Posted by: Cacille | March 17, 2015

Bringing exotic animals and birds back to the USA – 1

First, if you’re seeing this post first thanks to Google – I REALLY recommend you stop here and go to the previous post on my blog which gives you the total steps necessary. Also, the previous-to-that post about planes is helpful and useful as well.  This post is Part 1-4 of 9 total steps.

So you’re ending your year in Korea or pretty much any other country and need to bring your exotic animal home to the USA. For this post, I will use the word “bird” for exotic animal and will be writing this post from my personal experiences with bringing my actual bird, a Cockatiel, home from Korea. It is super important to note that NOT all birds, nor all exotic animals can be brought back to the USA. It is absolutely necessary for you to research first to see if it can be done with your animal species type. However, you may take some comfort in the fact that if you were able to bring the exotic animal outside of the USA, chances are nearly 100% that you’ll be able to bring it back.

IF YOU ARE LOOKING TO EXPORT AN EXOTIC ANIMAL FROM THE USA TO A DIFFERENT COUNTRY, you are in the wrong post. Please see my very early posts from the beginning of this blog. I’ve detailed everything I did there. Note that some things may have changed because of disease outbreaks in your state. You cannot assume that because I did it, you can too. Okay, now that we’ve gotten that disclaimer out of the way:

Step 1: Alerting the USDA and CITES

So, by this time, you’re already aware of these two names. You had to go through the USDA to get out of the country, and if your bird is a certain type, you may have had to do some stuff via CITES. Time to basically go back to the USDA and CITES to get any paperwork you need. Sadly, I cannot direct you in CITES paperwork as my bird is a Non-Cites Common Household type, therefore I didn’t need them.

Your first step is in finding out the basic process on the USDA Website. and click on Imports and Exports, Animals, and then take a look at all 3 links as all of them can be important for you.

Step 1.5 (If necessary) Alerting FWS (CITES)

Depending on the type of bird and your particular import needs, you may need to go here: and click on Imports/Exports for additional paperwork.

Step 2: Import Permit

The first step is in making sure you can get your bird back into the USA which means going through the USDA desk in whatever first-usa-airport you arrive in. Most likely, this will have to be be one of three places, California (LAX), New York, or Florida. You will probably have to route through one of those places for quarantine so at this point, you may wish to go ahead and set your plans to spend at least 3 hours (4-5 to be safe) in one of those major airports. You may not want to buy tickets yet, just at least figure that you’ll have to go there.

So next, you’ll need to go to the USDA import website, here.

Click on “Imports and Exports” and then “Animals” and then “Importing into the US”

Read everything there, but the “Pets” blue hyperlink will be some deeper info, and then in that, another hyperlink saying “Pet Birds” will give you some more, but the BEST link is the one in the “Pet Birds” page that says “Import Procedures for returning US origin pet birds”. I’d give direct links, but you all know the internet. One minor change on their side and the link becomes broken. Basically, these pages will give you a basic rundown on ALL the things you need to do. WARNING: THIS ISN’T EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO DO!

Your first step from this document is getting an import permit to return your bird to the USA. You’ll  need to  fill out “VS Form 17-129” and send it to the Riverdale,MD office. This can be done by email and they allow you to pay via credit card. Once you get the form, it will be in black and white and only the signed name on it will be in color. IT IS IMPERATIVE that you print the whole document in color so the colored name will show up. This form will allow you to get your bird through the USDA desk at the airport, although truthfully it won’t get you much farther because, once you have reached that desk, the proper people will be waiting for you come and they will pick up your bird for the transport to the quarantine office. More on that later. Basically this paper just authorizes the USDA officials to release the bird from their grip at the airport. The cost is, at the time of me writing this, $150

(Make sure you receive the Import Packet via email, it’s a PDF. It lists names, numbers, contacts, info, etc.)

Step 3: Airline Notification

There are two airlines that allow international flights with birds in cabin from Asian countries. I’ve detailed these in a previous post. Sorry to say, I do not know of others coming from any other continent. Before you buy your plane ticket, ask A. If they will allow your exotic animal IN CABIN and 2. What is the cost from your location to one of the 3 major airports in the states above. Generally, the cost is from $75 to $250 one way. If the plane company will not allow in-cabin flights, then see how they conduct in-cargo situations for pets. Keep checking until you’ve found all the options, prices, etc for every airline you can fly.  I wouldn’t recommend buying your ticket at this point until completing Step 4.

Step 4: Reserving Quarantine (And Plane tickets)

Your bird will need to be in Quarantine for 30 days. Exactly 30 days. I’m not talking “one month”. 30. Exact. Days. So if you’re doing this in February, watch out that you count the number of physical days and nights Exactly. I was, and I almost tripped up on that while making reservations but remembered thankfully before setting my tickets.

You’ll then need to call the Quarantine at the airport you plan to go through and set up a reservation and let them get back to you because they will need to check if there is space in the facility at that time. Once that is confirmed that quarantine is free and open, it’s probably safe to go ahead and reserve your plane flight tickets (Don’t forget to tell them you’re traveling with a bird!) Then upon getting that set, give Quarantine a call again, the person there will need a copy of the import permit and possibly your travel itinerary and then you’ll get a reservation number.

Note: I recommend that you still have 2-3 months before your travel date at this point. If anything, for cheaper flight ticket availability. That’s really the only reason. If you’re only a month out, you’re probably okay but cutting it really close.



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