Furry Friends

Moving to Arizona with Pets

Are you moving to Arizona?  Do you have pets?  If so, you will need to have a basic understanding of Arizona law as it pertains to your animals.  You also need to consider the safest ways to travel with pets and know the possible hazards. With A.R.S. §11-1008, the State Legislature has delegated the authority for regulating the ownership of dogs and cats to the various Arizona counties.  While the regulations set by each county are similar, you need to know the county where you are planning to live, so that you are able to apply for dog licenses immediately upon arrival.

County Regulations for Dogs and Cats.

The four most populous counties in Arizona all have similar animal control rules.  Maricopa, Pima, Yavapai, and Coconino counties all require dogs over 3 months of age to have a license and a valid rabies certificate.  They also require that you license your dog within 30 days of moving into the county.  Before leaving your previous state, make sure you have copies of records from your veterinarian documenting the immunizations your animals have received. 

When you apply for a dog license, you will receive a metal tag.  The tag is permanent and is meant to be worn for the remainder of your dog’s life.  Although the metal tag is permanent, the license is not.  Dog licenses must be renewed every year.  After the first year, you will receive a paper license each time you renew.  Renewal notifications will inform you if your dog needs a rabies vaccination before his license can be renewed.  Rabies vaccines (after the initial puppy vaccine) normally last 3 years.  On those years when no vaccination is needed, you will simply send back the form with the required fee, and your dog’s license will be renewed.  On vaccine years, you must send a vaccination certificate with your fee.  None of the 4 major Arizona counties require licensing for cats.

Exotic Pets

Arizona has some of the toughest exotic pet regulations in the country.  That may be because the state’s proximity to Latin America makes Arizona a prime destination for wild animal smugglers.  A.R.S. §17-306 restricts the transport, sale and possession of non-domesticated animals. People in violation of the statute may be charged with a class 4 felony.  Restricted animals covered by the statute are detailed in the state regulations.  R12-4-406 sets out a fairly comprehensive list of forbidden pets. Restricted wildlife includes many different species:

  • All non-domestic canines like wolves and coyotes are restricted.
  • Primates, including orangutans, chimpanzees, gorillas, macaques and spider monkeys;
  • Alligators, crocodiles, caimans and other members of the Crocodilla family;
  • Poisonous snakes, including rattle snakes, cobras, coral snakes, mambas and others;
  • Many other types of wild snake;
  • Gila monsters.
  • Many types of frogs, toads, and turtles that are normally found in the wild;
  • Skunks, racoons, bears, foxes and weasels;
  • Jaguars, tigers, lions and other large cats.
  • Many species of fish and marine life.

Special permits are issued to specific individuals or groups intending to keep these animals for education, public health, commercial photography, wildlife rehabilitation, or wildlife management.  There is an exception for Desert Tortoises.  They are permitted to be adopted by individuals and kept as pets.

There are a few exotic pets that are legal in Arizona.  They include:  hedgehogs, wallabies and kangaroos, Savannah Cats (hybrids of domestic cats and serval), capybaras, sugar gliders, American bison, wolfdogs (hybrids), reticulated pythons, and African crested porcupines.  Short tailed opossums are legal, but American opossums are not.  A good rule of thumb is this.  If you can’t buy the animal in a pet store, please do your research before bringing it to Arizona. 

Transporting Your Pet to Arizona.

If you travel to Arizona by car, do a little research to find out which hotels allow pets in the room, if they charge a pet deposit, and how much they charge.   If you are traveling with dogs, make sure you stop frequently to allow for bathroom breaks and exercise.  Make sure to bring water bowls and drinking water for your pets.

The United States Department of Agriculture regulates pets traveling on commercial airliners.  All airlines must comply with federal regulations in setting pet policies. Traveling by air with pets requires careful planning and consideration of options, costs, and risks. Within 10 days of your departure, you will need to get a health certificate from your veterinarian.  All airlines require a current health certificate before your pet can fly.  You will need to think about things like the size and type of crate you will need, crate training to acclimate your pet, and a plan for managing luggage, pets, and security at the airport. 

If your pet is required to ride in the cargo section, investigate which airlines guarantee pressure and temperature-controlled cargo space for pets.   Also, plan your route carefully.  If you can find a direct route to your destination, take it, even if it costs more.  The most dangerous time for pets traveling in cargo is when the plane is on the tarmac, especially if it is very hot or cold. American Airlines won’t fly animals if the temperature in either the departure city or the destination city is more than 85°F or under 45°F.  There are risks to your animal in loading and unloading.  The fewer times you change planes, the lower the risk of your pet becoming lost luggage.  Pet friendly airlines load animals before cargo.  Some airlines load cargo first, leaving pets to sit on the tarmac for extended periods. Make sure you read your airline’s pet policy before you commit.  Also, take a look at the statistics on which airlines have the most animal injuries and deaths during flight.

Some airlines allow dogs and cats to travel in the main cabin if the animal is small (usually under 22 pounds) and the animal’s crate can be placed under the passenger’s seat.  Those airlines include: Southwest, JetBlue, Delta, American, United, and Alaska.  A few allow birds and rabbits as well as cats and dogs.  Every airline charges a fee for allowing your pet to travel in the cabin.  Fees vary from one airline to another. Many airlines limit the number of animals allowed on each flight.  Before you book, make sure your animal can travel with you.

As you can see, there are many things to consider and evaluate when planning a move with your pets.  Careful planning can help you have a smooth move free from unexpected complications.










This website has been prepared for general information purposes only. The information on this website is not legal advice. Legal advice is dependent upon the specific circumstances of each situation. Also, the law may vary from state-to-state or county-to-county, so that some information in this website may not be correct for your situation. Finally, the information contained on this website is not guaranteed to be up to date. Therefore, the information contained in this website cannot replace the advice of competent legal counsel licensed in your jurisdiction.