Rabies has been eliminated in dogs born in the United States since 2007, but there is growing concern that importing dogs from across the world could spread the disease in an uncontrollable fashion.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) announced a temporary suspension of dog importations from about 100 countries worldwide. The CDC may make rare exceptions, with written consent, to bring dogs from those countries.
These high-risk countries have a high incidence of rabies in dogs and have less stringent regulatory programs than the United States.
Dog rabies was eliminated in the United States in 2007, and the temporary restrictions will help us avoid reintroduction. Rabies is a disease that can transfer from dogs to humans. It’s important to note that for both animals and humans, rabies is fatal.
Many dogs across the world have falsified health certificates or aren’t immunized against rabies, which poses a great risk in reintroducing the disease we fought so hard to eliminate. Over the last year, the U.S. has seen an increase of imported dogs being turned away due to insufficient or falsified vaccination records, or possible exposure to rabies. The change in regulations will make it less likely that rabid animals are allowed to enter the U.S.
Nearly 60,000 people die from rabies every year around the world, and approximately 5,000 animal rabies cases are reported annually to the CDC. Around 90 percent of those animals are wild. Animals that most commonly show rabies infections include bats, raccoons, skunks, and foxes.
Before entering or re-entering the United States with a dog, importers should continue to check other federal regulations, as well as rabies vaccination requirements of state and local governments at their final destination.
The biggest concern is animal-to-human transfer, which could happen after a well-intentioned family adopts a dog that was imported from one of these high-risk countries.
The best thing we can do is make sure our pets are up-to-date on their vaccinations and adopt animals from local, well-respected shelters that have their own animal health programs, including veterinary care by veterinarians licensed in Washington. Read more about ‘what to know’ when rescuing a pet.
By Dr. Brian Joseph, State Veterinarian, Washington State Dept. of Agriculture
Posted June 25, 2021