How to Adopt a Dog from Another Country

By Daniela Lopez, September 2019
Rescue Dog

Dog lovers are always looking for ways to incorporate more dog-time into their lives, why not on vacation too? Who wouldn’t want to take a quick pit stop to roam with a pack of dogs or snuggle with a soft and friendly puppy at an animal rescue! Even in the best pet rescue facilities, shelter life can be stressful to dogs, so you’ll both benefit from the shared love.

But what happens when you’ve locked eyes with the dog of your dreams when you’re on vacation? It might seem daunting but if you can’t imagine life without your new friend, you can bring them back home with you to the United States. Adopting a dog from another country is a worthwhile experience, but the process can also be frustrating if you aren’t taking all the necessary precautions.

We’ve outlined a complete guide on how to bring your new best friend into the United States.

How to Adopt a Foreign Rescue Dog

1. Work with a reputable animal shelter or rescue.

Whether you find your dog as a stray or in an animal shelter, this is the most important factor. A reputable animal welfare group will take care of most of the heavy lifting for you. Make sure you check reviews, inquire with friends or travel agents and do your due diligence.

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When Karen Collins was adopting her dog Osa from the Humane Society of Cozumel in Mexico she found the experience to be effortless.

“The Humane Society is also the main veterinary office on the island, so they spay and neuter, give all the immunization shots and check for parasites and diseases. Osa was heartworm positive and was still on medication when we met her. She needed to finish the [recovery] process before we could take her home. The shelter did all the work to get Osa to us.”

The rescue will help ensure you follow all the regulations required, but it is a good idea to review the complete rules and requirements from the CDC, the USDA and any additional state guidelines for importing dogs from other countries. Typically, all that is required is a healthy-looking dog, a valid rabies vaccination certificate and a certificate of health from a veterinarian indicating the dog is in good shape to travel. There is generally no quarantine period required for most US states.

The cost for adopting your pet will vary widely, expect the adoption fee to be up to $400 depending on the organization.

2. Arrange transportation for your dog.

The animal shelter will work with you to arrange transportation. If there’s enough time and you have an animal-friendly airline you might be able to arrange to take the dog with you on your flight home. Be sure to inquire about the timing of the certification so you can determine if this might be feasible.

If you are transporting the dog yourself, be sure to go over the rules and regulations of your airline for dog travel. Make sure you have an approved airline carrier and all the paperwork squared away before the flight. Visit the airline's website or contact their customer service to determine any additional requirements. To limit stress on the dog, it’s important to try and secure a direct (non-stop) flight so there will be as few interruptions as possible! If you are unable to transport the dog yourself, most reputable rescue groups experienced with international adoptions will try to find a volunteer to travel with your dog. The flight volunteer is typically a vacationer who is returning home to an area not far from you.

In addition to the cost of adoption, it is important to note the cost of transportation. The cost for transporting your pet will vary but expect the airline, carrier, and general transportation fees to range from $400-$1000 depending on the size of your dog, the airlines available and the destination.

On the day of the flight, your dog will either travel under the seat in an airline approved carrier or will make the trip in the pet area of the cargo hold. Dogs are not sedated during the flight but most dogs will just sleep throughout the flight.

You will need to meet the flight volunteer to pick up your dog which might mean traveling for several hours to their destination airport. That’s what happened with Karen and Osa. “Osa flew into NYC so we drove about 5 hours each way to get her. Not many airlines take dogs in the belly anymore, so size does matter for the transport. She came up on a Mexican airline that still takes [dogs in the cargo hold]. Try not to fall in love with a big dog!”

3. Get your pet in to see your regular vet.

Even though your dog will arrive spayed and with their rabies vaccines, you should schedule an appointment with your regular vet within a few days of arrival. Your vet will perform a full physical examination checking for indications of heartworm, parasites, tick-borne diseases, injuries and provide you with any additional vaccination recommendations.

Some initial disorientation due to travel is normal but call your vet if your dog is displaying any concerning behavior like refusing food and water or severe lethargy.

4. Make your new dog comfortable.

All dogs are different, but expect your new companion to be quiet, shy, and tired when they first arrive. Give your dog a couple of days to acclimate to their new home and soon their personality will shine through.

Just as you would with any new dog make sure they have a comfy bed, a full belly, plenty of exercise and lots of love.

The process of adopting a dog from another country is probably easier than you thought. So, if you find out that your canine soulmate is in another country then just remember to follow this guide, and you should have nothing but a rewarding experience.

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