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New Requirements for Dogs Without Proof of Rabies Vaccination Entering the US

The requirements for bringing your dog to the United States from another country are pretty simple … the dog must appear healthy, and you must prove that he or she received a rabies vaccination at least 30 days prior to your arrival – unless you’re traveling from a country that the US considers to be rabies-free, and then you don’t even need that!

People traveling with puppies too young to be vaccinated – or who weren’t able to prove their dog was adequately immunized for some other reason – could still enter the country, they just had to agree to have their pet vaccinated, keep him isolated from animals and people until the vaccination took effect, and muzzle and leash him if they took him outside his enclosure during that time – usually 30 days.

These confinement agreements were created so that travelers with pets wouldn’t be turned back at the border because their dog’s rabies vaccination wasn’t current, or their certificate wasn’t properly completed. However, the number of requests has increased significantly over the years. In 2006, just two dogs entered the country under this exception – by 2012, that number had jumped to 2,131. This year, 853 confinement agreements had already been issued as of June 27.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has authority over these regulations, and their goal is to prevent a dog infected with rabies from passing the disease to other animals or people. Seeing the increase in confinement agreements, they decided to launch an investigation to check whether people were abiding by the requirements. Not surprisingly, they found that many people were not. In the interest of protecting the public health, they implemented a new policy, which takes effect today.

Beginning on August 11, 2014, all requests for home confinement agreements need pre-approval and should be made by emailing the CDC at CDCAnimalImports@cdc.gov in preparation for your trip. After reviewing your individual circumstances, you’ll be notified in writing whether your case has been approved. If so, you’ll receive verification to provide at the border crossing. 

What this means for the majority of pet travelers is that you’ll need to double-check your dog’s vaccination certificate to be sure it meets the requirements before reaching the border – or your dog could be denied entry into the United States. For this purpose, a valid rabies vaccination certificate is one that has been issued for a dog not less than 3 months of age at the time of vaccination, and which:

  1. identifies a dog on the basis of breed, sex, age, color, markings, and other identifying information;
  2. specifies the date the rabies vaccination was administered, at least 30 days before the date of arrival of the dog at a U.S. port;
  3. specifies a date of expiration, which is after the date of arrival of the dog at a U.S. port; (If no date of expiration is specified, then the date of vaccination must be no more than 12 months before the date of arrival at a U.S. port.)
  4. bears the signature of a licensed veterinarian.

We’ve crossed the border many times with the dogs, and have never had any problems, but we’ll be taking a few extra minutes to verify that their documents are in order before our next visit outside the country. It’s not clear what will happen to dogs that are denied entry at the border … and we don’t want to find out with Ty and Buster!

If you have additional questions, you can read more about the new requirements for dogs entering the US, or contact Ashley A. Marrone, J.D., in the Division of Global Migration and Quarantine at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; 1600 Clifton Road NE, MS– E03, Atlanta, GA 30329; Telephone, 404–498–1600 for more information.

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