Dogs entering US must be six months old and microchipped to prevent spread of rabies, new rules say

"All animals should be vaccinated for rabies before they travel," says Dr. Gomez, a veterinarian from Liesse Animal Clinic, on the new travel guidelines for dogs entering the US set by the CDC. Adriana Gentile reports.

By Mike Stobbe, The Associated Press and Adriana Gentile

NEW YORK (AP) — All dogs coming into the U.S. from other countries must be at least six months old and microchipped to help prevent the spread of rabies, according to new government rules published Wednesday.

The new rules require vaccination for dogs that have been in countries where rabies is common. The update applies to dogs brought in by breeders or rescue groups as well as pets traveling with their U.S. owners.

“The rabies vaccine is something that the states are taking a lot more seriously now, and I definitely agree with it. All animals should be vaccinated for rabies before they travel,” says Dr. Gomez, a veterinarian from Liesse Animal Clinic.

One Montrealer, who is originally from France, ensures that they are prepared before travel.

“We need to go to the vet every time we fly, but it’s the rules, and when we know that, it’s okay,” said dog owner, Valentine Cosentino.

Valentine Cosentino and her dog, Romeo, at Lucien-L’Allier dog park on May 14.(Credit: Adriana Gentile, CityNews)

“This new regulation is going to address the current challenges that we’re facing,” said Emily Pieracci, a rabies expert at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who was involved in drafting the updated regulations.

The CDC posted the new rules in the federal register last week. They take effect Aug. 1 when a temporary 2021 order expires. That order suspended bringing in dogs from more than 100 countries where rabies is still a problem.

The new rules require all dogs entering the U.S. to be at least six months, old enough to be vaccinated if required and for the shots to take effect; have a microchip placed under their skin with a code that can be used to verify rabies vaccination; and have completed a new CDC import form.

“I think it makes a lot of sense. We’ve already been doing this for many, many years, but it wasn’t as well regulated, I would say. So definitely before an animal travels, they should come in to see their veterinarian for a physical exam,” said Gomez.

“We need to make sure they’re not ill in any way, they don’t have any transmissible diseases or are contagious, and also that it’s safe for the pet to travel. It’s not all animals that should take a flight. After we do that, we come up with a health certificate where we write down exactly this, that they’re ready and safe to fly,” she adds.

Gomez says microchipping is essential.

“Microchipping is also mandatory right now, which also makes a lot of sense to me, in order to make sure we have an identity to the animal that can’t be lost. It’s a little chip that goes right under the skin around the scapula behind the neck. So, very simple, very easy procedure to do, but it’s something that they can keep with them forever,” said Gomez.

“I think it’s great, I think dogs need to be vaccinated and have a microchip. My dog has all that,” said dog owner, Ruben Djan

Ruben Djan and his dog at Lucien-L’Allier dog park on May 14.(Credit: Adriana Gentile, CityNews)

“Our dog has already had these requests, just for us, to make sure he’s fine. I think it’s okay if they ask for that,” said dog owner, Caroline Tranchemontagne.

A dog at Lucien-L’Allier dog park on May 14.(Credit: Adriana Gentile, CityNews)

There may be additional restrictions and requirements based on where the dog was the previous six months, which may include blood testing from CDC-approved labs.

The CDC regulations were last updated in 1956, and a lot has changed, Pieracci said. More people travel internationally with their pets, and more rescue groups and breeders have set up overseas operations to meet the demand for pets, she said. Now, about one million dogs enter the U.S. each year.

Dogs were once common carriers of the rabies virus in the U.S. but the type that normally circulates in dogs was eliminated through vaccinations in the 1970s. The virus invades the central nervous system and is usually a fatal disease in animals and humans. It’s most commonly spread through a bite from an infected animal. There is no cure for it once symptoms begin.

Four rabid dogs have been identified entering the U.S. since 2015, and officials worried more might get through. CDC officials also were seeing an increase of incomplete or fraudulent rabies vaccination certificates and more puppies denied entry because they weren’t old enough to be fully vaccinated.

The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Science and Educational Media Group. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

Top Stories

Top Stories