NEW YORK (AP) – U.S. health officials on Monday announced a one-year ban on bringing dogs from more than 100 countries where rabies is still a problem.
Dogs coming from these countries already needed proof of rabies vaccination. The ban is imposed due to an increase in the number of puppies refused entry because they weren’t old enough to be fully vaccinated, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
The ban will take effect on July 14.
Douglas Kratt, president of the American Veterinary Medical Association, applauded the decision.
“We want to make sure we’re bringing healthy dogs into the country – especially if they’re going to be pets,” said Kratt, a veterinarian in La Crosse, Wisconsin.
The ban applies to dogs entering or returning to the country, including pets or those brought for sale or adoption. For example, if an American couple took their dog to Belize, they couldn’t bring it back to the United States unless the dog first spends six months in a country that is not at high risk for rabies.
About 1 million dogs are brought into the United States each year, and the ban is expected to apply at 4% to 7.5%, officials said. Exceptions will be made for certain situations, including guide dogs for the blind or strangers moving to the United States with their pets.
Most of the recently rejected dogs came from just three countries: Russia, Ukraine and Colombia. But many other denials have prompted the CDC to ban dogs from all countries where rabies risk is also high, said Emily Pieracci, CDC rabies expert.
Many of the refusals were due to fraudulent documents claiming the dogs were over 4 months old, Pieracci said. Dogs under 4 months of age are not allowed as rabies vaccines do not take full effect until a dog reaches that age.
Rabies is generally a fatal disease in animals and humans, caused by a virus that invades the central nervous system. It is most often spread by a bite from an infected animal. There is no cure once the symptoms start, but it can be prevented with vaccination.
Dogs were once common carriers of the virus in the United States, but the type that normally circulates in dogs was wiped out in the United States through vaccinations in the 1970s. In 1988, a new type of canine rabies was introduced. imported from Mexico. It spread to wild coyotes and took 19 years to eliminate it.
The cases in this second wave “underscore the impact that a single case of imported rabies can have on wildlife, pets and humans,” Pieracci said.
The demand for dogs is believed to have increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, with Americans looking for a furry company, Pieracci noted.
But some dog rabies vaccination programs had to be suspended or canceled during the pandemic, increasing the risk of bringing in a rabid dog, she added.
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