Pets travel on a regular basis. Whether it is a flight to an international country or a drive across state lines, pets cross borders for a variety of reasons. These reasons can include vacations with their human families, shows, trials, hunting, or even finding new homes. Regardless of the reason for travel, it is important to know the rules and regulations that pertain to each trip.
In my experience, most pet owners are aware that international travel and anything involving planes will require forms, vaccinations, and most likely a trip to the veterinarian’s office prior to departure. However, many owners are unaware that similar (although less enforced and less stringent) requirements are in place for even just crossing state lines with a furry friend in tow. In fact, 42 of the 50 states require a health certificate for dogs traveling into the state. Interestingly, only 39 states require a health certificate for cats.
So what is a health certificate and how do you find out if you need one?
A health certificate is a form completed by a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) accredited veterinarian certifying the general good health of an animal. Terminology for a health certificate includes certificate of veterinary inspection (CVI), certificate of health, and official health certificate (OHC). Health certificates are mostly filled out by the veterinarian who issues the certificate. It will include identifying information about the animal traveling, along with information on his/her vaccination status. Note that most pets are required to have a rabies vaccination for travel. Also important is the address of origin and the destination address that the pet is traveling to. Following an exam and completion of the form, the veterinarian will sign the form stating that the animal has been deemed free of infectious disease and that the animal is overall in good health. Most health certificates are valid for 30 days after they are issued.
As mentioned earlier, almost all international travel and most interstate travel require some type of health certificate. However, each country and state has its own specific requirements and exemptions. For example, some states that require a CVI for cats and dogs entering the state (like both Minnesota and Wisconsin), will exempt those same cats and dogs if they are being moved across state lines for treatment at a veterinary hospital. Minnesota also exempts pets traveling with owners (no change of ownership) as long as they are not staying in the state for longer than 30 days. With all these variations between states, I find that the best tool for figuring out if your pet will need a CVI during his or her trip is heading straight to each state’s individual requirements. My favorite official website to look up requirements is the USDA site.
If you are traveling to multiple states in one trip, looking up each individual state’s requirements can become tedious. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) used to have a handy spreadsheet that outlined which states require a CVI and even listed the common exceptions for each state. That spreadsheet isn’t easily searchable anymore, but below is a quick list summary I made from that spreadsheet of which states require CVIs for cats and dogs.
- Illinois (Cats do not need a health certificate to enter Illinois)
- Michigan (Cats do not need a health certificate here)
- New Hampshire
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Pennsylvania (Cats are off the hook in Pennsylvania also)
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
Please be aware that some states that do not require health certificates for general travel, will require them if the pet is being exhibited or sold/adopted. Additionally, even if a health certificate is not required, some states still require proof of rabies vaccination. It is always a good idea to travel with a record of your pet’s vaccination status.
As an additional note, I honestly have no idea how well these laws are enforced. I have never been asked for a health certificate when traveling with my dog out-of-state by car (again, airlines always check). Despite the apparent lack of enforcement, I recommend checking out the requirements of each state you plan on traveling to with your pet and having the appropriate forms easily accessible during your trip. Better to be over-prepared than end up facing the repercussions because you did not bring along proper documentation.
That being said, have any of my readers ever been asked about a health certificate when traveling by car with pets between states? If so, in what states and what situations?
And for more information about traveling with pets, check out this site from the AVMA.