Buying or adopting a dog from overseas has just gotten harder for Americans. U.S. health officials have announced a one year ban on importing dogs from 113 countries effective on July 14, 2021.
The ban comes after an increased number of falsified rabies vaccination certificates have been used to bring dogs into the United States.
Countries included in the ban are China, Brazil, Russia, India, Syria, Kenya among others. A full list can be seen on the CDC’s website.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) noted that there had been a 52% increase in fraudulent rabies certificates in 2020 from a year earlier, concerning health authorities that rabies could be inadvertently introduced into the population. Rabies has been virtually eliminated in the United States. However, countries such as India and China have high instances of rabies in their stray dog populations. India alone has around 20,000 human deaths from rabies each year.
COVID-19 has created a high demand for dogs, with many prospective pet parents looking to adopt dogs or purchase puppies. But with long waiting lists from breeders and some shelters and rescues low in adoptable pets, Americans may be looking overseas to find their pets.
Dr. Emily Pieracci, who is a rabies expert at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) told NPR, “There is a possibility that there may be a correlation between empty shelters here driving an increased demand to purchase puppies overseas.”
Unscrupulous puppy breeders (usually large scale puppy mill operators), often falsify puppy health certificates to circumvent health checks. Poorer countries may also forego the necessary rabies testing and vaccination protocols, which is leading to an increased risk of rabies entering into the U.S., a situation the CDC wants to avoid.
It’s a difficult situation for legitimate animal welfare organizations such as SPCA International and other rescue organizations that look to find forever homes with Americans.
“While we understand the need to keep animals in the U.S. safe, we are concerned that this move will penalize responsible pet owners who adopt rescued animals from other countries,” Meredith Ayan, the executive director of SPCA International, told NPR. “It will also cause a large number of otherwise healthy animals living abroad to be surrendered and potentially euthanized if they can’t travel to the U.S. to their adoptive owners. The U.S. already has strict quarantine and rabies vaccination procedures in place that have proved highly effective for many years in keeping animals in the U.S. safe from rabies and which we encourage the CDC to keep enforcing.”
But Pieracci said that the restricted countries only account for roughly 6% of all the dogs imported annually. Exceptions will also be considered if an individual requests advanced written approval.
Special permits will be needed for dogs who have lived or traveled abroad with their families and are returning to the U.S. from any of the high-risk countries. See details for obtaining permits on the CDC website.
There are plenty of dogs in the USA still looking for loving homes. Shelters with fewer adoptable animals have begun bringing pets in from crowded, more remote shelters in order to give the animals a better chance of being adopted. Be sure to check with your local rescue groups and animal shelters!