Are you traveling to the USA with dogs? New CDC rules you’ll have to follow

Under new government regulations released Wednesday, all dogs entering the U.S. from other countries must be at least 6 months old and have a microchip to prevent the spread of rabies.

The new regulations require vaccination of dogs that have been in countries where rabies is common. The update applies to dogs brought in by breeders or rescue groups, as well as pets traveling with their owners from the US.

“This new regulation will address the current challenges we face,” said Emily Pieracci, a rabies expert at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who helped draft the updated regulations.

On Wednesday, the CDC placed the new rules in the Federal Register. They will go into effect on August 1, when the temporary order expires for 2021. The order suspended imports of dogs from more than 100 countries where rabies is still a problem.

The new regulations require all dogs imported into the U.S. to be at least 6 months old and old enough to be vaccinated, if necessary, and for the shots to work; have a microchip under the skin with a code enabling verification of rabies vaccination; and you have completed the new CDC import form.

Additional restrictions and requirements may apply depending on where the dog has been in the past six months, which may include blood testing at CDC-approved laboratories.

CDC regulations were last updated in 1956, and a lot has changed, Pieracci said. More and more people are traveling abroad with their pets, and more rescue groups and breeders are establishing operations abroad to meet the demand for pets, she added. Currently, approximately 1 million dogs enter the United States each year.

Dogs were once common carriers of the rabies virus in the U.S., but the type that normally occurs in dogs was eliminated through vaccination in the 1970s. The virus attacks the central nervous system and is usually a fatal disease in animals and humans. It is most often spread by the bite of an infected animal. Once symptoms appear, there is no cure.

Four rabid dogs have been identified as entering the United States since 2015, and officials feared more could enter. CDC officials also saw an increase in incomplete or false rabies vaccination certificates, and an increasing number of puppies were denied entry because they were not old enough to be fully vaccinated.

Last year, the draft of the updated regulations was met with a number of public comments.

Angela Passman, owner of a Dallas company that helps people transport animals abroad, supports the new rules. This can be especially difficult for families who buy or adopt a dog abroad and then try to bring it to the United States, she added. The update marks a slight change from the way things have been handled in recent years, she added.

“It’s more work for the pet owner, but the end result is good,” said Passman, a board member of the International Pet and Pet Transportation Association.

Jennifer Skiff, however, said some of the changes were unjustified and too costly. He works for Animal Wellness Action, a Washington-based animal cruelty prevention group that helps organizations import animals. She said these groups were working with diplomats and military personnel who had trouble meeting the requirements, which was the reason some owners were forced to abandon their dogs.