On Monday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that it will be prohibiting dogs from 113 countries from entering the United States over concerns of a potential increase in rabies in the country.
The new measure will take effect on July 14, the CDC noted. In an announcement, the agency said that it will be temporarily suspending bringing dogs into the country from “countries classified by CDC as high risk for dog rabies,” and “countries that are NOT at high risk if the dogs have been in high-risk countries during the previous 6 months.”
The CDC estimated that “6% of all dogs imported into the Unites States arrive from countries at high risk for dog rabies. Inadequately vaccinated dogs are not protected against rabies and are a public health threat.” The banned countries included India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, China, and Russia.
It added that rabies is a fatal disease in animals and humans, “and the importation of even one rabid dog could result in transmission to humans, pets, and wildlife.” The agency noted that dogs from countries that have been specified as “high-risk” can come into the country with the agency’s advance written approval in the form of a “CDC Dog Import Permit,” but no appeals will be permitted.
“We’re doing this to make sure that we protect the health and safety of dogs that are imported into the United States, as well as protect the public’s health,” Dr. Emily Pieracci of the CDC told NPR.
Pieracci said that along with a spike in dog adoptions sparked by the stay-at-home orders and coronavirus pandemic, there were more cases where dogs came into the United States who had fraudulent or falsified rabies documents. “During 2020, the CDC discovered more than 450 dogs arriving in the U.S. with falsified or fraudulent rabies certificates, a 52% increase compared with the previous two years, she says,” per NPR.
“Early on in the pandemic, the shelters were reporting record-low numbers because everybody was adopting pandemic puppies. And so there is a possibility that there may be a correlation between empty shelters here driving an increased demand to purchase puppies overseas,” she said.
She noted that the high demand for dogs might have encouraged breeders to go around the system, particularly in areas that were dealing with the coronavirus pandemic and not doing as good of a job at staying on top of their vaccination efforts against rabies.
“Given the impact that COVID has had on vaccination programs around the world, we’re not sure what the rabies landscape is going to look like in the future. But we are definitely concerned that there could be an increased risk of importing a rabid dog,” she said.
According to the CDC, 25 cases of human rabies have been reported in the United States between the years 2009-2018. “Seven of these infections were acquired outside of the U.S. and its territories,” the agency noted.
The increase in pet adoptions during the pandemic led to reports that some people were taking their dogs back to the adoption centers once the world began to reopen, but according to reporting by The New York Times, fewer have been returned than was originally assumed.
The Times noted that in April, there was an increase in pet returns of almost 80% when compared with April 2020, according to PetPoint. “But many shelters curtailed operations in April 2020, meaning fewer pets could be returned that month. And the numbers were still well below the 20,289 dogs that were surrendered in April 2019, before the coronavirus upended life and commerce,” the outlet reported.
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