CDC warns of flawed rabies certificates

Published on June 18, 2014
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Federal officials have warned that the U.S. could be seeing an increasing number of dogs entering the country without proper rabies vaccination.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a May 27 health alert to veterinarians that the agency has received an increasing number of anecdotal reports about dogs imported with questionable or inaccurate rabies vaccination certificates.

The rising number of reports within the past two years have come from U.S. Customs and Border Protection as well as state and local health and agriculture departments, said Benjamin N. Haynes, a spokesman for the CDC. The CDC is developing a study of imported dogs to determine what proportion have questionable certificates.

The CDC’s May health alert cites instances in which importers provided documents that stated the arriving dogs were older than 4 months and immunized against rabies, but those dogs were as young as 4 weeks. Other importers have provided false birth location or breed registration information.

The reports given to the CDC indicate the dogs have come from rabies-endemic countries on at least four continents, Haynes said.

The CDC has received no reports of confirmed rabies among dogs that have entered the country accompanied by documents stating they were vaccinated against rabies, he said.

“It is possible that some dogs in the United States that die from rabies might not be recognized as having been imported because their owners might not have been informed about the origin of the dogs before obtaining them,” Haynes said. “Additionally, some dogs that die from rabies may have been misdiagnosed; in some cases, rabies infection does not follow the typical presentation and can be mistaken for other diseases, such as severe gastrointestinal disease that results in death.”