For a year, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has suspended, with only a few exceptions, the import of dogs from some 113 countries deemed “high risk for rabies.” For many fanciers this restriction meant an end of plans to special a dog in the US, or to import an exciting new prospect or an important new part of a breeding program.
On June 10, 2022 that’s set to change thanks to new CDC rules that will make it easier to import a dog from the previously banned countries.
While it is important for importers to also check additional USDA and local entry requirements, here is the latest from the CDC:
New rules officially announced by the CDC on June 1 (and effective as of June 10) change the focus from a blanket suspension on imports to a risk-based approach that depends on where the dog’s rabies vaccination was administered and how many dogs are being imported.
Under the new CDC rules, dogs that have not been in a high-risk country may continue to enter the US through any port of entry and are not required to present a rabies vaccination certificate. If the puppy is under six months of age, a verbal statement that the pup has not been in a high-risk country is required.
For all dogs that have been in a high-risk country in the past six months, the dog must be at least six months old, have a valid rabies vaccination, and have an ISO microchip for identification that matches the rabies certificate. (A list of “high risk” for rabies countries is available at cdc.gov.)
Importers bringing 1-2 dogs into the US that have been in a high-risk country have three options for entry:
- Permit – Apply for a CDC permit prior to travel and arrange for the dogs to arrive at one of 18 approved airports with the import permit.
- Titer – Make an advance reservation for a port that has an approved animal care facility: Atlanta (ATL), New York (JFK), Miami (MIA), or Los Angeles (LAX); present a valid foreign rabies vaccination certificate; present the results of a valid rabies serology titer; and have the dog examined by a USDA-accredited veterinarian and re-vaccinated.
- No Titer – Make an advance reservation for a port that has an approved animal care facility: Atlanta (ATL), New York (JFK), Miami (MIA), or Los Angeles (LAX); present a valid foreign rabies vaccination certificate; have the dog examined by a USDA accredited veterinarian and re-vaccinated; and quarantine the dog(s) for 28 days.
Individuals importing three or more dogs into the US from a high-risk country do not have the option to obtain a permit, but may enter with an advance reservation and select either Option 2 (with a titer/no quarantine) or Option 3 (no titer/mandatory quarantine).
Under the new rule, commercial dog importers are not eligible for a CDC Dog Import Permit. However, commercial dog importers may now import dogs from high-risk countries provided that the dogs, upon arrival in the United States, are examined, re-vaccinated, and have proof of an adequate titer from a CDC-approved laboratory. Alternatively, they may be held in quarantine at a CDC-approved animal facility until they meet CDC entry requirements.
Details on the new rules are available on the CDC website at https://www.cdc.gov/importation/bringing-an-animal-into-the-united-states/.
Background – So What’s the Issue Behind the Rules?
Rabies is a serious threat to pet and public health. According to the CDC, is it one hundred percent preventable and ninety-nine percent fatal.
The American Kennel Club has long been concerned about sick dogs being imported into the United States—whether the issue be the rabies, brucellosis, viral infections, canine influenza, non-native parasites, zoonotic diseases, or other pathogens that impact canine and public health.
Historically, canine disease imported from outside the United States flew under the radar. There were also many fewer dogs being imported.
In the last generation, however, breeders in the US have come under increasing restrictions and fallen victim to negative public pressure, even as the demand for pet dogs has increased. By 2019, even before the increase in ownership due to the pandemic, it was conservatively estimated that US demand for pet dogs is approximately eight million dogs a year. US breeders simply couldn’t meet the demand for pets, particularly in light of anti-breeder laws.
In the same year, CDC published estimated US pet import figures of a whopping one million per year—many of which were coming in with fraudulent paperwork. These factors, combined with poor oversight of existing import requirements, lack of enforcement, and increasing demand for dogs from overseas, created a perfect storm for the importation of sick dogs imported into the country.
What’s the Longer-Term Solution?
The solution to this complex issue requires more than a blanket ban on imports of dogs from certain countries, or even a response to health threats caused by rabies only. Instead, AKC is advocating for comprehensive changes in two major areas:
First is the passage of the federal Healthy Dog Importation Act (HR 4239/S.2597) supported by the American Veterinary Medical Association, the National Animal Interest Alliance, and numerous other animal and public health experts. This would require validated health certifications for all dogs imported into the United States, comparable to what most other countries have required for years.
The Healthy Dog Importation Act would go beyond a blanket ban related to rabies risk and instead focus on the validated health of animals, and multiple potential health threats, while allowing the responsible import of healthy dogs from most countries.
The second is recognizing the immense public health value of high-quality local pet breeders in our own communities. Encouraging new and responsible domestic breeders who can be a local source of expertise and quality pets will remove the incentive for mass imports of random and unhealthy dogs.
The increasing demand for dogs, especially rescue pets, from overseas is due to the shortage of available family pets indirectly caused when state and local laws undermine responsible domestic breeders.
It’s time to recognize the value of responsible breeders as a community resource. Let’s encourage our lawmakers and communities to welcome back responsible breeders as a bulwark against the importation of public health dangers—while also ensuring the freedom to import dogs that do receive appropriate preventatives and health checks.
Photo credit by the American Kennel Club.