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If you plan to take your pet abroad or import one on your return, please get a copy of Customs booklet, Pets & Wildlife. You should also check with state, county, and local authorities to learn if their restrictions and prohibitions on pets are more strict than federal requirements. Importing animals is closely regulated for public health reasons and also for the well-being of the animals. There are restrictions and prohibitions on bringing many species into the United States. Cats must be free of evidence of diseases communicable to humans when they are examined at the port of entry. If the cat does not seem to be in good health, the owner may have to pay for an additional examination by a licensed veterinarian. Dogs, too, must be free of evidence of diseases that could be communicable to humans. Puppies must be confined at a place of the owner's choosing until they are three months old; then they must be vaccinated against rabies. The puppy will then have to stay in confinement for another 30 days. Dogs older than three months must get a rabies vaccination at least 30 days before they come to the United States and must be accompanied by a valid rabies vaccination certificate if coming from a country that is not rabies-free. This certificate should identify the dog, show the date of vaccination and the date it expires (there are one-year and three-year vaccinations), and be signed by a licensed veterinarian. If the certificate does not have an expiration date, Customs will accept it as long as the dog was vaccinated 12 months or less before coming to the United States. Dogs coming from rabies-free countries do not have to be vaccinated. You may import birds as pets as long as you comply with APHIS and U.S. Fish and Wildlife requirements. These requirements may include quarantining the birds at one of APHIS' three Animal Import Centers at your expense. You must make advance reservations at the quarantine facility. If you intend to import a bird, call APHIS' National Center for Import and Export at (301) 734-8364 for more information. In any case, birds may only be imported through ports of entry where a USDA port veterinarian is on duty, any you must make arrangements in advance to have the bird examined by a USDA port veterinarian at the first U.S. port of entry. There is a user fee for this service of a minimum of $23.00 based on an hourly rate of $76/hour. For more information, you may contact the USDA, APHIS, Veterinary Services, National Center for Import and Export (NCIE), 4700 River Road, Unit 40, Riverdale, MD 20737-1231; phone number (301) 734-8364.
|Sheri Ann Richerson|