The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced today that it is temporarily banning, with few exceptions, imports of dogs from countries determined to be high risk for canine rabies. The agency cited a 52% increase in irregularities with rabies vaccination certificates for canine imports in 2020 over 2018 and 2019, and stated the measure is being taken “to ensure the health and safety of dogs imported into the United States and to protect the public’s health against the reintroduction of dog rabies.”
Canine rabies was eliminated from U.S. in 2007. However, skyrocketing imports of dogs from overseas, many from high risk countries -- in combination with high rates of dogs being imported with invalid health certificates have created a serious new threat to public health.
The American Kennel Club supports selective and responsible import of adequately vaccinated dogs from overseas, but also recognizes the grave health threat that the import of unhealthy dogs presents to US populations. “We realize this temporary ban may present some short-term inconveniences to responsible breeders and exhibitors; however we appreciate and strongly support the CDC’s leadership in taking a firm strong approach to protect the long term health of U.S. pet and public health,” said Sheila Goffe, Vice President, Government Relations for the AKC. “We hope the temporary ban can soon be replaced by a more nuanced approach that requires improved health reporting for all dogs imported into the US but allows for importing healthy dogs from a wide variety of countries.“
Despite the rising U.S. demand for pets, estimated at over 8 million dogs per year, state and local laws that discourage domestic dog breeding enacted over the last generation have resulted in an enormous increase growth in U.S. canine imports. According to the CDC, in 2019, over one million dogs were imported into the U.S. Many of these dogs are inadequately vaccinated or have invalid health certificates. Because many dogs are imported via the retail rescue industry or internet sales, they do not receive the same level of oversight as dogs bred in the U.S., creating the conditions for a public health crisis.
The AKC has been concerned for many years about the devastating but preventable threat from diseases and parasites from inadequately vaccinated or health checked imports. AKC, along with the American Veterinary Medical Association, National Animal Interest Alliance, and other animal organizations strongly supports the Healthy Dog Importation Act, which would require that all imported canine be free of infection, adequately vaccinated and/or protected against contagious diseases, present a health certificate from a U.S. approved veterinary authority, and have permanent identification such as a microchip.
Under the new ban, the CDC will allow for a limited number of written exceptions, including personally owned dogs that belong to US citizens living overseas and owners of service dogs who can provide adequate proof of rabies vaccination or titer.
Importers wishing to transport dogs that are not their own personal pets are only eligible to apply for a permit to import dogs for science, education, exhibition, or law enforcement.
Exceptions will not be provided for other purposes, such as rescue, resale, or transfer of ownership; or short-term travel to and from high-risk countries with personal pet dogs.
For more information visit AKC GR’s regulatory alert. AKC GR will continue to provide updated information, including information on the public comment process, as it becomes available.