Traveling with Food/Pet/Plants

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) plays an important role in keeping the United States free from animal and plant pests and diseases. To accomplish this, certain limits are placed on items brought to the United States from foreign countries. Because they don’t belong to the North American biodiversity, some foods, plants and animals can be carriers of pests and diseases that could seriously damage crops, livestock, pets, and the environment from the United States or they may not be compatible with the current biosafety legislation in the country.

All travelers entering the United States are required to declare any meats, fruits, vegetables, plants, seeds, soil, animals, as well as plant and animal products (including soup or soup products) they may be carrying. The declaration must cover all items carried in baggage and hand luggage, or in a vehicle.

To speed up the inspection process, you may adopt the following procedures:

• pack items where they will be readily accessible.
• make sure to check “yes” for Question #11 on the U.S. Customs Declaration Form.
• follow the instructions of the federal officers in the inspection area.

Upon examination of plants, animal products, and related products, inspectors will determine if these items meet the entry requirements of the United States, through the Plant Protection and Quarantine (PPQ), which authorizes officers, under the Plant Protection Act, to seize, destroy, and, if necessary, issue civil penalties during an inspection.

Avoid fines and delays
The inspection of passengers’ personal luggage is made by the inspectors of the Customs and Border Protection (CBP). At some ports, inspectors use detector dogs specially trained to sniff out agricultural items. At others, low energy X-ray machines adapted to reveal fruits and meats are used. Entering the United States, the U.S. Customs will give you the form on which you must declare agricultural products, foods and beverages. You must also be asked to indicate whether you have visited a farm or ranch outside the United States.

More information at

Prohibited items that are not declared by passengers are confiscated and civil penalties may be assessed and may range up to $1,000 per first-time offense. If the items not declared and confiscated had been deliberately hidden or determined to be for commercial use, fines may reach US$50,000 per person. The same fines apply to prohibited agricultural products sent through international mail.

More information at

Declaring avoids punishments
Depending on the country of origin, some fruits, vegetables, and plants may be brought into the United States without advance permission, provided they are declared, inspected, and found free of pests (see below the topic General List of Approved Products).

Prior authorization
The entry of fruits and vegetables, as well as parts of plants to be used for cultivation (propagation material) requires prior authorization. For information on permits, contact the authorization unit of the USDA/ APHIS/ PPQ.

General List of Approved Products
When planning your trip abroad, see the General List of Approved Products, available at Note that the list refers to products authorized for importation into the trade routes. Products carried in the luggage must always be declared.

Keep in mind that the list does not contain all the products and also that regulations frequently change, depending on outbreaks of plant and animal diseases around the world. So, whether or not the item in question seems to be one that is permitted, the traveler is responsible for declaring all agriculture-related products and presenting them for inspection upon returning to the United States.

In general, meat and animal products are not allowed to enter in the United States, due to the continuing threat of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD).

Because regulations concerning meat and meat byproducts change frequently, it’s recommended contacting the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in Brazil before travelling.

Animal hunting trophies, game animal carcasses, and hides are severely restricted. To find out specific information, please contact the USDA/APHIS/National Center for Import Export (NCIE) Veterinary’s Service.

To have more specific information, please contact:

Veterinary Services
4700 River Road, Unit 40
Riverdale, MD 20737-1231
Attn: National Center for Import and Export
Phone: (301) 734-7830

Live Animals
Live animals may enter the United States, but are subject to certification, authorization, inspection and quarantine rules that vary according to the type and origin of the animal.

Pet birds purchased abroad may enter the United States, but are subject to restrictions by the Departments of Agriculture from some states. If quarantine is needed, arrangements must be made in advance because adequate facilities are limited. For information and a permit application, contact the National Center for Import and Export (NCIE). Veterinary health certificates are necessary in many cases; fees and length of waiting time vary. In addition, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCs) regulate imports of certain animal species and have specific regulations regarding pets (including dogs and cats) and primates.

Imports for scientific use or for exhibits are closely controlled through a registration process. Contact CDC for detailed information.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Division of Quarantine
1600 Clifton Road, Mail Stop E-03
Atlanta, GA 30333
Phone: (404) 639-8107

Felines must be free of all contagious diseases capable of being spread to humans at the time they are inspected at the port of entry. If the animal is not in good health, a subsequent exam will be required to be performed by a licensed veterinarian. The animal’s owner will be responsible for paying for this exam. It is not necessary to vaccinate the cat against rabies. The State of Hawaii and territory of Guam require quarantine.

This category includes all animals in the canine family. Dogs must be free of all diseases capable of being spread to humans at the time they are inspected at the port of entry. Dogs to be used in cattle raising need to be examined, specially for tapeworm; those testing positive must be treated.

Dogs’ rabies vaccinations should be current, and the animal must be vaccinated at least thirty days before entering the United States, with the exception of puppies younger than three months old.

A rabies vaccination certificate, signed by a licensed veterinarian, should be presented for inspection at the time of arrival. This certificate should identify the animal and specify the date and type of vaccine administered.

Dogs that have not been vaccinated prior to arriving in the United States must be vaccinated at the port of entry and placed in quarantine for thirty days at the owner’s expenses. If the vaccine has been administered less than one month prior to the animal’s arrival in the United States, the dog will be allowed to enter the country, but will be kept in quarantine until the required thirty days after vaccination are completed.

In order to take a dog from Brazil into the United States, it is necessary to obtain from a veterinary accredited by the Regional Council of Veterinary Medicine (Conselho Regional de Medicina Veterinária) a Vaccination Certificate (Atestado de Vacinação) and a Certificate of Good Health (Certificado de Boa Saúde). Also required is an inspection for screwworm (bicheira). The documents must be taken to the Ministry of Agriculture, which will then issue the required international certificate. See below where to obtain the certificate in the Federal District and in the States of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.

Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply
Brasília International Airport
Tel: (55-61) 3364-9000
Fax: (55-61) 3214-6251
São Paulo
Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply
Guarulhos International Airport
Tel: (55-11) 2445-3606/2445-2800
Fax: (55-11) 2445-3173
Rio de Janeiro
Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply
Galeão International Airport
Tel: (55-21) 3398-5050
Fax: (55-21) 3393-2288
Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply
Viracopos International Airport
Tel: (55-19) 3725-5000
Fax: (55-19) 3725-5003
The certificate issued by the Brazilian authority does not need to be authenticated by the U.S. Embassy or Consulates in Brazil.

The importation of turtles for commercial purposes is prohibited. However, there are no restrictions on the entrance of turtles with shells smaller than four inches (approximately ten centimeters). Each traveler may carry up to six turtles with the above-described dimensions.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) regulates the import and export of wild and endangered plants and animals and related products. Further information is available at its free publications (Facts about Federal Wildlife Laws and Buyer Beware Guide).

Office of Management Authority
4401 North Fairfax Drive
Arlington, VA 22203

Organisms found on the ground can represent a threat to plants and animals. The inspectors may need to disinfect clothing and shoes, if necessary. No soil samples may enter the United States without previous authorization by the authorizing unit of the PPQ. Pure sand, such as that used in small decorative glass tubes common in Brazil, is permitted. Always check with the authorizing unit of the PPQ if previous authorization is necessary.

Contact APHIS
If you have any questions, or require further information related to imports or export of live animals, birds and related organisms, please contact the National Center for Import and Export (NCIE) at (301) 734-8364, or send an email to