How to bring a dog from Chile into the United States

The very first thing I would like to suggest when you decide that you want to adopt a dog in Chile is to contact local people who help street animals. They know and love the animals, they know the veterinarians and they are very helpful and happy to help when a person decides to help a dog. While I think it is possible to do it on your own it is not nearly as much fun and I imagine could be much more difficult. I had absolutely invaluable help from Sr. Hernan – Thank You! Other people helped me too which was invaluable – I hardly speak any Spanish. And the friends you make will be even more valuable than the help you get.

To bring a dog into the US from Chile, two main things are needed (provided it is a stray dog; if you transfer ownership, some documents of ownership transfer will be needed):

  1. An official veterinary certificate or rabies vaccination from SAG (Servicio Agrícola y Ganadero)
  2. Compliance with airline requirements.

To receive the former you have to provide SAG with a certificate from a veterinarian confirming that the dog had a rabies vaccination (vacuna anti-rabica) given at least 30 days prior to the date of travel. If the dog had prior rabies vaccination, the 30 day waiting period does not apply but the prior vaccination has to be documented. Getting and documenting other vaccinations, such as Sextuple (DHLPPC) and de-wormer (anti-parasitica) pills is also helpful, this way you don’t have to get these shots in the US right away. You will submit the certificate to SAG and in a couple of days SAG will issue the official paperwork that you will need to show to the US agriculture control officer. There is a small fee to pay to SAG for the processing.

The second part is to comply with the airlines requirements. The dog has to be in a kennel of proper size (my dog is 17 kg / 37 lbs, and the second-largest cage available in Pets in Punta Arenas, Gulliver 6 is what is needed, size 7 was too big). I would have preferred the largest cage, Gulliver 7, but it was 2 cm (1″) over the 102 cm dimension allowed by the airlines and LAN Chile would not accept it . Therefore, make sure the cage certainly fits within the prescribed dimensions. The dimensions change and may differ by airline so make sure to check with your respective carrier. I called American on the phone 4 times confirming various details, and visited LAN Chile office in person.

Then, drill the cage on all 4 corners so that the upper and lower halves can be tied together using zip ties. I actually drilled 4 corners and long sides in the middle for the total of 6 ties, and it worked well (some kennel designs already have these holes on the corners). Another 4 holes have to be added at the door of the cage so that it can be zip-tied to the body of the cage. I didn’t have those and added them in Santiago using a hand tool the airline provided. The cage has to have a water dish secured to the door, on the inside of the cage obviously so that the dog can drink from it and that the water can be added from the outside without opening the cage. The Gulliver cages have compartments on the top into which one should put dog food for 24 hours, extra zip ties and contact information sheet. Another tag with contact information is zip tied to the cage side; a sticker with the same is attached to the top of the cage too. Can never have enough contact sheets.

Make sure the dog has a collar with a tag with your contact information: if she gets out somehow and is caught, there should be a way to contact you even if the dog is separated from her kennel.

For the padding in the kennel I used a simple thin towel on the bottom of the cage and put two absorbing pads under it, in case the dog has to pee – this way the towel stays dry, it all soaks into the pads. The pads are sold in any store either in a baby department or in a pet section sometimes.

Lastly, you should have an acclimation certificate signed by the veterinarian – it is useful if temperatures at transit airports are lower than 45F. (if they are more than 85F the acclimation certificate will not help supposedly but I had 95F mentioned in mine just in case).

You have to pay oversize baggage fee to each airline. I recommend paying to each carrier separately: I paid LAN Chile for the entire trip and they didn’t provide the required voucher to give to American Airlines, so I had to get it in Santiago and that was an unnecessary hassle. Would have been easier to just pay LAN and then pay American separately.

Upon the arrival in the US it is very straightforward: go through customs and then immediately to agriculture, they check the SAG paper and let you through. If traveling alone I recommend hiring a porter: they know exactly where the oversize claim is, have large carts on which it is easy to place a kennel and will help you load your cage without tipping it, so that your dog does not roll inside it. Well worth a few dollars for the service.

Expect examples of paperwork here soon!

6 thoughts on “How to bring a dog from Chile into the United States”

  1. This was so helpful. Are you still in touch with animal rescues in Chile? I’m dealing with having fallen in love with an abandoned homeless doggy name Rocky.

    • Hi Andrea! I am glad you found this information useful. I totally relate to falling in love with a Chilean street dog! There are quite a few people I know who have done that.
      Bringing a street dog from Chile to another country is totally doable. It will likely be harder now with COVID but I’m sure it will be possible once normal flights resume.
      Good luck with Rocky!

  2. Hi, Thanks for the information.

    So for admitting the entrance to the US of my dog travelling from Chile I just need the certificate form SAG (in spanish) and comply with airlines requirements. No further documentations?

    • Hi Alejandro,
      In 2015 the SAG certificate was the only paper the US Agricultural Border Control looked at. The SAG certificate has English fields translations, so it was fine as it is. I also carried translations of all other documents – the veterinary health certificate, rabies vaccination record dating back more than 30 days and acclimation certificate, all in English and Spanish. However, nobody asked me for those other documents, but I felt it is best to have more paperwork than not enough.
      For the SAG certificate, the main concern SAG had was that the rabies vaccine is administered, and that it has been at least 30 days from the vaccination date. Also, it was a good thing to provide my dog with all other required vaccines, as it was much cheaper to do in Chile than upon arrival in the US.
      Good luck!


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