To keep US free of dog rabies, CDC proposes updates to dog import rules for the first time in 70 years

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For the first time in nearly 70 years, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is proposing changes to how dogs are imported into the US.

Revisiting the guidelines last revised in 1956, the proposed update introduces a new set of requirements for people seeking to bring pets from countries where there is a high risk of rabies.of CDC Although canine rabies was eradicated in the United States in 2007, the virus remains endemic in more than 100 countries, he said.

CDC spokesman David Daigle said, “The proposed update is intended to protect the health of the public by preventing the reintroduction of canine rabies into the United States.” “These updates establish an import system designed to reduce fraud and improve the U.S. government’s ability to verify that imported dogs meet U.S. entry requirements.”

Rabies in humans is rare in the United States, but the virus kills about 59,000 people worldwide each year, mostly in children bitten by dogs, according to the CDC. Exposure to infected dogs causes 99% of human rabies deaths worldwide.

rear come in Once inside the body, usually through the bite of an infected animal, the virus travels through nerves to the brain, where it multiplies and causes inflammation. By the time it reaches the brain and causes symptoms, the disease is usually fatal.

The CDC’s proposed regulations provide additional safeguards to prevent the introduction of rabies from abroad. For example, dogs from rabies-free or “low-risk” countries will be allowed entry if they show written documentation that the dog has been living in a low-risk environment for the past six months.

For dogs vaccinated in the United States and returning from countries with high rabies incidence, owners must take their dogs to an airport with a CDC quarantine station. A rabies vaccination form must also be completed and signed by a USDA-approved veterinarian.

The proposed update would place the greatest restrictions on those seeking to import dogs from high-risk countries that have been vaccinated abroad.

In such circumstances, the owner must have a valid rabies vaccination form completed by a licensed veterinarian and signed by an official veterinarian of the exporting country’s government. Once in the United States, dogs must be tested and revaccinated at a CDC-registered animal shelter.

CDC released guidelines for public comment online Until September 8th.

The policy the CDC wants to update includes rules for importing dogs and cats, but cats are not required to have proof of rabies vaccination, and the CDC changes will not affect the importation of cats. .

Rabies is a particularly expensive virus to treat.according to guidelinesIn 2019, when an infected dog was imported, it cost the state government more than $400,000 to investigate and implement post-exposure preventive treatment.

The update follows the CDC’s decision to extend the moratorium on importing dogs from more than 100 countries with high rabies risk until July 31, 2024. suspension It began in 2021 following an outbreak of rabies and infectious diseases in imported dogs. 52% The number of forged rabies vaccination certificates has increased rapidly.

With operations strained by the Covid-19 pandemic, government agencies have chosen to suspend the arrival of dogs that have traveled to either: 113 Countries considered to be at high risk for rabies in dogs, such as Brazil, China and India.

In addition to stricter vaccination verification and screening efforts, the proposed update would require all dogs entering the United States to be microchipped and be at least six months old and healthy upon arrival. I’m here.

However, the proposed limit presents challenges.

In a statement on Monday, animal rights group Animal Wellness Action denounced the agency’s proposal as “harsh” and said the guidelines “put Americans abroad at risk of losing their animals” and warned that dogs abroad are safe. It said it could “make things very complicated” for US charities working with.

In 2021, a letter signed by 57 US representatives also called on the CDC to lift its ban on importing dogs from high-risk countries, arguing that the policy would “prevent thousands of dogs from getting infected” approach,” he said. … was rescued and adopted. ”

But the CDC insists the proposal is important to prevent rabies from recurring.

“We understand that pets play an important role in our lives and that having a pet has many health benefits,” Daigle said. “However, the close relationship between dogs and humans means that there is a direct public health risk for people coming into contact with undervaccinated dogs imported from countries with a high risk of canine rabies. increase.”

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