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Bringing an Animal to the United States: Importation of Various Animals

Birds: Currently, CDC restricts birds from countries where highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N1 is present in poultry, in order to prevent the introduction of Avian Influenza.
USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) implements regulations regarding the importation of birds. To import a pet bird of non-U.S. origin, meaning a bird imported for personal pleasure of the individual owner and not for resale, the owner must fulfill the following requirements:


  • Obtain a USDA Import Permit
  • Provide a current health certificate issued by a full-time salaried veterinarian employed for the agency responsible for animal health of the national government in the exporting country of origin
  • Quarantine the bird for 30 days, at the owners expense, in an USDA animal import center (listed on the APHIS website)

APHIS also provides procedures for returning pet birds of U.S. origin to the United States, and for a variety of other live bird importation situations.

In the United States, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) regulates the importation of birds protected by the Convention on International trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and the Wild Bird Conservation Act of 1992 (WBCA). These regulations are part of an international conservation effort to protect exotic wild birds subject to trade. Most exotic pet birds, including parrots, parakeets, macaws, lories, and cockatoos, are affected by CITES and the WBCA. However, the budgerigar, cockatiel, and rose-ringed parakeet are exempt. According to the WBCA, to import a pet bird of non-U.S. origin into the United States, you must have continuously resided outside the United States for at least one year. In addition, the WBCA limits the number of pet birds that can be imported to two birds per person, per year. All required WBCA and CITES permits must accompany the bird while in transit. Visit the FWS Wild Bird Conservation Act website to obtain more information and the permit application.

Fish: There are no CDC regulations regarding the importation of live fish. The United States Fish and Wildlife Service might have requirements, especially if an endangered or injurious species is involved. The National Marine Fisheries Service may also have regulations.


Reptiles (snakes and lizards): CDC does not regulate snakes or lizards, but does limit imports of small turtles. Those with a carapace (shell) length of less than 4 inches may not be imported for any commercial purpose. An individual may import as many as six of these turtles for noncommercial purposes. This rule was implemented in 1975 after it was discovered that small turtles frequently transmitted salmonella to humans, particularly young children.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regulates the importation of reptiles. Regulations regarding reptiles, fish, and endangered species can be found on their import/export website.

Small Mammals and Non-African rodents: Unless they are included in a specific embargo, such as civets, prairie dogs and African rodents, or known to carry disease transmissible to humans, these animals are not covered under CDC regulations. However, state or local regulations may apply. Pet ferrets, for example, are prohibited in California. Any animal known to carry a zoonotic disease is subject to regulation 42CFR71.54. Additionally, animals carrying diseases of risk to domestic or wild animals are subject to regulations from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, as they may be considered injurious species.

An FDA-approved rabies vaccine is available for ferrets, although it is not required for importation. CDC advises the use of this vaccine to protect the animal, as well as the owner, from rabies virus that could be acquired within the U.S.

Horses: If the horse is not known to carry any diseases transmissible to humans, no CDC regulations would apply. However, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) requires various periods of quarantine depending on the country of origin of the horse. In countries with prevalent screwworm, the quarantine period is 60 days. USDA regulations for importing equines can be found on their Veterinary Services, Import/Export website.


Last updated: August 8, 2008's quote of the day
"Cats seem to go on the principle that it never does any harm to ask for what you want."
-Joseph Wood Krutch

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