Legislative Action Center

Military Working Dogs Can Come Home: Dispelling Misconceptions about the CDC Dog Importation Ban
August 12, 2021 by AKC Government Relations


In July, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) implemented a temporary suspension on dogs entering the United States from some 110 countries deemed to be at high risk for the canine rabies variant (CRVV). 

Rabies can be fatal in both humans and animals, and the importation of potentially rabid dogs could result in transmission of the disease to humans, pets, and wildlife. The canine rabies variant (CRVV) was eradicated from the United States in 2007 and this suspension will help to protect our animals from the threat of reintroduction. 

Under the new directive, dogs from high-risk countries may be imported only with CDC’s advance written approval. The ban also includes dogs travelling from a country not at high risk if the dogs have been in a high-risk country during the previous 6 months. 

The ban has been an emotional issue for people who are attempting to import dogs for a variety of reasons, including show, rescue and the import of new pets or the return of older pets back who have been living in a high-risk country. The ban has also raised concerns among many on social media that U.S. military working dogs posted overseas could get stuck overseas. 

The CDC has confirmed that military working dogs would be considered law enforcement dogs, and thus eligible for an exception to the ban.  Specifically, guidance provided in the June 14 issue of the Federal Register states, “The following categories of importers are eligible to request advance written approval to import a dog into the United States … Importers who wish to import dogs for purposes related to science, education, or exhibition, as these terms are defined in 42 CFR 71.50, or for a bona fide law enforcement purpose.”1   More recently, a spokesperson from CDC reiterated that, “Local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies wishing to import a dog for law enforcement purposes are encouraged to apply for a CDC Dog Import Permit.” 

“CDC has been working closely with DOD, DOS, and DHS regarding the importation of working dogs from overseas since the suspension was announced in June 2020 and we have a process in place to handle these kinds of requests,” she said.


Military Working Dogs or Pets Adopted by Military Personnel?

There has also been some confusion about dogs that are owned by military personnel returning to the United States. The exemption for law enforcement dogs does not apply to pets that members of the military may have adopted while overseas in high risk countries. 

This does not mean that these dogs cannot ever enter the U.S. with their owner, just that they must go through the same processes as other people from that area who are attempting to import a dog. In many cases, import could be delayed until the end of the temporary ban.  Though this may mean that an individual’s dog may take longer to be imported depending on country it is coming from, this process is meant to ensure the health of the animals and people in the United States. 

“The temporary ban presents inconveniences to pet owners, breeder and exhibitors. However, we also recognize the urgent necessity of this ban and we support the CDC’s leadership in taking a firm approach to protecting the long-term health of U.S. pets and public health”, said Sheila Goffe, AKC Vice President, Government Relations.  “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 U.S. but allows for importing healthy dogs from a wide variety of countries.

AKC urges quick passage of legislation that would replace the temporary ban with a more nuanced, long-term policy that focuses on individual health over origin.  The Healthy Dog Importation Act (HR 4239) and the Animal Health Protection Act  (S. 2597) offer a reasonable approach to the problem of unhealthy imports, while also providing protection against a wider variety of disease threats by requiring all dogs imported into the U.S. to be free of infection, be 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. Passage of these measures will go a long way to protect public health and out pets whatever their origin. 

--Kathryn Leonard


1 US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). “Temporary Suspension of Dogs Entering the United States From High- Risk Rabies Countries.” Federal Register, vol. 86, no. 114, 16 June 2021, pp. 32041–32049. 



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