Importing Pet Products into the US: Resources

The maze of regulations and requirements relating to importing products into the US can be daunting. There are numerous steps involved, depending on the product and where it is from.

The following page is not intended to tell you “how-to” import your product into the US, but will provide links to various resources where you can learn more about what requirements are necessary before importing a product into the US. The US government provides numerous programs to assist US companies with their import programs. APPA provides a consultant to assist APPA Member in their export and import  needs. See this APPA Web Page on Import and Export Solutions with a complimentary consultation for APPA members from a customs broker that works with many of our members.

For general import information see the links to the US Customs and Border Patrol. For all food products, including pet food, supplements and chews you will need to be aware of the FDA’s prior notice and registration requirements under the Bioterrorism Act and the Food Safety Modernization Act. For meat and poultry products and other agricultural products see the links for the USDA’s Web pages. For general import information you may want to be aware of Incoterms which is the language of international trade developed by the International Chamber of Commerce. Each Incoterm refers to the type of agreement for the puchase and shipping of goods internationally.

For Pet Food and other food products the FDA has a system of Prior Notification for Imported Food Products and the Foreign Supplier Verification Program (FSVP) under the Food Safety Modernization Act. The facility must also be registered with the FDA.

US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)

US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)


  • Import Program (For products regulated by the FDA including pet foods, treats and supplements)
    • The adulteration and misbranding standards for feed and feed ingredients of foreign origin are the same as for those of domestic origin. A notable difference is the burden of proof that FDA must meet to refuse the entry of products of foreign origin. Under Section 801(a), the agency must only establish that the product “appears” to be violative under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. This is a lesser standard than that to establish a domestic product as violative.
    • Imported products regulated by FDA are subject to inspection at the time of entry through US Customs. Shipments found not to comply with our laws and regulations are subject to detention. They must be brought into compliance, destroyed, or re-exported.
    • The Food Safety and Modernization Act (FSMA) and Bioterrorism Act Requirements: Registration of Facilities and Prior Notice of Shipments
US Customs & Border Patrol

US Customs & Border Patrol

  • General Information

    • Importers of any merchandise into the US must file a customs entry form with the appropriate port director of the US Customs Service within 5 working days after the shipment arrives at a port. All merchandise coming into the US must clear customs and is subject to a customs duty unless specifically exempted by law. Clearance involves a number of steps: entry, inspection, appraisement, classification and liquidation.
      • For meat and poultry shipments, the Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) requires two documents which should accompany the filing with the Customs Service:
        • The Health Certificate from the country of origin indicating the product was inspected, passed the country’s inspection service and is eligible for export into the US, and
        • The Import Inspection Application and Report (FSIS Form 9540-I).
      • For food products and ingredients, including pet food, treats, and supplements, prior notice of the imports’ anticipated arrival must be provided to the CBP and the FDA. In addition, these products must come from a facility that has registered with the FDA. 

        The FDA FSMA rule on Foreign Supplier Verification Programs (FSVP) for Importers of Food for Humans and Animals is final, and the first compliance dates began on May 30, 2017. The final rule requires that importers perform certain risk-based activities to verify that food imported into the United States has been produced in a manner that meets applicable U.S. safety standards. This rule is the product of a significant level of outreach by the FDA to industry, consumer groups, the agency’s federal, state, local, tribal and international regulatory counterparts, academia and other stakeholders. The FDA first proposed this rule in July 2013.

    • The US Customs Service may require the importer to post a surety bond.
  • Tips for new importers and exporters 
  • US import requirements 
  • Determining duty rates The importer must declare the dutiable value of the imports.
  • CSI is a program intended to help increase security for containerized cargo shipped to the United States from around the world.
  • Harmonized Tariff Schedule
    • The importer must determine the classification number of the merchandise being imported. The Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS), issued by the United States International Trade Commission, prescribes the classification of merchandise by type of product.
US Department of Agriculture

US Department of Agriculture

Information on Importing Specific Products

Information on Importing Specific Products

  • Animals: Center For Disease Control 
  • Animal Feeds, Feed Supplements, and Pre-Mixes
    • Guidelines for Importation #1122
  • Pet Chews
    • Guidelines for Importation 
    • Pet Chews Made of Antlers or Rawhide
    •  If you are bringing into the country RAWHIDE or ANTLER CHEWS, EVEN  A LIMITED NUMBER OF SAMPLES FOR DISPLAY AT GLOBAL PET EXPO you may be required to obtain a USDA VS Import Permit.
    • Here is when you may need an Import Permit for RAWHIDE:
    • If you are bringing in plain rawhide for pet chews/treats which are cut, molded or in sheets you do not need a permit. But, if the rawhide has been ground, basted, flavored, colored or otherwise processed you must obtain a USDA VS Import Permit.
    • Rawhide is defined as untanned cattle skin made into leather by dehairing, drying, liming and other processes. Products which do not meet this description, such as pork hides labeled as rawhide, also require a VS Import Permit.
    • Here is when you need an Import Permit for ANTLERS:
    • Plain, naturally shed antlers intended  for use as pet chews/ treats originated from a region free of FMD and Rinderpest are allowed to bring in their product without a VS Import Permit when accompanied by an original health certificate signed by a full-time salaried veterinarian of the agency responsible for animal health in the exporting region stating the name of the FMD/Rinderpest free country of origin of the antlers, and that the antlers are clean, dry  and free of soil, clay, sand, tissue and undried pieces of hide, flesh sinew and other related material.
    • Antlers which have been ground, powdered, or flavored, or from a region affected by FMD and antlers in Velvet must be accompanied by a VS Import Permit.
    • HOW TO GET A USDA APHIS VS IMPORT PERMIT for Rawhide or Antlers:
  • Amphibians, Fish, Reptiles, Shellfish and Aquatic Species
    • Guidelines for Importation #1104