State Advocacy Issue

 Certificates of veterinary inspection

Importation requirements for companion animals and equines 

November 2012

In order to prevent the spread of animal diseases across state lines, state departments of agriculture and other state agencies have created rules and regulations which govern the importation of livestock, companion animals, equines, and other animals. While all states have set forth stringent requirements for the importation and movement of livestock, not all states have stringent requirements for the importation of companion animals.

This article focuses on whether Certificates of Veterinary Inspection (also referred to as Official Health Certificates and Health Certificates), are required for the importation of companion animals and equines in each state.

The majority of states do require a Certificate of Veterinary Inspection (CVI) to be provided for companion animals imported into the state, but some exceptions are made for those animals (1) passing through the state for short periods of time, (2) being transferred to educational, scientific, or research facilities, (3) being transferred to veterinary care facilities, or (4) entering the state for exhibitions, shows, or fairs. These exceptions are highlighted in the "Comments" column of the table below.

The detailed description of all of the importation requirements is provided in the attached table, but we have chosen to highlight a number of states which do not require dogs and cats to be accompanied by CVIs upon entry.

The following states specifically exempt cats and/or dogs from the CVI requirement:

  • California does not require CVIs for dogs or cats.
  • Georgia does not require CVIs for dogs or cats, however, if the dog or cat is entering Georgia for sale, trade, or exchange for a fee or other type of compensation, a CVI issued within the previous 30 days is required. In addition, companion animals traveling by commercial carrier are required to have a CVI issued within 10 days of shipment.
  • Illinois requires dogs, but not cats, to be accompanied by a CVI.
  • Maine does not require CVIs for dogs or cats unless they are imported for exhibition. If imported for exhibition, a dog or cat must be accompanied by a CVI and an entry permit.
  • Michigan requires dogs, but not cats, to be accompanied by a CVI.
  • Montana does not require CVIs for dogs or cats, unless they are imported for a change of ownership, are destined for a pet store, are international imports, or arrive from a rabies quarantine or Foot and Mouth Disease area.
  • Pennsylvania requires dogs, but not cats, to be accompanied by a CVI.
  • Texas does not require CVIs for dogs or cats, however, if the animal arrives via commercial airline carrier, the owner must comply with any health certificate requirements provided by such airline.
  • Washington requires CVIs for most dogs and cats imported into the state, however, if the animal is a family pet, possesses current rabies vaccination certificates, and is traveling by private conveyance with its owner, the animal is exempt from the CVI requirement.

The table below sets forth the veterinary inspection requirements for dogs, cats, ferrets, pet birds, rabbits, and horses and other equidae in all 50 states.

Also note that in 2011-12, Connecticut and Rhode Island adopted licensure or registration requirements on persons who import animals into those states, along with additional requirements such as isolation and veterinary examinations. 

Importation requirements for companion animals and equines (PDF)

Source:   Staff research, AVMA State Legislative and Regulatory Department
Contact:  Tara Southwell, AVMA State Legislative and Regulatory Department, 847-285-6779.