How to Move Your Pets to a New State

Moving yourself and your belongings long-distance can be stressful enough, but throw a pet into the mix and you have just added a variable that can make it downright overwhelming.  However, by doing proper research ahead of time and making a plan, you will ensure the relocation of your furry (or feathery) friends goes that much smoother.  And remember, if you don’t adhere to your new state laws, you could be subject to fines, civil prosecution, and worst case, the removal of the pet(s) from your care.

If you do find yourself faced with the situation of moving your pets across state lines, pay attention to the following tips and suggestions to ensure a pain free process.

  • Begin your research early. Nothing increases your stress level during a move like waiting until the last minute to find out what needs to be done.
  • Check with your new state’s website or the authority that imposes regulations on the importation of animals. For California, this would be the Department of Public Health.  For New York, it’s the Department of Agriculture.  The California website actually offers links to all the other states, so it is a good place to start.
    • Most states will require at minimum proof of a rabies vaccine for dogs and sometimes cats. Other states may require a certificate completed by a veterinarian showing that the animal is in good health.
    • It is also important to note that many states have more stringent standards in regards to the documentation/requirements if you intend to sell or transfer ownership of the animal upon arrival.
  • You will also need to contact the actual city and/or county to which you will be moving, because many pet regulations are governed by municipalities, and not just the state.
  • Although it may be self-evident, you will want to make sure that if you are renting your new home or apartment that pets are allowed in the unit. And if they are, is there an additional deposit required or a pet rent imposed?  Also determine if there are any breed or size restrictions that may apply to your pet?
  • Finally, prepare for any and all eventualities. For instance, because Hawaii is a rabies-free zone, the state requires up to a 120 day quarantine for the pet upon arrival (unless your pet qualifies for a modified 5 day-or-less program).  You will need to be prepared with the proper documentation to complete the quarantine upon the arrival of your pet.  If you are relocating to a new state and do not yet have a permanent residence, make sure that wherever you are staying is pet-friendly (example: certain hotels or camping facilities may be considered pet-friendly), or be sure to look up nearby boarding facilities before you make the move.


Remember that if the moving process seems stressful to you, it is probably much worse for your pets since they don’t understand what is happening.  Be sure to be especially understanding of new behavioral problems during the transition and try to stick to routines as much as possible.  Continue to use the same bedding, feeding bowls, and toys as at your old home until the animal has completely adapted to the new surroundings.  Above all, try to stay relaxed.  You and your pet will get through this with a little preparation and a whole lot of patience!

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