On Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a notice of action regarding Temporary Suspension of Dogs Entering the United States from High-Risk Rabies Countries. This notice was issued regarding a variant of the canine rabies virus which is a serious public health threat in 120 countries worldwide. The rabies virus in all forms is responsible for approximately 59,000 deaths a year, according to the notice.
The notice is proceeding under 42 CFR 71.51. Under that regulation, the CDC has the authority to issue restrictions in the name of preventing the introduction, transmission, or spread of communicable diseases from foreign countries. The United States currently has endemic enzoonotic variants of rabies in bats as well as terrestrial variants in wild animals such as foxes, skunks, and racoons. However, the United States has been free of the canine variant since 2007. However, there have been three recent incidents where dogs have been brought into the United States by rescue groups for the purposes of adoption where one of the dogs was rabid. This action resulted in multiple dogs and humans involved with the importation having to receive rabies treatment or prophylaxis as well as lengthy monitoring. In all of the example cases, the certificates regarding rabies were either forged, or were suspected of being forged.
The CDC noted that campaigns to eradicate this variant in the past have cost approximately $50 million per year. With the strain on the medical systems and funding under COVID-19, the CDC notes the importance of this ban to prevent further importation events. The CDC also notes the high cost of airlines having to house and return dogs with falsified papers, as well as humanitarian concerns regarding the housing and treatment of the dogs during the return period. The CDC also noted exceptions to this policy for military personnel, American citizens relocating from a high risk country to the United States who have advance permission, medical or science purposes, and service animals.