AVMA resource helps decode new dog importation rules

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Short-haired dog

Are you prepared for the new federal importation regulations that take effect August 1 for all dogs entering and re-entering the United States? A new AVMA resource breaks down the most common questions to help you assist clients.

What are the new requirements?

The new requirements from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) aim to help protect animal and public health and dog welfare. The country is currently free of canine rabies—the dog-mediated variant of the rabies virus—and the CDC wants to keep it that way.

Small image of AVMA resource on 2024 dog importation requirements

Beginning August 1, all dogs entering or re-entering the country must meet all of the following requirements:

  • Be healthy 
  • Be at least 6 months old 
  • Have an International Organization for Standardization (ISO)-compatible microchip (implanted prior to the required rabies vaccination) 
  • Have a CDC Dog Import Form receipt 
  • Have government-endorsed documentation of their vaccine and/or travel history

Dogs in certain situations—for example, foreign-vaccinated dogs coming from countries at high risk for canine rabies—face additional requirements for entry. 

The new requirements apply at all ports of entry: land, air, and sea. They depend on where the dog was vaccinated against rabies, where it has been in the 6 months before U.S. entry or re-entry, and which forms of documentation the importer has chosen to provide.

While responsibility for complying with the new rules falls on those importing the dogs, veterinarians have an important role to play by helping clients fulfill these requirements. For U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)-accredited veterinarians, this includes completing and certifying the Certification of U.S.-issued Rabies Vaccination form.

Get answers to your questions

The AVMA is collaborating with the CDC and USDA to help veterinarians prepare for and understand the changes. The new AVMA resource answers common questions about the new importation requirements—including the rationale behind them.

Download now

If you’re planning to attend AVMA Convention 2024 this weekend in Austin, you can pick up a copy of the new resource, along with other practical handouts, at the AVMA Pavilion in the exhibit hall. You also won’t want to miss these two CE sessions related to the new rules:

  • “Animal Transportation—Who Regulates What and How Can We Help Each Other to Improve the Health and Wellbeing of Animals During Transportation” takes place Monday, June 24, at 8 a.m. in room 10AB of the Austin Convention Center. Dr. Dawn Fitzhugh from the USDA and Dr. Sheena Tarrant from the CDC will provide an overview of the different federal agencies involved in regulating animal transportation, and how veterinarians can advise clients to best prepare pets for travel by ground or air.
  • “Know the Rules for Bringing a Dog into the United States in 2024” follows at 9 a.m. in the same location. Dr. Tarrant will provide step-by-step instructions for U.S. veterinarians to help clients travel internationally with their dogs and return safely back home. 

CDC officials also will discuss the new rules in a webinar for USDA-accredited veterinarians
on June 27. The webinar will be recorded for later viewing. 
 

Comments

ERIC J PEARSON, DVM
June 21, 2024 Permalink

IMPORTATION OF DOGS FROM RABIES-FREE COUNTRIES

DOGS IMPORTED FROM RABIES-FREE COUNTRIES SUCH AS AUSTRALIA AND N.Z. SHOULD NOT BE REQUIRED TO BE 6 MONTHS OF AGE. PUPPIES FROM RABIES-FREE COUNTRIES SHOULD BE EXEMPT!!! I IMPORTED A 3 MONTH OLD PUG PUPPY FROM AUSTRALIA TO HONOLULU LAST YEAR, SPENDING $2K ON THE VETERINARY EXAMS, GOVERNMENT DOCUMENTS, AN D IMPORTATION PAPERS. THE 6 MONTH AGE REQUIREMENT IS TOTALLY UNNECESSARY AND SHOULD IMMEDIATELY BE CHANGED.

Puppy Importation

This regulation is not very useful if someone is purchasing a puppy from a breeder in Canada. Who can possibly keep your puppy for six months? And properly train to your requirements. I feel it needs more thought than a blanket 6 month approach.

puppy importation

What was AVMAs role in guiding CDC on these new rules? Wild canids still carry rabies in oir country (fox, coyote) so we are not a rabies free country anyway.
What is the logic in the 6 month age rule? This makes little sense from a disease prevention standpoint and will cause otherwise ethical breeders to find illegal means to transport puppies into the USA.
Breed fanciers have long relied on importing puppies to improve genetics or simply to have a morr competitive animal. The 6 mo age requirement needs to be dropped or at least amended to those cointries that have active canine rabies.
The cost for anyone traveling with their pet oit of the USA (whether for pleasure or competiton) will now escalate due to the need for additional official paperwork prior to travel. With the current vet shortsge, even getting an appointment is difficult!

PUPPY IMPORTATION FROM CANADA

We have acquired our last two golden retriever dogs (as puppies) from a breeder in Ontario. In addition, I recommended this breeder to at least 5 clients who purchased puppies from them. From here on, none of this will be possible. If a reputable breeder can somehow prove that a litter was born on their property in Canada (or Mexico), then there is no reason that pups from that litter cannot be sold and brought into the US before 6 months of age. No breeder is going to keep the litter members until 6 months and no prospective purchaser will look to miss out on the enjoyment and experience of raising a puppy. Wonder if the AKC or some US based organization had influenced this decision, eliminating the chance to purchase a Canadian pup and forcing people to buy from American breeders. Truly think that an exclusion for border countries should be instituted!

Travel with dog from USA to Canada and back

I recently attempted to navigate this ocean of bureaucracy for some clients and it only ended in exasperation. My hospital will no longer offer "health certificates."

Bringing dog back from Canada

I'm not a vet. I called CDC and found telephone menu to be useful.
Lynn, the rep who spent 30 minutes with me helping me figure out what to do and what NOT to do gave me enough running start to talk to our vet.
Good Old Days of gov't health and rabies certificates are over. In 50 years, we never were asked for either at either border.
But why, suddenly, dogs?
This isn't the old days when I had to quarantine my Belgian Shepherd entering England: Six months.
Ben

Geneva Keene Acor, DVM, MS
June 27, 2024 Permalink

CDC Canine Importation Rules

Why CDC? The USDA with Accredited Veterinarians and check points at import locations have managed this just fine as well has having the import document already in use. So one dog comes in and becomes rabies positive and this justifies a new procedure with duplicate procedures. This is a power grab by a bureaucracy that did not demonstrate good management in human diseases. This should not have been approved and should be rescinded.

CDC authority to enact dog importation rules

CDC's authority and regulations govern the importation of animals and animal products capable of causing disease in humans. So, USDA's authority is for animal health, while CDC's authority is for human health. Zoonotic diseases cross their authorities/responsibilities.
CDC worked collaboratively with USDA in developing the regulations.

"To more closely align with…

"To more closely align with the World Organisation for Animal Health standards for the international movement of dogs".
More red tape. More paperwork. More time. More expense. To fix something that wasn't broken.

New Regulation a Problem for Casual Visitors from Canada to US

I literally just found about this changed regulation two days ago (28 June 2024.) I spend summers on Campobello Island, NB, with my dog. Campobello is just across the border from Maine. I cross weekly if not more often from Canada into the US. I just now saw a note taped to the US border station window about the dog import rule. I asked about it, and the agent was a little unsure about process, etc. but guided me to the CDC site. Here's my situation: My dog has a current rabies vax from New Mexico but is not microchipped. (She is 7 years old.) She has gone back and forth over the years. Now I am told, with just 4 weeks left, that she needs a new vax plus the microchip before August 1st! I am having trouble locationg a vet nearby that has microchips -- apparently they are in short supply. Why is there not an exception or a transition period that will allow me more time to get my pet chipped? It's really ridiculous, and I am worried that my dog will need to be quarantined for a long period or left behind. I understand the need, but there really should be a grace period!

Dogs already in Canada but from the US

We have elderly dogs that are vaccinated and have entered Canada but will not be coming back before August 1st. There are no vets with in 100 miles round trip and the one that we did contact that is 100 miles round. Trip is in the United States and has no microchips as they are in short supply. This is insane and we do not know how we will bring our dogs back in October to the US. We are seasonal residents and must leave the island as our 6 months will be up but maybe our pet dogs will be left on the island as they don't have the proper paperwork. This insanity of this is crazy... !

Gail Golab, PhD, DVM, MANZCVS, DACAW
July 06, 2024 Permalink

CDC rationale for six-month age requirement

In its final rule, CDC provided its rationale as follows for the at least six-months of age requirement.

The agency stated that they wanted to ensure that 1) imported dogs are old enough to be vaccinated for rabies; 2) the vaccination has time to be effective and confer immunity on the dog; 3) protection is verifiable; and 4) (in the case of importation from high-risk countries) there is an appropriate waiting period after drawing the titer to ensure the dog does not develop clinical signs of rabies. CDC indicates it has documented cases of importers moving dogs too young to be vaccinated effectively from DMRVV high-risk countries to DMRVV-free or DMRVV low-risk countries to avoid rabies vaccination requirements. Therefore, CDC is also requiring that dogs from DMRVV-free or DMRVV low-risk countries also be at least six months old.

The World Organization for Animal Health (WOAH) has established vaccine and titer standards and set seven months as the minimum age for importation of dogs from DMRVV high-risk countries. Countries following WOAH standards do not allow entry of dogs younger than seven months if following vaccine and titer timeline recommendations. Many rabies vaccines are licensed for use in dogs on or after 12 weeks of age and laboratories suggest titer collection occur 30 days after initial rabies vaccination. WOAH's standards call for importation to occur a minimum of 90 days after titer collection (i.e., their earliest age for importation is seven months of age). The CDC indicates its final rule departs from the WOAH standard to provide additional flexibility and less burden to importers without compromising public health goals. Based on available scientific evidence, CDC concluded that a 30-day waiting period (rather than WOAH's 90-day waiting period) between titer collection and travel is sufficient for monitoring the dog to ensure it does not develop signs of rabies.

CDC says it also established a six-month age requirement for all dogs because it can be difficult for veterinarians to determine with specificity whether a dog has reached the age at which it can be fully protected by the rabies vaccine before six months of age. Veterinarians rely on dental patterns to age dogs. However, it is difficult to accurately assess the age of dogs that are between four and six months old due to variability in an individual dog’s dental eruption patterns. Dogs lose all their deciduous teeth by six months of age making it easier to accurately assess the age of a dog. CDC has documented over 1000 cases of importers providing vaccine records that falsely stated the dog was over six months of age, but upon examination, the dog presented was much younger (often 6-8 weeks of age). Because the rabies vaccine is not considered effective in dogs under 12 weeks of age, these puppies were not protected against rabies and presented a threat to the families that purchased or adopted them. By requiring all dogs to be at least six months of age, CDC indicates it can better confirm that the dog presented matches the documentation presented, particularly the age listed for the dog, and that the dog is old enough to have been adequately vaccinated for rabies.

CDC states that setting the minimum age for importation below six months would undermine the ability of authorities to ensure dogs are fully, effectively, and verifiably vaccinated. A 12- or 16-week age requirement for importation would require potentially compromising the full 28-day development of immunity and/or risk importation of a rabid dog because screening fully for signs of rabies was not done. Screening for rabies can be difficult in puppies because they can often exhibit dyskinetic or uncoordinated movement as part of their normal growth and development. These awkward movements can also be seen in rabid dogs and may be mistaken in young puppies for normal movement patterns. Contrary to some common misconceptions, puppies are susceptible to rabies and rabies has been diagnosed in young puppies.

USDA already prohibits the importation of dogs under six months of age for commercial purposes, which includes transfer of ownership. CDC’s age requirement is aligning with a currently existing regulatory requirement from a partner Federal agency. CDC’s requirement is not new and therefore, there is no new or additional burden on commercial dog importations (i.e., dogs imported for rescue, resale, or transfer of ownership). Additionally, CDC notes that a six-month age requirement aligns more closely with WOAH requirements for the international movement of dogs and that 67% of DMRVV-free countries require dogs to be at least six months of age for importation.

Aruba’s Puppies will suffer

Aruba is rabies-free but now all the rescues there are scrambling. Many rescue puppies fly home with tourists. That will end in August. This is terrible. My heart breaks for all the dogs who end up in kill cages.

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