What are the licensing and registration requirements for transporting a dog?

Your USDA licensing, registration, and pet transporter questions answered.

by Monica DeBosscher, Esq. - Director of Partnerships, Community & Legal Affairs at Good Dog

We know that the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) regulations and licensing and registration requirements can be extremely difficult to navigate. We have summarized some of these regulations below to help you, our breeders, interpret these requirements, so it is easier to understand exactly how these will apply to you and your individual breeding programs.

By way of background, many individuals and businesses that buy or sell dogs or transport them commercially are required to be licensed or registered under the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) by the USDA. Additionally, when transporting dogs across state lines, there are varying state-by-state requirements.

Licensing and registration considerations for individuals or business selling dogs

When is a USDA license required?

As we will discuss more below, if you have more than a combined total of four “breeding” (unspayed) females and transfer one or more pets “sight unseen” (i.e., not face-to-face), you may need to be licensed as a USDA Class A Breeder/Dealer.

What Kind of License is Required?

A USDA Class A Breeder/Dealer license is required if a breeder has more than a combined total of four “breeding” (unspayed) females of any regulated species (including dogs, cats, etc.) AND they transfer one or more pets “sight unseen” (i.e., not face-to-face). This is known as a Class A License.

Only females with the capacity to breed are considered “breeding females” by the USDA. It is important to note that any guardian home programs and co-ownership arrangements a breeder is part of will also count towards a breeder’s total number of breeding females.

Transferring a dog “sight unseen” means the buyer, seller, and the pet available for sale are not physically together at the time of purchase or before taking custody of the animal. Photos, webcam images, Skype sessions or other electronic means of communication are not a substitute for the buyer or their designee personally observing the animal at the time of purchase. If a buyer’s friend or family member takes custody of the dog immediately after purchase on behalf of the buyer, that is NOT considered transferring a dog “sight unseen." However, if the individual accepting or delivering the animal on the buyer’s behalf is compensated, such as a flight nanny or ground transportation company, that IS considered transferring a dog “sight unseen."

Do You Need to Consider a Class A License?

If your responses to Column A equal more than four AND you answered yes to at least one of the questions in Column B, then the USDA Class A Breeder/Dealer licensing requirements might apply to you.

Column A

How many breeding females
do you have on your property?

How many breeding females
do you have in guardian homes?

How many breeding females
do you co-own?

Column B

Do you ever use a flight nanny to transfer animals?

Do you ever use a ground transportation company to transfer animals?

Do you ever transfer an animal to new owners without first meeting in-person with the animal and the owners?

When is USDA registration required?

A USDA registration is required by any person operating or intending to operate as an intermediate handler. An intermediate handler includes any person who is transporting dogs between buyers and sellers in exchange for compensation. For example, a “flight nanny” or ground pet transporter would be considered an intermediate handler by the USDA if the flight nanny or ground pet transporter is compensated.

For additional information, learn more in this guide for breeders on licensing and registration requirements. If you need assistance in understanding how any USDA regulations might apply to you or your breeding programs, you can also email us anytime at breederteam@gooddog.com.

Licensing and registration considerations for pet transporters

Pet transportation services are bound by strict federal, state, and local regulations. You should research the regulations specific to your dog’s destination in advance, as there may be specific animal health requirements. Many states require an up-to-date Official Certificate of Veterinary Inspection from a licensed, USDA accredited veterinarian when your dog is traveling to indicate that your dog is healthy enough to travel and is not showing signs of a disease that could be passed to other animals or people.

What are the licensing, registration, and insurance requirements for pet transporters?

As noted above, pet transporters must be licensed or registered by the USDA if they are transporting “regulated” animals, such as dogs. A pet transporter should also carry a minimum amount of insurance. Dogs will be covered up to the care, custody or limit the pet transporter chooses when they take out the insurance policy. You should confirm the specific amount of insurance coverage with your pet transporter prior to the trip. Pet transportation insurance should cover at least the loss, injury or death of your pet during the trip. However, insurance will probably not cover illness or natural death during transportation.

What are the state requirements when transporting a dog across state lines?

These vary by state, but typically at a minimum include a recent Certificate of Veterinary Inspection.

For information on the specific requirements for moving your dog from your current location to another U.S. state, visit the USDA’s guide on pet interstate travel. These requirements can be tricky to understand, so if you have questions, contact the state veterinarian’s office in your destination state or email us for help anytime at breederteam@gooddog.com.


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