July 17, 2009


2009-R-0170 (Revised)

State Regulations On the Importation of Reindeer


By: Jillian L. Redding, Legislative Fellow


You asked for a summary of regulations other states have on reindeer importation and restrictions with regards to chronic wasting disease.  This report updates OLR Report 2009-R-0093.




We surveyed seven states (Colorado, Florida, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Virginia) to determine their regulations concerning reindeer importation with regards to chronic wasting disease (CWD), as shown in Table 1.  They all require documentation about the health of the individual reindeer, the health of the herd it originated from, and test results for brucellosis and tuberculosis.  As there is no effective, U.S. Department of Agriculture-approved way to test for CWD while the animal is alive, some states require that the handler of the animal provide documentation that the herd has not had CWD outbreaks within a certain period of time prior to importation. Only one state (South Carolina) has banned the importation of all cervidae, including reindeer.


According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, eight states (Colorado, Kansas, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Wisconsin) had captive deer herds (not reindeer) with CWD in 2004.  There were also eight states (Colorado, Illinois, Nebraska, New Mexico, South Dakota, Utah, Wisconsin and Wyoming) with wild deer herds infected with CWD in 2004 (report available at http://www.fws.gov/midwest/NEPA/HoriconCWDNEPA/documents/cwdplan2.pdf).



CWD is a rare, fatal disease found in members of the deer family (Cervidae).  It attacks the infected animal’s brain, causing it to become emaciated and behave abnormally before dying.  CWD is one of a group of diseases known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs), which also includes bovine spongiform encephalopathy (popularly known as Mad Cow disease) in cattle. 


According to a 2004 report by a panel of Canadian scientific experts, CWD “is arguably the most important issue in the management of free-living cervids (members of the deer family) in North America. The disease has the potential to reduce cervid population in the long-term, and to create major socio-economic impacts.”  The report further noted that, “[o]nce established in a population of free-living cervids, control or eradication of CWD is extremely difficult” (http: //wildlife1. usask. ca/Publications/CWD%20Expert%20Report%20Final%20-%2020040804. pdf).


State fish and wildlife agencies have taken steps to prevent CWD from infecting their free-ranging and farm-raised deer populations.  Connecticut is one of a number of states that have banned the importation of captive members of the Cervidae family (Conn. Agency Regs. § 22-278-6).  State regulations also prohibit the importation of deer, moose, and elk carcasses or parts from states or provinces where CWD has been confirmed (Conn. Agency Regs. § 26-55-4).


Researchers say CWD occurs naturally in mule deer, white-tailed deer, and elk, which are members of the deer family, as are moose, reindeer, and caribou.  Reindeer and caribou belong to the same species, Rangifer tarandus.  No cases of CWD in reindeer or caribou have been reported.


Although CWD behaves in most respects as an infectious disease, scientists do not know exactly how it is spread. “TSE's are entirely new to science,” the Canadian report stated, “and thus every aspect of CWD is shrouded in uncertainty.”


Transmission can apparently occur among susceptible cervid species, or from infected animals to the environment, and then to susceptible animals. Animals may be infected for a long time before showing symptoms. White-tailed deer and mule deer (although not elk) can now be tested for CWD with tonsil biopsies (http: //www. cfsph. iastate. edu/Factsheets/pdfs/chronic_wasting_disease. pdf), although this method has not been approved by the USDA.






Colorado considers reindeer a domestic species.  It has no reported cases of CWD within a reindeer herd.  As such, the import regulations are not as strict as those in place for import of fallow deer and elk.  Colorado’s Department of Agriculture and state veterinarian regulate import procedures.  According to Dr. Keith Roehr of the state veterinarian’s office, prior to importation of the animal, the state requires:


1.   the handler of the animal(s) to obtain a permit from the state veterinarian;


2.   an accredited veterinarian to examine the animal(s) and issue a valid certificate of veterinary inspection, certifying a disease-free status;


3.   the animal to be individually identified; and


4.   the originating herd and the animal(s) to be monitored for tuberculosis and brucellosis and test negative for these diseases within 60 days of import.


Dr. Roehr is unable to determine when the last shipment of reindeer was brought into the state.  But, he believes that such imports  are infrequent.  The state’s concerns with CWD are focused on fallow deer and elk, and the state implements strict procedures on importation and intrastate movement of those animals.  However, it does not include reindeer in those procedures.




In Florida, the requirements for importing reindeer (and all cervidae) are as follows:


1.   the cervidae must originate from a herd that participates in a surveillance/prevention program(s) established by the USDA or the state veterinarian or chief animal officer,


2.   the originating herd must be CWD-free for 60 months prior to the requested importation,


3.   the handler must have a certified veterinary report that states the:


a.    name, address, and phone number of handler,

b.    name, address, and phone number of receiver,

c.    point of origin and point of destination of the animal,

d.    date of examination of the animal,

e.    number of animals in the herd examined,

f.     the individual permanent identification number(s) approved by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) for each animal,

g.    the sex, age, and breed of each identified animal,

h.   test results and herd status on CWD, brucellosis, and tuberculosis,

i.     a statement by the issuing veterinarian that the animals identified on the certified veterinary report are free from signs of infectious, communicable or neurologic disease, and

j.     the phone number of the issuing veterinarian;


4.   a copy of the veterinarian’s report must be submitted to and reviewed by the chief animal official in Florida and be immediately forwarded to FDACS, Division of Animal Industry;


5.   the animal must have the permission of the state veterinarian or FDACS representative prior to importation;


6.   the animal handler must have a valid Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) license or permit to possess wildlife; and


7.   the herd must be registered and comply with all requirements set of the FDACS Cervidae Herd Health Plan (Fla. Admin. Code § 5c-26.003). 


The Cervidae Herd Health Plan is a written herd management agreement between FDACS and the herd owner.  It is based on a thorough investigation and risk assessment of the herd and their facility.  It analyzes the risk of continued disease transmission by the animals, along with possible environmental contamination.  Plans may vary depending on the conditions of the herd and its facility.  The plan sets out actions to be followed by the owner to monitor or survey the herd for specific diseases or to eradicate specific diseases from the herd. (Fla. Admin. Code § 5c-26.006). 


According to Captain John West, Division of Law Enforcement within the FWC, two departments work together to enforce the import regulations: the state Department of Agriculture and the FWC.  They have not had problems with enforcement of the regulations.  Florida’s last import, in 2008, consisted of six reindeer. 


New Jersey


According to Linda DiPiano of the Department of Environmental Protection, Division of Fish and Wildlife, the reindeer is considered an exotic animal.  In order to import a reindeer into New Jersey, the handler must (1) have a current USDA permit for the animal, (2) have photocopies of all current permits and health certificates for all animals requested entry into the state, and (3) provide a health certificate stating that the animal is negative for tuberculosis (N.J. Admin. Code §§ 7:25-4.1 - 4.15).


New Jersey has banned deer importation since 2002.   However, reindeer are not included in this ban.  The Division of Fish and Wildlife does not keep track of reindeer imports into the state.  Dr. Nancy Halpern, director of the Division of Animal Health in the Department of Agriculture advised us that they do not track the imports of reindeer and could not provide any information as to reindeer imports within the past few years.




In Ohio, the following is required in order to import a cervidae:


1.   the importer must have a permit and certificate from a veterinarian inspection within 30 days prior to requested entry;


2.   the animal must have no contagious or infectious diseases;


3.   the animal must fully comply with state and federal rules and regulations;


4.   the animal must be from a CWD-free herd and must have originated in that herd or been added at least 1 year prior,


5.   no other cervidae must have been added to the herd within 1 year of requested entry,


6.   the importer must have all health records of the herd for within 60 months of importation available for inspection, and


7.   the importer must provide documentation that the animal (1) is from a brucellosis and tuberculosis-free herd, or (2) has a negative individual test result within 30 days of requested entry for brucellosis and tuberculosis (Ohio Admin. Code § 901:1-17-12).


The animal handler must contact the state Department of Agriculture, Division of Animal Industry, to request permission to bring the animal into the state.  If the above requirements are not met, the reindeer may be quarantined until they comply, according to Cindy Bodie of the division.  Ohio’s last reindeer import of one reindeer occurred in June 2008. 




The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA) has five specific requirements for importing cervidae into the state:


1.   the animal must be individually identified,


2.   the animal must have a certified veterinary report of inspection (CVI) that was issued within 30 days of entry into the state,


3.   the animal must have documentation that verifies it, the herd, or both tested negative for both brucellosis and tuberculosis,


4.   the importer must provide documentation that the originating herd is CWD-free, either by (a) three years of participation in a state-approved CWD monitoring program, if from a state or province not known to have CWD, or (b) five years of participating in such a program if the herd is from a state or province known to have CWD outbreaks; and


5.   apply and obtain an importation permit from the PDA’s Bureau of Animal Health (7 Pa. Admin. Code § 3a.2).


According to Tony LaBarbera, veterinarian and chief of regulations and compliance in the Bureau of Animal Health and Diagnostic Services, PDA, reindeer are not considered susceptible to CWD in Pennsylvania.  Thus, the requirements to import them include those stated above except here is no requirement to prove the herd is CWD-free.  The state’s last import of reindeer was in February 2009, for sleigh rides. Two reindeer were imported for less than 24 hours.  


The import regulations are enforced by the PDA Bureau of Animal Health which receives the applications for the import permits.  If noncompliance is found, the bureau has the authority to file civil complaints and may also file criminal citations to a local magisterial district judge.  There have been no reported outbreaks of CWD in Pennsylvania.


South Carolina


Any cervidae entering South Carolina must have a negative test for both brucellosis and tuberculosis within 30 days prior to entry (27 S.C. Code Ann. Regs. 1013 (D)(6)(D)).  Further, each reindeer being imported must be individually identified and have a certificate of veterinary inspection.  Also the handler of the reindeer must have obtained a permit from the state veterinarian (27 S.C. Code Ann. Regs. 1025 (B)(3) – (5)).


According to Charles Ruth, wildlife biologist in the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, cervidae have not been allowed in the state since 2003, due to concerns over CWD infection in captive deer herds in North America.  The last import of reindeer occurred in 2003, when the department issued a temporary permit for a temporary exhibition, consisting of four to six reindeer.  There were no issues with these reindeer.  However, Ruth cites a large incidence of CWD at that time in North America, leading to the decision by the department to suspend all cervidae importation.  The law states that permits may only be granted when the importation of the animal “is not reasonably expected to adversely impact the natural resources of the State or its wildlife population” (S.C. Code § 50-16-20 (B)).  Ruth states that, under this section of the law, the Department of Natural Resources felt the importation of reindeer was no longer able to meet this standard.




Reindeer are considered an exotic cervid and require an exhibitor permit and authorization by Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) for import into the state.  Additionally, VDGIF requires the animal handler to:


1.   be licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture under the Federal Animal Welfare Act (7 USC §§ 2131 – 2156) to exhibit warm-blooded animals,


2.    individually identify each cervid with ear tags provided by VDGIF,


3.   maintain all records on the herd for at least two years,


4.   notify the department of all deaths to adult members of the herd (older than six months) within 48 hours and transport the carcass to the state veterinarian within the Department of Agriculture, and


5.   notify the department immediately if any of the animals within the herd demonstrates any signs of CWD (4 Va. Admin. Code § 15-30-40; Va. Exhibitor Permit Conditions 2005). 


Virginia last imported reindeer into the state in 2002.  Currently, there are no known captive herds of reindeer within Virginia, according to Nelson Lafon, deer project coordinator, VDGIF. 


Compliance with the import regulations are enforced with citations for noncompliance. Lafon states that there have not been any serious problems with enforcing compliance.  A few exotic deer herds were discovered by the department after the regulation was amended in 2002, and the handlers were unable to provide sufficient paperwork to qualify for permits.  The department confiscated those reindeer.


Table 1: State Regulations and Importing Information



Allows Imports of Reindeer?


Last Known Import Date



Department policy




Fla. Admin. Code § 5c-26.003; § 5c-26.006


New Jersey


N.J. Admin. Code §§ 7:25-4.1 – 4.15




Ohio Admin. Code § 901:1-17-12




7 Pa. Admin. Code § 3a.2 (except subsection (4)).

February 2009

South Carolina


27 S.C. Code Ann. Regs. 1013 (D)(6)(D); 27 S.C. Code Ann. Regs. 1025(B); S.C. Code § 50-16-20 (B)




4 Va. Admin. Code § 15-30-40; Va. Exhibitor Permit Conditions 2005


* According to Lafon, Virginia policy is to  ban importation unless specifically authorized by VD61F.