Transporting animals: Basic requirements and considerations

Countries, territories, states, and even public modes of transportation have requirements and restrictions on transporting animals.  The regulations help protect people, animals, and ecosystems by guarding against the spread of dangerous diseases, pests, and invasive and injurious animals.  Most likely, a certificate of veterinary inspection (CVI) will be required by the authorities at destination.  It is your responsibility to get this information from the authorities of your destination well in advance of travel so that you can plan accordingly, including considering alternatives to transporting the animal(s).

Be aware that some countries and states may also require your animal(s) to be quarantined before or upon arrival.

Comply with the regulatory timeline

The regulatory timeline is basically the chronological order and timeframe in which the travel prerequisites need to be completed.

Is there enough time to meet the destination’s import requirements? (e.g., Japan requires at least 180 days between the rabies titer test and a pet’s arrival into the country.)

  • If there is not enough time to meet the requirements, consider alternatives (boarding, utilizing pet sitters, marketing locally, postponing travel, etc.).
  • If there is enough time to meet the requirements, plan accordingly (contacting your veterinarian, learning of the requirements in place for your animal(s), scheduling appointments to complete the requirements, etc.).

Timing may be critical. Be sure to make and keep all appointments needed to best ensure your animals qualify for travel.

  • Some countries require that certain steps related to identification, vaccinations, tests, and treatments be done in a precise order and within a given timeline.
  • Follow requirements exactly or else your animal(s) may not be allowed entry into the destination location or may be quarantined (possibly for an extended period of time) upon arrival.

To help you keep track of some of your important responsibilities as the travel date nears, the AVMA has created the Basic timeline for interstate and international travel with animals.

Schedule an appointment with your veterinarian for your animal’s exam

Animals should be healthy enough to travel, and depending on the regulations of your destination, there may be additional animal health prerequisites, such as identification, vaccinations, tests, certifications, etc.

Most states, territories, and countries require certificates of veterinary inspection (CVIs) to be completed by federally accredited veterinarians. You should check the requirements of your destination to see if this is the case for you. To find out if your veterinarian is accredited for the species of animal you have, just ask your veterinarian.

If your veterinarian is not accredited or if there are no other veterinarians accredited at the practice, ask the practice if it could recommend an accredited veterinarian. Additionally, you can locate accredited veterinarians by contacting your local USDA, Veterinary Services National Veterinary Accreditation Program (NVAP) Coordinator.

Share information with your veterinarian

The destination authorities (consulate or embassy of the country, state or territory animal health department, etc.) may have sent you specific information or forms that need to be shared with or signed by your veterinarian.  Your veterinarian may need to make copies of the materials to assist in the CVI process or for recordkeeping purposes.

Do not ask your veterinarian to do anything illegal

Please do not ask your veterinarian to violate federal law and professional ethics by asking them to do things like:

  • Completing a CVI without examining the animal within the required timeframe.
  • Completing a ‘generic’ CVI that can be used for any animal.
  • Falsifying information on the CVI regarding animal identification, test results, vaccination, etc.
  • Completing a CVI on an animal that does not meet the requirements.

Your veterinarian cannot do any of these things because doing so is unethical and illegal.  Such actions would jeopardize a veterinarian’s licenses, accreditation, and career, and may also result in prosecution by state or federal government.

Make arrangements for animal care in transit and at arrival

Just like when at home, animals must be provided water, food, proper handling, and health care.

  • Plan ahead, and identify a veterinarian at your destination in advance of traveling. Your own veterinarian may be able to provide a referral.
  • If you need a veterinarian while in transit, you might also contact your home veterinarian to see if (s)he can recommend a practice in the area. Alternatively, you can check with friends in the area, or use the internet or a local business directory to find a veterinarian nearby. See Finding a Veterinarian for additional suggestions.
  •  If you know or suspect that your animal(s) will need to be quarantined, work with the authorities in advance to address issues, especially any healthcare needs your animal(s) may have.

If traveling internationally, a federal endorsement of the CVI will likely be required

This is done through the Veterinary Service (VS) office of the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS).  Plan ahead because such services may only be available by appointment.  If there are issues with the forms or if the country of destination has changed its import requirements before you get there, additional time will be needed to ensure that all requirements are properly satisfied.

Keep a copy of your CVI and supporting documents with you

Authorities may ask to see the documents; so, keep them readily available.   If you do not have the documents, the destination authorities will determine what actions will be taken (refusing entry, imposing fines, requiring or extending quarantine, etc.).


  • Contact your airline to verify that your animal(s) and its restraint / confinement satisfy the airline’s requirements and restrictions.
  • Check again with the airline the day of the flight.  If it is too hot or cold at the departure, connecting, or arrival airport, the airline may refuse to transport your animal(s). 
  • Have alternative arrangements in case your animal(s) cannot travel the day of the flight.

What is a CVI?

A certificate of veterinary inspection (CVI) ), also known as a health certificate, is an official document issued by a Federal, State, Tribal, or accredited veterinarian certifying that the animals identified on the document have been inspected and were found to satisfy the regulations pertaining to their intended movement – within the same state, between states, or internationally.

Animal travel and transport by species