relocating pet

How to Bring a Dog into the United States

Bringing your dog into the United States can be exciting and troublesome. It’s very important to get fully prepared before departure and after arrival.

To bring your furry friend into the United States, you'll need: a suitable travel crate, water containers to attach to the crate, newspaper or "doggie diapers" for inside the crate, a blanket or dog bed, a dog "passport" or the equivalent proving that your dog's vaccines are up to date, and an official veterinary health certificate.


1. Book your pet's flight at the same time you book your own flight to make sure there's space on the flight for your dog. Airlines have a maximum number of animals that they are allowed to transport per flight. If your travel agent can't arrange it for you, you'll need to phone the airline's reservation department directly.

2. Get directions on where to take your dog on the day of the flight (it will be somewhere in the cargo section of the airport), and get the name and phone number of the person who will be responsible for receiving your dog at the airport and processing his papers. This will save time and confusion on the day of travel. Some "dangerous breeds" are restricted from traveling on certain airlines or from being imported into certain states. Check this information with the airline if you think there's a risk that your dog's breed may be an issue.

3. Acquire the travel crate, sometimes called a "Pet Limo". The airline requires the crate to be sufficiently large for the dog to be able to stand up inside and turn around.

4. Talk to your dog's vet to make sure that your pet's vaccines are up to date. You will also need your vet to provide your dog with a health certificate. Depending on which country you're in, your vet may advise you to microchip your dog before traveling. This may even be a legal requirement.

5. Ensure your dog will have water during the journey. You may be advised to hang a dish of water on the door of the crate. This is not, however, the most efficient way to ensure that your dog doesn't suffer from thirst during the journey. Please see tips below on a better system of providing water.

6. Get to the airport really early because you will need to take your dog to the cargo section.


1. Do not tranquilize your dog! Tranquilizers make dogs feel vulnerable, confused, and disorientated. He will be calmer if he feels completely in control of his faculties.

2. The usual water dishes that hang on the cage door simply don't hold enough water for a long journey, and the water is easily spilt during the hustle and bustle of traveling. If there's a flight transfer during your journey, you can stick a sign on your dog's crate asking for him to be given water during the stopover. Remember that, depending on the place of stopover, the person reading the sign might not speak English! If you're traveling from Europe, Zurich is an especially good place for a long stopover because the dogs are always removed from their crate and given food, water, and exercise during the wait for their connecting flight. Without a doubt, however, the best way to ensure that your dog doesn't suffer from thirst during the journey is to teach him to drink from the kind of water bottle that is commonly attached to rabbit and guinea pig cages. It is extremely easy to teach you dog to drink from one of these bottles: simply make sure that he is watching you, and then drink from it yourself. Try taking your dog out for exercise, getting him good and thirsty, and then drink from one of these bottles before offering it to him. Use the biggest size you can find, and consider using two if your dog is very big. In the States, they actually sell large sized bottles of this type specifically for dogs. They may also be available in Europe.

3. Leave an item of your clothing or even an old shoe inside the crate with your dog. Your scent will provide him with comfort during the stress of the journey.

4. Make sure there's a name tag on your dog's collar with contact numbers in both countries - the one you're leaving and the destination country. It's better to be prepared for any eventuality, however unlikely.

5. Dog travel crates are extortionately expensive, and searching the classifieds for a secondhand crate may be worthwhile. You may also want to post your own ad either in the paper or at your vet's clinic stating your interest in buying one secondhand.

6. On the day of travel, double check that you have all your dog's papers before you leave for the airport. With all your own luggage, passport, tickets and other last minute details to think about, it's very easy to forget to pick up the doggie passport or health certificate!

7. If your dog is the type to get cold very easily, consider putting a sweater on him when he travels. The area of the plane where the dogs travel is said to have a controlled temperature suitable for live animals, but some tiny dogs like Chihuahuas feel cold in temperatures that may feel comfortable to a Rottweiler.

8. Put chew treats in the crate for your dog to help pass the time.

9. If a microchip isn't compulsory, you might want to consider getting your pet chipped *after* you've relocated to the States.

Please pay attention to the regulations of CBP (Customs and Border Protection) and TSA (Transportation Security Administration). Here are 2 useful links:

Pets - Dogs, Rabies vaccines

Pets - Shipping dogs as Cargo by plane

You should also visit the official website of CBP and TSA for more instructions.


For more information, please contact Expat US at

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