The process of health certification for travel includes examination (in many cases by a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS)-accredited veterinarian), administration of any required vaccine(s) or vaccine booster(s), and completion of appropriate documentation based on you and your pet’s destination.
Types of Certificates
As certificates of health, an “Official Health Certificate”, “Certification of Veterinary Inspection”, or “Health Certificate” are not synonymous, though they often contain similar information:
- Official Health Certificate (OHC): Specifically, USDA APHIS Form 7001, the United States Interstate and International Certificate of Health Examination for Small Animals. USDA APHIS Form 7001 must be endorsed at a USDA APHIS Veterinary Services (VS) Service Center (SC) (previously “Area Office”, then “District Office”). Conversely, if you are traveling with a total of five (5) or less pet dogs, cats, or ferrets to any one of most countries in the European Union (EU), Annex II to Decision 2011/874/EU, the Veterinary Certificate to EU, is used instead; however, your airline may still require USDA APHIS Form 7001. Since some countries in the EU utilize certificates in specific languages to facilitate processing; use of the USDA Pet Travel resource to obtain the documentation required by your EU destination is recommended.
- Certification of Veterinary Inspection (CVI): An official certificate issued by an individual origin state and issued by a federal, state, or USDA APHIS-accredited veterinarian.
- Health Certificate (HC): A generic, informal certificate issued by a licensed veterinarian.
- Rabies Certificate (RC): A generic, informal certificate issued by a licensed veterinarian, but which includes detailed information about the Rabies vaccine administered, and which must be presented when Licensing Your Dog.
An OHC or a CVI must be completed by a federal, state, or USDA APHIS-accredited veterinarian. Dr. Milos is APHIS-accredited with authorization to perform accredited duties (including health certification for travel) on Category I animals, which includes cats, dogs; and amphibians and reptiles.1
Official Health Certificate (OHC) Endorsement
After an OHC is issued, it must be endorsed at a USDA APHIS Veterinary Services (VS) Service Center (SC). The nearest USDA APHIS VS SC serving Connecticut for guidance and endorsement of OHC’s is the New York SC (SC 1) in Albany, New York. (Endorsement of OHC’s for New England was transitioned from the closer Sutton, Massachusetts SC effective January 12, 2015).
While an OHC may be endorsed in-person by appointment only at the New York SC; submitting an OHC for endorsement via an overnight courier is preferred. An overnight return label should be submitted along with the appropriate endorsement fee(s); otherwise the endorsed OHC will be returned by the New York SC via First-Class Mail. Additionally, the “Pet Export Checklist”, which should be included with other documents when submitting an OHC for endorsement, is part of a ‘Guidance for the International Travel of Companion Animals‘ document, containing detailed information from the New York SC regarding the endorsement process.
Ultimately, it is important to begin the process of obtaining an OHC as far in advance of travel as possible and account for possible shipping delays when planning endorsement of your pet(s)’s OHC.
Nationally, animal importation requirements vary by state or territory. Most require some form of certification. The USDA APHIS maintains information related to planning to Travel with a Pet from State to State, including links to each state’s department of agriculture or equivalent entity overseeing animal importation requirements.
The USDA APHIS also maintains a Veterinary Services (VS) Service Center (SC) State-by-State Listing, responsible for endorsement of OHC’s (although, phone calls to a SC may be fielded by another state office).
As a “rabies-free” state, Hawaii maintains additional requirements relating to Rabies Vaccination and quarantine. These requirements are available in the State of Hawaii Department of Agriculture’s Animal Quarantine Information. Additional information is contained in the Hawaii Rabies Quarantine Information Brochure and Hawaii’s Animal Guidelines for Importation.
Travel to Territories of the United States
All cats and dogs over four (4) months of age must have been vaccinated for rabies at least six (6) months prior to their date of travel, and must be properly identified and accompanied by a comprehensive Rabies Certificate.
Interstate Entry Requirements for Animals Traveling to Puerto Rico, including requirements for animals other than cats and dogs, are provided by The USDA APHIS.
Internationally, animal importation requirements vary by political union, country, or territory. The USDA APHIS maintains information regarding wanting to Take your Pet from the US to a Foreign Country, including links to requirements by international destination.
Additionally, the IATA maintains a Traveler’s Pet Corner with further information related to international pet travel.
While we do not approve of such restrictions; some countries prohibit entry of (a) specific breed(s), and may also include mixes thereof. Therefore, if your destination has a breed prohibition which includes mixes, and you are unsure of, or need to verify, your dog’s breed makeup; DNA Testing is recommended.
Many countries require pet identification, in the form of a microchip, prior to entry. In addition to a widely internationally accepted ISO-compliant microchip.
For more information about identifying your pet with a microchip, see Pet Identification.
Requirements for traveling to Canada:
- Dogs over eight (8) months of age vaccinated for rabies within the last three (3) years (or less) require a comprehensive Rabies Certificate.
- Dogs under eight (8) months of age require a Health Certificate to enter Canada.
- Cats over three (3) months of age vaccinated for Rabies within the last three (3) years (or less) require a comprehensive Rabies Certificate.
- Cats under three (3) months of age are exempt from any requirements.
- The pet food or product must be of United States origin and be commercially packaged.
- The pet food or product must be in the possession of the traveler at the time of entry from the United States.
- The animal that will eat the imported product must accompany the traveler at the time of entry.
- The imported product is fed only to the animal that accompanied the traveler into Canada.
- USDA APHIS | Animal Health | Category I and II Animals. United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. http://www.aphis.usda.gov/wps/portal/aphis/home/?1dmy&urile=wcm:path:/aphis_content_library/sa_our_focus/sa_animal_health/sa_vet_accreditation/ct_category1-2. Updated March 5, 2015.
- United States Interstate and International Certificate of Health Examination for Small Animals. Washington, DC: United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service; November 2010. http://www.aphis.usda.gov/library/forms/pdf/APHIS7001.pdf.
- Small Animal Health Certificate (Form A-61). Hartford, CT: State of Connecticut Department of Agriculture; 2005.