CDC : The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is recommending a significant update to the laws governing the importation of dogs as a significant step to stop the resurgence of dog rabies in the United States. These suggested changes, whose most recent revision was made in 1956, are meant to address the dangers involved in bringing pets from nations with a high rabies prevalence. Although dog rabies was successfully eradicated in the US in 2007, the virus is still prevalent in more than 100 countries around the world.
The Need for Stricter Guidelines
The primary objective of the proposed updates is to safeguard public health and prevent the reintroduction of dog rabies into the United States. CDC spokesperson David Daigle underscores the importance of these changes, stating that they seek to establish an importation system that reduces fraud and enhances the government’s ability to verify compliance with US entry requirements for imported dogs.
Understanding the Impact of Dog Rabies
Although there aren’t many cases of human rabies in the US, the virus kills about 59,000 people annually around the world, mostly children who have been bitten by infected dogs. 99% of all rabies-related deaths in humans worldwide are caused by dog bites. Once the virus has entered the body through an animal bite, it moves through the nerves to the brain where it causes inflammation and, by the time symptoms appear, a fatal outcome.
Key Changes Proposed by the CDC
The CDC’s proposed regulations introduce additional safeguards to prevent the importation of rabies from overseas. For instance, dogs from rabies-free or low-risk countries would be allowed entry with written documentation proving that they have resided in such areas for at least six months.
Owners of dogs with rabies vaccinations in the US who are traveling to or returning from nations with a high rabies incidence would need to bring their animals to a CDC quarantine station at an authorized airport. The US Department of Agriculture-approved veterinarian‘s completed and signed rabies vaccination form would also be required to be presented.
The most stringent requirements apply to individuals seeking to import dogs from high-risk countries who have also been vaccinated abroad. In these cases, owners must provide a valid rabies vaccination form completed by a licensed veterinarian and signed by an official government veterinarian in the exporting country. Once in the US, the dogs would undergo examination and revaccination at a CDC-registered animal care facility
Public Input and Impact
Stakeholders can voice their opinions and concerns about the suggested changes by commenting on the proposed guidelines online until September 8 as the CDC has done. Although the CDC’s updates only apply to dog imports and cats are not required to provide proof of rabies vaccination for cats, it is important to note that the current policy covers the importation of both dogs and cats.
The Financial and Temporal Costs
The economic impact of rabies can be substantial. According to the guidelines, the importation of an infected dog in 2019 incurred costs exceeding $400,000 for state governments to investigate and administer post-exposure prophylaxis treatment.
Context and Recent Measures
These updates come in the wake of the CDC’s decision to extend the temporary suspension of dog imports from over 100 high-risk countries until July 31, 2024. This suspension was enacted in response to cases of imported dog rabies and a significant rise in falsified rabies vaccination certificates. The CDC, grappling with the challenges posed by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, prioritized public safety by temporarily halting the arrival of dogs from 113 countries with a high risk of dog rabies, including Brazil, China, and India.
In addition to stricter vaccination verification and screening efforts, the proposed guidelines require all dogs entering the US to be microchipped, at least 6 months old, and in good health upon arrival.
Challenges and Concerns
The proposed restrictions have faced criticism and challenges from various quarters. The animal rights advocacy group Animal Wellness Action has condemned the CDC’s proposal as “draconian,” expressing concerns that the guidelines could jeopardize the well-being of Americans living overseas and complicate charitable initiatives involving dogs from abroad. Similarly, a letter signed by 57 US representatives urged the CDC to lift the suspension of canine imports from high-risk countries, asserting that the policy could hinder rescue and adoption efforts.
Commitment to Public Health
Despite the criticisms, the CDC stands firm in its commitment to protecting public health and preventing the reintroduction of rabies. CDC spokesperson David Daigle emphasizes the inherent risks associated with inadequately vaccinated dogs from high-risk regions and emphasizes the importance of these proposed guidelines in mitigating those risks.
To sum up, the CDC’s proposed stricter importation regulations for dogs represent a proactive effort to stop the resurgence of dog rabies in the United States. The CDC wants to safeguard the public’s health and reduce the risk of rabies transmission by tightening importation regulations and verification procedures.