated against rabies outside of the U.S.A. in a low-risk country and you’re traveling from a high-risk country for rabies.
  • A 15-digit ISO microchip, as outlined in the CDC rabies vaccination record.
  • A signed declaration that your dog is screwworm-free or has been treated for screwworm before traveling if coming from countries where the parasite exists.

Note: The CDC is currently suspending dogs that have been in high-risk countries for rabies within the previous six months until July 31st, 2024. If your dog received a rabies vaccine in the U.S.A. or a low-risk country, you may be able to enter the country with some additional documentation. This is subject to change.

Woman and Cocker Spaniel enjoying a leisurely walk together

How Can I Take My Pet To The U.S.A?

When entering the U.S.A. by air, your pet can travel in the cabin with you as checked baggage or cargo.

Cabin

Though household birds are permitted in the cabin with some airlines, pets that can travel in the cabin are generally small cats or dogs that fit the following criteria:

  • Well-behaved and odor-free.
  • Weigh less than 7-9 kg.
  • Can stand, sit, and turn fully in a rigid or soft-sided carrier.

If your airline and destination allow you to travel with animals in the cabin, you’ll present your pet’s documents at the check-in desk and proceed through security and onto the plane as usual. During the flight, your pet must remain in their carrier for the entirety of the journey.

Be aware that some airlines only allow animals to fly in the hold as checked baggage or cargo, unless you’re flying with service dogs. Unfortunately, if you plan on flying with therapy dogs, they may have to travel in the hold unless they meet the airline’s size restrictions.

Checked Baggage

Animals flying as checked baggage will travel on the same flight as you in a temperature-controlled, pressurized part of the plane.

In this case, you’ll bring your pet to a designated drop-off zone in the airport after check-in, and the handlers will take care of your companion and ensure they’re put onto the plane safely. A hard-sided kennel with enough space for your pet to comfortably stand, sit, and turn is required for pets traveling as checked baggage. You must also provide sufficient food and water for your pet that can be given to them from outside the crate by staff.

Cargo

Pets traveling as cargo will fly on a special shipment plane, separate from the flight you’ll be taking.

This option isn’t the first choice of most pet owners but is sometimes necessary as some airlines only allow some or all animals to travel this way, or your flight already has the maximum number of pets booked to fly.

Animals traveling as cargo will have a similar experience to those traveling as checked baggage. Still, it may mean more time away from your beloved pet, depending on the differences between your flight times and your pet’s.

What Dogs Are Banned From Entering The U.S.A?

According to the CDC, the following dogs are banned from traveling to the U.S.A. at the time of writing:

  • Dogs that have been in countries considered high-risk for rabies in the last six months, though rules can vary depending on where their vaccines were given.
  • Dogs without valid rabies vaccinations.
  • Dogs less than 16 weeks old, as puppies must be 12 weeks old before receiving their first rabies shot, and it must have been administered no less than 28 days before entering the U.S.A.
  • Dogs coming from countries where screwworms are common without the relevant documentation to confirm your dog is free of this parasite.

What Are The Current USDA APHIS Regulations?

The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has particular requirements for animals entering the U.S.A., which differ depending on the animal and state.

It’s worth noting that these regulations can be different from the rules set out by the CDC and the airline, so be sure to check each party’s requirements. Unfortunately, this process can make taking your pet in the United States confusing at times!

Below, we’ve given an overview of the regulations for common pets to help you get prepared for your trip.

Dogs

  • Dogs entering from high-risk rabies countries are temporarily banned unless they’ve received the vaccine in the U.S.A. or a low-risk country.
  • Dogs flying from countries where screwworm exists will need a signed declaration from a certified vet to confirm they are screwworm-free.
  • Dogs coming from a country that’s not free from foot and mouth disease must be immediately washed and kept away from livestock for five days.

Cats

  • There are no specific APHIS requirements for cats, but be sure to check CDC, airline, and state regulations.

Rabbits

  • There are also no specific APHIS requirements for rabbits, but keep an eye on CDC, airline, and state regulations.

Birds (if not of U.S.A. origin)

What Pets Are Banned From Entering The U.S.A.?

Animals from the following groups are considered pets by the USDA. If your pet doesn’t belong to one of these categories, you won’t be permitted to bring them into the United States.

  • Dogs
  • Cats
  • Rodents
  • Hedgehogs/tenrecs
  • Ferrets
  • Rabbits
  • Amphibians
  • Household birds

Surprisingly, unlike many other countries, The United States doesn’t ban aggressive dogs. However, you may have difficulty finding an airline that accepts certain breeds known as vicious or temperamental, and some states impose their own restrictions.

What Are The Rules For Bringing Pets Back To The U.S.A. From Another Country?

Are you returning to the U.S.A. with your pet from vacation in a foreign country? You’ll be relieved to know that entering the country with a pet of U.S. origin is generally less complicated than with an animal from a different country.

Provided you’re flying back to the United States from a rabies-free or low-risk country, and your pooch is at least four months old, your pet can enter the country with little difficulty. If your pet appears in good health and all the necessary documents are in order, you should have a smooth re-entry process.

It’s often more straightforward to re-enter with cats and rabbits than dogs, as the rabies risk can mean there are additional steps for canines.

What Are The Rules For Bringing Dogs Back To The U.S.A.?

As previously mentioned, if you’re bringing your pup back from a country with a low to no risk of rabies, you won’t need much documentation.

You’ll likely be asked for a health certificate from the airline, and your dog may be examined on arrival. Rabies certificates aren’t required if your pet hasn’t been in a country with a significant rabies risk, but it’s always a good idea to have vaccine records on hand. Instead, you must provide a verbal or written statement that your dog has not been in high-risk areas for rabies.

While dogs that have been in high-risk countries for rabies within the last six months are banned from entering the United States, it’s possible to do so if your pup received rabies shots in the U.S.A. and you’re returning to the country. If this applies to you, you must:

  • Provide a CDC Rabies Vaccination and Microchip Record or a detailed certificate from the vet that administered the vaccines that includes your dog’s microchip number. Either document must be in date.
  • Arrive at an airport with a CDC quarantine center.
  • Be traveling with a dog at least six months old.

Woman hugging a scottish kitten on a walk

Will My Dog Need A Rabies Test?

Due to the current ban on dogs entering, if they have been in high-risk countries for rabies in the six months before arriving in the U.S.A., you’re unlikely to need a rabies titer test for your dog as the animal can’t enter the country unless you’ve applied for a CDC Dog Import permit (more on that later).

However, if the ban is lifted, there’s a good chance your dog will need a titer test for rabies if the animal has been in a high-risk country within the last six months and doesn’t have a U.S. rabies vaccine.

In this case, any dogs landing in the United States that fit this description will be required to have undergone a titer test between 45 days and one year in advance from an approved lab.

If the test is valid, your dog will receive a U.S. vaccine at a CDC animal care facility. If it’s invalid, you must make a reservation for your dog to be quarantined at such a care facility for 28 days, and they will be re-vaccinated.

Hawaii

Anyone traveling with a dog or cat to Hawaii must follow a different procedure. Hawaii has strict requirements for animals entering the country, and both dogs and cats must have completed a FAVN Rabies Antibody test before arrival to avoid a quarantine period of 120 days.

It’s vital to thoroughly read the rules for entering Hawaii with your pet.

Here’s a quick overview of what you’ll need to do to avail of the state’s Direct Release or 5 Days Or Less program:

  • Ensure your dog or cat is up-to-date with rabies vaccinations, with the most recent shot administered at least 30 days before arrival.
  • Make sure your pet has been microchipped before getting tested.
  • Speak with your vet and send your pet’s test to an approved lab at least 30 days before your visit, though we’d advise you to send it further in advance in case of delays, which could invalidate the test.
  • Observe Hawaii’s 30-day waiting period before entering.
  • Have your pet’s test results ready for officials to examine.

What Vaccines Will My Pet Need For The U.S.A.?

As you’ve likely noticed, the regulations for pets flying into the U.S.A. vary quite a bit depending on the animal and where the animal has been in the six months before entering the country, and the same applies to vaccine requirements.

Aside from dogs traveling to Hawaii or Guam or dogs that have been in high-risk countries for rabies, there are generally no essential vaccines. However, you may find that some airlines have their own rules for vaccinations.

Take a look through some of the recommended vaccines you should consider before traveling with your pet.

Dogs

  • Rabies
  • DHPP (Distemper, Hepatitis, Parainfluenza, Parvovirus)
  • CIV (Canine Influenza Virus)
  • Bordetella

Cats

  • Rabies
  • Feline Leukemia
  • Feline panleukopenia

Rabbits

  • Myxomatosis
  • RHD1 – RHD2

What Documents Will I Need To Travel With My Pet To The U.S.A.?

The documents you’ll need will be specific to the animal you’re flying with, the airline, where you’ve visited in the last six months, and where your pet was inoculated.

For this section, let’s look at the paperwork required for traveling with a dog.

U.S. Origin Dogs Returning From A Low-Risk Or Rabies-Free Country

  • Health certificates dated within 10 days before the flight (in line with the airline policies, as it’s not always asked for if you’re flying with a dog or cat in the cabin).
  • A written (or sometimes verbal) declaration that your pet has not been in a high-risk country for rabies within six months before travel to the U.S.A.

U.S. Origin Dogs Returning From A High-Risk Rabies Country

  • Valid health certificate
  • U.S.-issued vaccination certificate or CDC Rabies Vaccination and Microchip Record.
  • Details for your pet’s ISO-compatible microchip (must match vaccination records)

Foreign-Vaccinated Dogs Entering From A Low-Risk Or Rabies-Free Country

  • Valid health certificate
  • A written or verbal declaration that your pet has not been in a high-risk country for rabies within the six months before travel to the U.S.A.

Foreign-Vaccinated Dogs Entering From A High-Risk Rabies Country

  • Valid health certificate
  • CDC Rabies Vaccination and Microchip Record
  • CDC Dog Import Permit

What Is A CDC Dog Import Permit, And Do I Need One For My Dog?

Foreign-vaccinated dogs entering the U.S.A. from a high-risk country for rabies may apply for a CDC Dog Import Permit.

Dogs need to arrive at one of the 18 airports with a CDC animal care facility and meet the following criteria to obtain a permit:

  • Minimum of six months old
  • ISO-compatible microchip
  • CDC Rabies Vaccination and Microchip Record
  • Valid titer test for rabies

Permits can take up to eight weeks to be granted and will be valid for one use from 14 days before or until 80 days after the planned arrival date.

Will My Pet Need To Be Quarantined When Flying To The U.S.A.?

Anyone traveling to the U.S.A. who has met all the requirements for their pet to enter the country won’t have to worry about their furry companion getting quarantined.

However, completing the additional steps is crucial if you’re heading to Hawaii or Guam. Unless you travel directly from exempt areas (British Isles, Australia, New Zealand, Japan), you must present a valid titer test result on arrival in Hawaii or Guam to avoid quarantine periods of up to 120 days for your pet.

What Should I Expect When Bringing My Dog Or Cat To The U.S.A.?

Let’s break down what you can expect from your experience of traveling to the U.S.A. with your pet from several different destinations.

Mexico

Mexico is considered a country with a low risk for rabies. Provided your dog is at least eight weeks old, you’ll need to bring a valid health certificate and a declaration that your dog hasn’t been in any high-risk locations in the last six months. Though unnecessary, providing a rabies vaccination record if your dog is over three months old is always a good idea.

Cats can enter without documentation but may be examined on arrival. Additionally, airlines will likely require a health certificate and rabies vaccine for felines.

Canada

The above regulations apply to anyone traveling with a dog or cat to Canada, as it’s in the same category as Mexico.

Dominican Republic

Dominican Republic is on the U.S.A.’s list of high-risk countries, so you’ll need to apply for a CDC Dog Import Permit and provide the following documents on arrival:

  • Valid health certificate
  • CDC Rabies Vaccination and Microchip Record
  • A valid CDC Dog Import Permit

Cats don’t need the same paperwork to enter the U.S.A. but will probably need a health certificate and rabies vaccine record, depending on the airline.

Colombia

As Colombia is also considered a high-risk country, visitors must follow the same rules for cats and dogs as those traveling from the Dominican Republic.

How Much Does It Cost To Bring A Dog To The U.S.A.?

Some travelers may only have to pay the airline’s fee for flying with a pet, while others may find themselves facing costs amounting to hundreds of euros thanks to vet visits, rabies tests, and quarantine requirements.

As a result, the total cost of bringing your dog or cat to the States varies significantly. For example, flying with a cat in the cabin from a rabies-free country or flying with service dogs will be much cheaper than traveling with exotic animals or dogs from high-risk countries.

Some of the costs you’ll need to consider include:

  • Health certificates
  • Rabies vaccinations
  • Rabies titer tests
  • Quarantine
  • Cat and dog travel essentials and accessories for flying with other animals (crate, bedding, etc.)

Many of these costs will differ substantially from country to country.

Airline fees will vary based on the flight route, number of animals, pet policies, etc. Be aware of differences between airlines, as flying with a dog with United may be cheaper, but flying with a dog with Delta will allow you to travel with pets in the cabin or hold.

Flying with a large dog or flying with dogs or cats internationally will generally incur higher fees than domestic flights with small pets.

Have a look at the table below, which indicates the price points you can expect when flying to the U.S.A. from abroad.

Airline Cabin Checked Baggage/Cargo
Delta €182 Varies depending on distance, size, and destination.
United Airlines One-way costs are €112, with an additional €112 for layovers Unavailable
K.L.M. €75 – €400 €75 – €400
Air France €250+ €250+
Air Canada €92 – €110 €250+

What Are The Must-Know Tips For Flying With Pets To The U.S.A.?

  • Requirements for flying with animals to the U.S.A. are complex and can change regularly. Give yourself time to do plenty of research before booking your flights, thoroughly reading the rules outlined by the CDC and the APHIS, and checking the laws enforced by individual states.
  • Get in touch with different airlines and make a note of their safety regulations regarding kennel dimensions, size restrictions, etc., for your packing list.
  • Check that your airline allows pets to fly; some airlines may only fly domestically with pets and not to the U.S.A. Anyone flying with a dog with American Airlines may notice you can only fly to the U.S.A. from Mexico or Canada, while flying with dogs with Southwest is only available domestically.
  • Aim to book direct flights to avoid additional complications, costs, and documents.
  • Traveling with large dogs on planes or flying with big dogs in the cabin will be more challenging than flying with small dogs, so consider whether taking your pet to the U.S.A. for your holiday is feasible.

Allow for lots of preparation for pets flying for the first time, as many animals may not be familiar with spending long periods in a crate and will need a few months to feel safe and comfortable in their carrier.

Want more interesting tips and information on traveling? Read more Kiwi.com articles!

Frequently asked questions

How Long Is The EU Pet Passport Valid?
EU pet passports are valid for life as long as vaccine records are kept up-to-date.
What Paperwork Do I Need To Fly With A Cat?
Cats often require minimum paperwork to fly, and you'll usually need to provide airlines with a health certificate and proof of a rabies vaccine.
Can Dogs Fly From The U.K. To The U.S.A. In The Cabin?
Only service animals can fly in the cabin from the United Kingdom due to the U.K.'s rules for pet travel.
Can I Carry My Dog Through TSA?
When you reach security at the airport, you must remove your dog from their carrier. You'll carry your dog through the metal detector as the kennel goes through the X-ray machine.