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CDC temporarily bans importing dogs from most countries at high risk for canine rabies

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced this week that it is temporarily banning, with few exceptions, imports of dogs from countries determined to be high risk for canine rabies, according to a news release from the American Kennel Club.

The agency cited a 52 per cent increase in irregularities with rabies vaccination certificates for canine imports in 2020 compared to 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.”

The American Kennel Club said it 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.

Sheila Goffe, Vice President, Government Relations for the AKC, was quoted as saying, “We realize this temporary ban may present some short-term inconveniences to responsible breeders, owners and exhibitors. However, we appreciate and strongly support the CDC’s leadership in taking a firm approach to protect the long-term health of U.S. pet and public health.

Goffe added, “We hope the temporary ban can soon be replaced by a more nuanced approach such as passage of the Healthy Dog Importation Act, which requires improved health reporting for all dogs imported into the U.S. but still allows for importing healthy dogs from a wide variety of countries.“

The AKC news release went on to state that canine rabies were 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.

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 sadi it “has been concerned for many years about the devastating but preventable threat from diseases and parasites from inadequately vaccinated or health-checked animal imports.”

AKC, along with the American Veterinary Medical Association, National Animal Interest Alliance, andother animal welfare organizations strongly support the Healthy Dog Importation Act, which would require that all imported dogs be free of infection, adequately vaccinated and/or protected against contagious diseases, present a health certificate from a USDA- 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 U.S. 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 ofownership; or short-term travel to and from high-risk countries with personal pet dogs.

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