How to adopt/export a dog from India
Update As on March 21, 2023
Restrictive guidelines from CDC for import of dogs from India to USA.
Is Adoption the Answer?
India has millions of beautiful street dogs and many of them suffer and the majority die prematurely. It is easy to want to adopt them all and bring them home, but that isn’t possible. The best way you can help street dogs long-term is by donating to help expand Animal Birth Control. One street dog (and her puppies) can in 6 years produce 67,000 street dogs! By donating to expand Animal Birth Control, you are preventing the suffering and death of countless future street dogs!
I Definitely Want to Adopt!
But, what if there is a certain dog in India you have fallen in love and want to adopt right now? You’ve found a dog who has touched your heart and no one can offer the pup a good home, but you! If this is your situation, you have come to the right place.
Don’t Be Intimidated, You Can Do This (Or Get Help from A Pet Exporter)
It is easy to get overwhelmed by the detail involved in adopting a dog from India, but it is easier than you think. I did it all by myself with the help of my dog’s veterinarian and you can too! However, if you rather delegate to someone else, there are companies in India who specialize in pet export internationally who will handle everything for you.
About this Guide
We created this guide to help make the experience as easy as possible for you. Below you will find regulatory information, links, and even free certificate templates.
Both India (the exporting country) and your home country (the importing country) have regulatory requirements concerning dog export and import. This guide covers all of the India (export) dog regulatory requirements and covers the US (import) dog regulatory requirements. If your home country is not the US, you will need to check with your home country on import requirements.If you have experience exporting a dog from India to countries other than the US, please email us and let us know. We would love to have you as a contributor to this guide.
We have tried our best to provide complete and accurate information in this guide, however information is always changing, so if you discover any inaccuracies, please let us know.
If you found this guide helpful, please make a small donation to Varanasi for Animals here. Your donation will go a long way in helping the team provide life saving care and Animal Birth Control to Varanasi’s street dogs.
When Can My Dog Fly Out of India?
What Paperwork Do You Need to Complete?
The following is a list of all the paperwork you will need to export your pup from India to the US. Once you have your paperwork completed, make two copies and have the original and copies organized very well so you can produce paperwork throughout your dog’s travel to airport security, airline, and import/export authorities.
- AQCS Application: Your veterinarian will complete this AQCS application and then you can take it to your AQCS appointment. AQCS stands for Animal Quarantine and Certification Services. To schedule your AQCS appointment, contact the local AQCS location.
- Certificate of Health for Export (Pet Animals): AQCS will give this export certificate to you at the end of your AQCS appointment assuming you have all the completed information and dog examination is successful. This is your dog’s most important piece of documentation. Everyone in airport security, airline staff, immigration will require you to show this certificate. This certificate is valid for only 10 days after issue, so schedule your dog’s flight so that it is within this window.
- Microchip Certificate: Your dog must be microchipped. Your veterinarian will need to complete a microchip certificate. Free Microchip Template here.
- Dog’s Last 1 Year Vaccination Record (Original and Copy): In addition to rabies, your dog needs other standard vaccinations required in India. These vaccinations will usually be documented in the form of a small paper booklet that includes vaccine date, label, et cetera. Your veterinarian will provide this booklet.
- Rabies Vaccination Certificate: Your veterinarian will ensure your dog get’s the rabies vaccination. The US requires the veterinarian sign a Rabies Vaccination Certificate. Free Rabies Vaccination Certificate here. For more information on rabies vaccination requirements see the section above “When Can My Dog Fly Out of India?”.
- Health Certificate and Screwworm Check: Your dog must be checked for screwworm for import into the US. This is a visual check that the veterinarian in India performs and will certify the dog is free from screwworms in the Health Certificate required for US import. Free Health Certificate Template here.
- Dog owner’s passport copy: Bring your original and copies.
- Copy of the air ticket: Include all air tickets (e.g. connecting flights). If you are traveling with your dog, include your tickets, as well. The airline may tell you they can’t produce documentation of your dog’s ticket. Email the airline and tell them they must give you documentation to confirm the dog’s flight reservation because this documentation is required by the Indian government. This should do the trick and they will give you the documentation right away.
- Photos of your adorable dog: 4x6 photos of your dog Make sure it is well lit and it is the dog’s full body (not just the face). No one else should be in the photo. Include 4 photos.
Preparing for the India Animal Quarantine and Certification Service (AQCS) Appointment
This was truly my best government agency experience in any country! The staff were friendly, competent and the appointment started on time and was completed within an hour.
You (or your delegate if you using an export company) and your dog will need to be present for this appointment. At the AQCS appointment, you will meet with a friendly representative who will review all of your documentation and make sure it is complete.
Then your dog will be examined by the AQCS veterinarian. This is a simple, mostly visual exam where they take the dog’s temperature, weight, and visually inspect the dog including teeth to make sure you aren’t exporting a dog who is too young.
Once the exam is complete, the AQCS representative will provide you with the signed export certificate which will be required by airline and security officials at the airport during the flight check in process.
Transporting Your Dog from India
How will You Get Your Dog to the International Airport?
Inside India: Air vs. Car – Most domestic airlines in India do not transport pets. And, those that do have restrictions for weight and may not transport on all routes. Because this information changes regularly, it is best to check directly with the airline.
If air travel is not possible domestically, you have two choices. You can either hire a driver to drive you and your pup to your international flight destination (e.g. Delhi or Mumbai) or you can pay a dog transport service to do this for you.
In our case, I hired a driver (who brought another driver along as backup). We drove from Varanasi to Delhi over 16 hours with short breaks for gas, bathroom, food. It was incredible to see the India countryside this way, but also exhausting, especially for the two drivers. But, in our case there were no flights that would transport a dog, so driving was the only solution.
Booking an International Flight for Your Dog
To book your dog on an international flight, identify the possible airlines you could choose from. For example, Delta and KLM both allow dogs on international flights with certain restrictions. Also, be sure if you booking a “codeshare flight” (that is a flight where your dog departs India on one airline and then for the next leg of the flight takes a different airline) that you confirm the dog transport requirements for both airlines and confirm with both airlines that the dog will be flying.
When you have found an airline whose requirements will work for your dog, you are ready to call and make your reservation. Note, most airlines require you to call to make reservations for dogs. This is not something you want to do online.
There are two options for dog seating in a plane:
- Dog In Cabin: Some airlines will allow you to bring your dog on board and stow under the seat in front of you in a soft kennel. These doggie tickets in the cabin are limited, so book early to make sure you can take advantage of this option if your pup meets the size requirements. There is a flight fee for the dog to fly in cabin, just like there is a fee for the dog to fly in cargo.
- Dog In Cargo: If cabin transport is an option, this is always going to be safer for the dog and less worry for you compared with flying your friend in cargo. However, organizations export dogs everyday from India to all over the world using cargo, so flying in cargo will work, as well. Note that many airlines limit or pause dog transport in cargo when it is very hot. So, take seasonal temperatures into consideration before you book the ticket.
Finding a Foster Dog Parent for Your Dog in India
If your dog does is a puppy or an adult dog who needs rabies vaccination, you won’t be able to export the dog immediately. See above When Can My Dog Fly Out of India? In this case, you will need to either stay with the dog in India or hire a Foster Dog Parent to care for the pup until she is ready for export.
Foster Dog Parents are best found by contacting a local animal welfare organization, like Varanasi for Animals if the dog is in Varanasi, and asking if they can coordinate a foster dog parent for you. The cost should be around $60 USD / month for this service in India.
Armchair Adoption :)
If you haven’t been to India or haven’t met your next best friend there, but really want to adopt a street dog from India, there are many NGOs who specialize in exporting India street dogs to places like the US and Canada. These organizations handle all the logistics of export for you. Here are a few to get you started: https://www.delhithestreetdogfoundation.org/
About the Author
In 2019, Charissa Raynor found her Desi pup while traveling in Varanasi, India. Assi was only 20 days old and had been abandoned behind Assi Ghat from another part of town only two days earlier. Assi had no mother, no siblings, and even though locals were giving her milk, no one wanted to take her in. With guidance from Help Animals India (a US based NGO), Charissa was able to get Assi medical care and a foster parent through Varanasi for Animals. In February 2020, Charissa travelled back to India to pick up her new best friend. Today, Assi has successfully adjusted to life in Seattle with her sister Pumpkin (a forgiving chihuahua mix from Los Angeles).