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Pets in the US

Many people want to bring their beloved pets with them when they go abroad on an expat assignment. This InterNations article has important information on moving to the US with your pet, from the best method of shipment to how to find a new veterinarian once you arrive.

Bringing Your Pet to the US

There are several different options when it comes to how to bring your pet to the US with you. These vary by airline and regulations have become more restrictive over the past few years, so make sure to do your research well in advance on the policies of the airline you will be traveling with.  

Know Your Options

Depending on the size of your animal, sometimes it can either travel with you in the cabin of the airplane or in the hold as excess baggage. This option is not available with all airlines, and when it is, there are often weight and breed restrictions. Make sure to contact your airline in advance if you would like your pet to travel in the cabin with you, as there are often restrictions on how many animals can travel in the cabin on any given flight. If your pet (including the carrier) exceeds a certain weight limit (usually 100 or 150 lbs.), then it may have to be checked as cargo instead of excess baggage, with the accompanying higher fee.

Some airlines will also allow you to book your pet on a separate flight. If you choose this option, you will have to pay the cargo rate, which is much higher than the fee charged for excess baggage. You will also have to figure out the logistics on each end. Who will be dropping off your pet and picking it up on the other end?

Planning Your Move

When traveling internationally with your pet, be sure to allow extra time at check-in. Most airlines will require a health certificate issued by a veterinarian no longer than ten days before the flight. To avoid losing your pet during your move, be sure it is wearing an ID tag. Although not required in the US, having a microchip implanted in your pet raises the chances considerably of being reunited with it if separated.

You will also want to be careful when booking your flight to minimize the stress on your pet by avoiding any unnecessary layovers and taking a direct flight when possible. Please note, however, that pets can usually not be carried in the hold for flights of over 12 hours, to make sure they are provided with an adequate amount of water.

Using a Commercial Shipper

You can also choose to have your pet shipped using a licensed commercial shipper. If you do this, you will have to pay the shipper’s fee in addition to the cargo rate. If your pet will be picked up by a professional shipper at the port of entry, you must fill out CBP Form 7501 and fax or scan this form along with a copy of the air waybill, your pet’s health certificate papers, and a copy of your passport to the pet shipper.

The shipper will then forward this information to the Customs office at the port of entry, which will speed up your pet’s clearance once it has arrived in the US. If a friend or family member will pick up your pet, then this form does not need to be filled out, as this person is not being paid for the service.


Several US departments regulate the entry of different types of animals into the US. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) is responsible for regulating the importation of animals capable of causing human disease. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) regulates animals, such as reptiles and fish, which could be carrying diseases harmful to wildlife.

General certificates of health are not required by the CDC for the importation of pets, but as stated in the previous section, they are usually required by airlines. Pets are, however, subject to inspection at the port of entry, and if they are suspected of carrying a harmful disease, they may be examined by a licensed veterinarian and/or held for observation at the owner’s expense, or even denied entry altogether.


We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete. 

InterNations Expat Magazine