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CDC Proposes Changes to Dog Import Rules to Stop Rabies

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The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) wants to change dog import requirements to curb the spread of rabies. The updated proposal is the first of its kind in 70 years.

CDC pushes for new dog import requirements

According to CNN, the dog import guidelines were previously revised in 1956. Those updates set parameters around people bringing pets to the U.S. from countries that carry a high risk of rabies. After implementing the changes, rabies in dogs was “eliminated” in the U.S. in 2007. However, the disease is still prevalent in over 100 other countries.

According to the CDC, rabies kills approximately 59,000 people a year worldwide – the majority of them children bitten by dogs.

CNN states that “after entering the body – usually via the bite of an infected animal – the virus travels through the nerves to the brain, where it multiplies and causes inflammation. By the time it reaches the brain and symptoms appear, the disease is usually fatal.”

For those rabies cases that don’t end in death, treating the disease can be costly. In 2019, state governments spent over $400,000 to provide post-exposure treatment and to investigate the source of the rabies infections.

By updating the dog import guidelines, the CDC hopes to prevent rabies from returning to the U.S.

“The proposed updates aim to protect the public’s health by preventing the reintroduction of dog rabies into the United States,” said David Daigle, a CDC spokesperson. “These updates would establish an importation system designed to reduce fraud and improve the U.S. government’s ability to verify that imported dogs have met U.S. entry requirements.”

How the new updates would affect travelers

Under the new guidelines, dog parents entering the U.S. would need to provide written documentation that their pup lived in a “low-risk” environment for six months prior to entry to the U.S.

Things get trickier for dogs from the U.S. that travel to, then return from, countries with a high risk of rabies. They would have to travel through an airport with a special CDC quarantine station. Then, they would need to fill out a rabies vaccination form with a signature from a U.S. Department of Agriculture-approved veterinarian.

The new restrictions would be most stringent for dog parents who import pups from high-risk countries. and whose canine companions received the rabies vaccination in a country other than the U.S. Those dog parents would need to present a rabies vaccination form from a licensed veterinarian. Also, they need the signature of an official government veterinarian from the country where the dog received the vaccination. Upon arrival in the U.S., the dog would receive an examination and another rabies vaccination at an animal care facility registered with the CDC.

Backlash against CDC proposal

The public can share their thoughts about the guidelines online until Sept. 8. The CDC has a “submit a formal comment” button on its proposal for this purpose. Dog lovers and advocates are already voicing criticism.

On Monday, Animal Wellness Action called the agency’s proposal “draconian.” The group claimed the guidelines “will put Americans overseas at risk of losing their animals.” Furthermore, the organization said the rules would “terribly complicate” dog rescues that work overseas.

“We understand the important role pets play in our lives and that there are many health benefits to owning a pet,” Daigle said. “However, the close relationships between dogs and people means there is a direct public health risk to people who interact with inadequately vaccinated dogs imported from countries with high risk for dog rabies.”

Learn more about rabies in dogs, including symptoms, causes, and prevention. And make sure to vaccinate your dog, regardless of your travel habits!

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