Today, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced the temporary suspension of the importation of dogs from countries classified as high risk for canine rabies. This suspension will also apply to dogs arriving from countries not considered a high risk if the dogs have been in a high-risk country during the previous six months. The new suspension applies to all dogs, including puppies, emotional support dogs, and dogs that traveled out of the United States and are returning from a high-risk country. CDC has coordinated with other federal agencies and entities as necessary to begin implementing this action, and will review the suspension periodically. The suspension is due to commence July 14, 2021.
CDC reports that this suspension is necessary to ensure the health and safety of dogs imported in the United States and to protect the public’s health against the reintroduction of canine rabies virus. Rabies is considered one of the deadliest zoonotic diseases. After decades of work, the U.S. was declared to be free of dog rabies in 2007. However, CDC estimates 6% of all dogs imported into the U.S. arrive from counties at high risk for dog rabies. In 2020 alone, CDC identified a 52% increase in the number of inadequately vaccinated dogs that were denied entry into the U.S. from high-risk countries compared with the previous two years.
What Countries are Considered High Risk for Rabies?
These countries are currently considered high risk for importing dog rabies into the United States.
AFRICA: Algeria, Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Côte D’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Egypt (temporary suspension of importation of dogs from Egypt until further notice), Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Eswatini (Swaziland), Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania (including Zanzibar), Togo, Tunisia, Uganda, Western Sahara, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
AMERICAS AND THE CARIBBEAN: Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, Peru, Suriname, and Venezuela.
ASIA, THE MIDDLE EAST, AND EASTERN EUROPE: Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Belarus, Bhutan, Brunei, Cambodia, China, Georgia, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Lebanon, Malaysia, Moldova, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, North Korea, Oman, Pakistan, Philippines, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Syria, Tajikistan, Thailand, Timor-Leste (East Timor), Turkey, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, and Yemen.
Advanced Written Approval Available on Limited, Case-by-Case Basis
CDC may, on a limited basis, grant advanced written approval permitting the importation of fully rabies-immunized dogs, six months of age or older, from a high-risk country. To apply to import a personal pet dog, a person must be: a U.S. government employee with work-related relocation orders; a lawful U.S. resident/citizen relocating back to the United States such as for employment or education; or an owner of a service dog that is individually trained to assist an individual with a disability. Importers wanting to import dogs that are not their own personal pets are only eligible to apply for a permit to import an unrestricted number of dogs for science, education, exhibition, or law enforcement purposes.
During the temporary suspension, each eligible importer of personal pet dogs may be granted approval to import a maximum of three dogs for one trip. Permits will be granted for dogs six months of age or older, that have been microchipped for identification and that have a valid rabies vaccination certificate. If the vaccine was administered outside of the U.S., a rabies serologic titer from an approved laboratory will also be required. All permitted dogs must enter the U.S. at a port of entry with a U.S. Customs and Border Protection-bonded animal holding facility, which currently is only available at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York City.
AKC’s Long Concern with Importation of Unhealthy Dogs
The American Kennel Club (AKC) has long been concerned with the importation of unhealthy dogs into the United States. In April 2018, the AKC Board of Directors adopted the following position statement on Pet Imports:
The American Kennel Club® recognizes the value of importing breeding stock from overseas, and ensuring that people may travel with their pets with a minimum of disruption. The AKC® is also greatly concerned about increasing documented incidences of the importation of unhealthy, random-source pets into the United States, particularly for transfer, where public and pet health may be inadequately protected.
AKC supports efforts to better understand the impact of large quantities of dogs being imported into the United States. AKC further supports strengthening efforts to ensure that all dogs imported into the United States are fully immunized; free of infection, parasites and contagious diseases; and are individually certified as such by a qualified veterinarian.
No pet should be imported without an individual examination, valid veterinary certificate, and documentation regarding the source of the dog and the party responsible for it upon arrival into the United States.
More recently, AKC also strongly supported the introduction of the Healthy Dog Importation Act of 2020. While the CDC’s temporary measure is important to protect public health in the near term, we believe that a directed and more comprehensive approach such as the Healthy Dog Importation Act will provide an effective longer-term solution. AKC looks forward to reintroduction of the Healthy Dog Importation Act in the near future.
For more information on this important public health issue, visit the Pet Imports: Protecting Pet & Public Health key issue page on AKC’s Legislative Action Center.
For More Information
Have questions about this notice or CDC’s import regulations? Contact CDC’s Zoonoses Team at CDCanimalimports@cdc.gov.
AKC Government Relations (GR) will provide updates on this important development, including the opportunity for public comment as more information becomes publicly available. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.