Story at a glance

  • The CDC issued a yearlong moratorium on importing adopted dogs from overseas.
  • Public health officials cited a spike in rabies cases.
  • Dogs are banned from countries that are both low and high risk for rabies under the new policy.

Officials at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced a new yearlong ban on importing dogs from more than 100 countries after a nationwide spike in rabies. 

The agency announced on Monday that due to the dramatic increase in pet adoption brought on by the pandemic, as well as social restrictions and stay-at-home mandates, some dogs came into the country from overseas with fraudulent or inaccurate rabies certificates.

The rule goes into effect on July 14, 2021.

"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," the CDC’s Emily Pieracci told NPR.

The CDC estimates that 6 percent of all dogs imported into the U.S. come from countries with a high risk of dog rabies and inadequate vaccinations. 

This follows a plethora of reports from early in the pandemic stating that animal rescue shelters were seeing a surge of adoptions over the course of 2020. Nationwide shortages of animals in need of homes may have contributed to a spike of overseas adoption. 

"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," Pieracci explained. 

Some dogs from high-risk countries will be granted advance written approval, or a CDC Dog Import Permit, and enter the country through a live animal care facility in New York City at the John F. Kennedy International Airport. Still, these permits are discretionary, and dogs from countries considered both low and high risk are currently prohibited from entering the U.S.

Published on Jun 14, 2021