Public health isn’t just for people. On Monday, the Centers for Disease Control announced that the United States would ban the importation of dogs from 113 countries for at least one year, following a spike in puppies coming in with falsified rabies certificates.
Like many concerns surrounding transmissible diseases these days, the surge in fake rabies documents can be traced back to the pandemic. With pet adoptions skyrocketing in the wake of coronavirus lockdowns, dog importations shot up in an apparent response to meet the demand — including some pups with bad paperwork. According to CDC rabies expert Emily Pieracci, over 450 dogs arrived in the U.S. with fraudulent rabies certificates in 2020, which marked a 52 percent increase over the previous two years. Most of these examples involved records claiming the puppy was over four months old; dogs under that age are not allowed into the U.S. because rabies shots aren’t yet fully effective in such young dogs. The majority of these animals came from Russia, Ukraine, and Colombia, though the U.S. will ban dog imports, adoptions, and travel from another 110 countries with high rabies risks. The banned countries make up around 6 percent of the dogs brought to the United States each year.
“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,” Pieracci told NPR. As the Associated Press notes, the goal of the measure is to ensure that canine rabies remains eradicated within U.S. borders: “Dogs were once common carriers of the virus in the U.S., but the type that normally circulates in dogs was eliminated in the U.S. through vaccinations in the 1970s. In 1988, a new type of dog rabies was brought in from Mexico. It spread to wild coyotes, and it took 19 years to eliminate.”
As for the potential that a puppy adopted during the pandemic was not properly vaccinated against rabies, veterinarians claim the risk is low.
This post has been updated to reflect that the ban is for one year, not two years.