Dog import rule would dramatically impact rescue work and people traveling with pups

By Kitty Block and Sara Amundson

By on August 7, 2023 with 13 Comments

After Hurricane Irma struck in 2017, we responded to the British Virgin Islands where the storm had caused terrible devastation. Many people were forced to evacuate the island, but it was difficult to find transport for their animals. So, after providing the dogs required veterinary care, we flew these dogs, as well as unowned dogs, to the U.S. where they could be reunited with their owners or placed for adoption in cases where reunification wasn’t possible.

It was an honor to be able to help dogs and their families in the face of such devastation, and it was a powerful example of the great good that we are able to do in emergency situations worldwide. Our international rescue work saves dogs from desperate situations around the world, such as shuttering dog meat farms in South Korea and flying rescued dogs to the U.S. to find them homes, or sparing animals from the butcher’s knife in a dog meat market and putting them on the path to adoption.

But a new policy being considered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention could severely impact such efforts, while also complicating the lives of individuals with pets and rescues. While well-intentioned in aiming to prevent the spread of zoonotic disease, the proposed rule is misguided in its requirements and in the logistics of its implementation.

The CDC is proposing to amend its regulations on dog imports, impacting rescue operations, as well as people traveling internationally with their dogs.

Currently, the CDC regulates dog imports under a temporary rule, which applies to dogs who are imported into the U.S. from countries deemed to be high risk for canine rabies. Now, the proposed new rule greatly expands these regulations by creating requirements for dogs imported into the U.S. from all foreign countries—not just high-risk rabies countries. It also requires importers to submit a CDC import form prior to travel, and the rule does not clarify if CDC staff need to review and approve forms for dogs coming from non-high risk rabies countries, or if an automatic clearance is granted.

Oppose the CDC dog import rule!

Submitting an import form prior to travel, on its face, seems like an easy requirement. However, our experience with the CDC’s current system reveals a two-month turn-around time for imports of dogs from countries categorized as high risk for canine rabies. Other agencies with comparable e-filing systems yield similar slow response times for form processing, creating a paperwork clog that is unrealistic for people traveling with pets and rescue groups organizing time-sensitive missions. We are concerned about the agency’s ability to process this required paperwork in a timely fashion, especially since it proposes to dramatically increase its regulatory volume by requiring all imported dogs to have an import form prior to travel, and not just dogs imported from high-risk rabies countries.

A key concern is that the proposed rule requires importers show documentation that their dog has not been in a high-risk rabies country for six months before arriving in the U.S., regardless of the country the dog is being imported from. The proposal fails to provide guidance on how a person should prove that.

Any dogs denied admission into the U.S. must be returned to the country where they came from within 72 hours. Requiring proof of a dog’s whereabouts for six months is especially problematic for rescue dogs or dogs adopted by Americans overseas.

For example, in the case of our Hurricane Irma disaster response, we had no way to gather “proof” that these animals had been on the island, a rabies-free country, for six months. Yet without allowing these dogs into the U.S., these animals and their families would not have been reunited and unowned animals would have been left to their own devices, as the only animal shelter on the island was destroyed. By including this poorly worded provision in the proposed regulation, rescue organizations offering lifesaving aid and people traveling with their dogs, including therapy dogs, personal pets, and government officials and military families returning from deployment, could have their dogs sent back to the country of export, all at the expense of the importer.

We are committed to using rigorous health and vaccination practices so that we can transport dogs to our shelter and rescue partners that secure adoptive homes for them in the U.S. We do not have to choose between maintaining public safety and saving animals’ lives if there are reliable and realistic health and vaccination practices in place. We can proactively prevent zoonotic disease spread in the U.S. and aid in the global eradication of rabies while also allowing animal welfare organizations to responsibly save dogs across the world and letting people travel safely with their trusted companions.

Take action and tell the CDC that you oppose these changes to the dog import rule.

Sara Amundson is president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund.

Companion Animals, Public Policy (Legal/Legislative)

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  1. David Bernazani says:

    Can’t they make exceptions to the rules for rescues? I’m in favor of limiting imports of dogs, for many reasons. So I’m torn on this one.

  2. Gloria says:

    This is insanity! It is already a terrible struggle for rescuers to do their life saving work with all the restrictions,etc.without making it worse and more animals will die without help.What can we do to stop this?

  3. Alice Paeglow says:

    I think this terrible and very unfair. This is impossible to figure all of this out. Most of the animals are alright and sending them back to fend on there own is down right CRUEL..The poor animals that are scheduled for the meat market is worst than HERENDOUS..I can’t you how MUCH I DESPISE THOSE EVIL PEOPLE.
    People should be able to get there pets back
    from other countries. Also people should be able to travel with there pets to other countries . I OPPOSE STRONGLY WHAT THEY WANT TO DO. IT IS WRONG!!

    • Debra J. Fidler says:

      Exactly. A lot of dogs and cats are stolen from the US by underground black market and sent to S Korea to be used for food. When a rescue , people, organizations trying I save them ( this doesn’t happen right away, it takes time to turn a no into a yes) to the meat market owners to get then to plant seeds instead or they are paid off so the dogs and cats can be released back to the US. Now your saying they can’t come home or will there be an addendums? They need to come back to their home in the US.

  4. Molly Sweeney says:

    Signed and Shared

  5. Cheryl says:

    The cdc would ensure the death of millions of dogs – for what reason?? Chance of rabies? They already need rabies protection to get here , I don’t see the point for this… we have dogs in this country with no protection at all…. Let’s give these poor pups a chance at a loving home… I just rescued a chi/min pin who had been living on the streets….she is a handful, but she chose me, and I’m glad she did!!!!

  6. Wanda Brown says:

    Rhe cdc just wants the excuse to use the dogs or animals as lab rats for research or any deem excuse plausible for their own purposes make rules which are nonsense and just because they can they must be stop with this abuse

  7. Susan Jacobson says:

    This proposed ruling from the CDC is absolutely ridiculous!! What about people who need emotional support animals and travel out of the country?! What then? I can’t believe they want to kill so many innocent animals!! This is so evil and unnecessary

  8. Frances Doyle says:

    We need to STOP bringing in dogs from other countries. Just look at the new dog flu and shelters that have had to close because of illnesses that we have never had before. Parvo came from China in the 1978-1980 and it kills so many puppies here since it came. Now we’re loosing dogs and puppies to these new diseases. We have to take care of our own ! No need to bring in dogs from other countries. We have so many here already that are being killed because they have no homes !

    • Jane Lowrance says:

      Completely agree. I think the planned ruling will help quell this crazy impulse to save everything outside the country and get rescues to focus on our problems at home.

    • Juanita Adamick says:

      There are tons of dogs in shelters in the US. But they would rather keep them in a shelter than let a great family adopt just because they don’t have a fenced in yard!! The shelter doesn’t care if you have 100 acres. They want that stupid fence or would rather keep the dog in a shelter. Doesn’t make sense to me.

  9. Tasha Drake says:

    I’m sorry but it is true dogs from other countries do bring disease that’s unknown to the USA. I know people love animals and they’re trying to help but there is a new type of form of disease call pneumonia. It started it’s in Oregon it’s in California the animals are healthy and all of a sudden they cough twice and they drop to the ground. Some veterinarians are thinking it’s just contain at my veterinarian clinic but it’s not and the animals need oxygen tank immediately to survive it I don’t know if they live after the oxygen tank or not but I agree with the gentleman that said we don’t need to bring dogs from other countries because they have diseases that are unknown to the USA. I hope everybody heard this and I hope everybody that’s trying to bring animals and bring them to homes in the United States understand that you were jeopardizing the United States animals to new diseases that we can lose a lot of animals that are important also to a to a handicap person that has emotional support from animals. Hello please listen and please please let’s get this done the correct way not the wrong way to hurt to the USA or to heart are the countries to do the right thing for the animals on both sides and I do think that animals from overseas should not come because we can’t check for this invisible disease which is called pneumonia. At this time. You can see more information on this to the Asher a SHER house on YouTube. He takes care of 57 rescue animals from America and all of a sudden this started happening just I guess two days ago immediately filmed it and he lost two or three dogs already and he’s got quite a few dogs in the hospital with oxygen tech. He had to run to another county so he could find more oxygen tanks for his dogs that were sick so this is the result of bringing animals from overseas and not being able to see the invisible disease they’re caring please please don’t be stubborn we’ve got to understand to be responsible adults .

    • Blog Editor says:

      Hi Tasha, thanks for your big heart towards animals! Humane Society International steps it up when moving dogs to the U.S. and other countries. We don’t just meet the legal requirements, but we also ensure the dogs are healthy and safe. When we shut down a dog meat farm in South Korea, our staff visit with our Korean veterinarian and provide essential vaccinations (rabies, DHPP, canine coronavirus), microchipping, and test for canine influenza, also treating parasites. For 30-days before their big journey, our staff in Korea stays in contact with the farmer and visits the farm, ensuring the dogs are okay, and shifts any needing extra care to another place. Once that month is up, it’s flight time! The pups either head to our care and rehabilitation centers in Canada and/or the U.S. or directly to Shelter and Rescue Partners. When they touch down, the dogs get more health checks, booster shots, a Bordetella vaccine, another round of deworming and are further tested for a variety of infectious diseases including heartworm and tick-borne diseases. And of course, before finding their forever home, a vet checks them out to make sure they’re all set for adoption.

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