‘Breaking up families’: CDC announces strict rules for traveling to the US with your dog

‘Breaking up families’: CDC announces strict rules for traveling to the US with your dog


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced new restrictions Wednesday on dogs traveling to the U.S., which some say will make it harder for families returning to the country with their pets or adopting pets internationally.

The new regulation, which goes into effect August 1, bans all dogs under six months from entering the U.S. Dogs over six months must show proof they have not been in a country identified as high-risk for rabies. Without proof, the dog faces potential quarantine. Dogs must also be microchipped.

The tighter restrictions are meant “to protect the health and safety of people and animals by making sure any dog arriving in the United States is healthy and doesn’t present a risk to our communities,” the CDC said in a press release Wednesday.

The U.S. eliminated rabies in 2007, and the new rules are meant to prevent the re-introduction of the viral disease, which is transmitted through biting. The agency has identified 131 countries as high risk for rabies as of Aug. 2023.

The CDC also said it has seen “recent challenges with international dog importations,” such as fraudulent documents or dogs kept in unsafe conditions.

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However, some say the restrictions will negatively impact families and those wanting to rescue pets overseas from legitimate organizations because it can be “especially challenging” to provide proof of a dog’s whereabouts,” according to the Humane Society Legislative Fund in a press release on Wednesday. “Far fewer dogs will be able to find loving homes in the U.S.,” the release said.

“The CDC’s job is to maintain public health, but these new requirements may needlessly delay Americans – including government personnel and military families – from returning to the United States with their pets, creating great anguish and breaking up families in the process,” said Tracie Letterman, vice president of federal affairs at Humane Society Legislative Fund, in a statement in the release. 

Airlines may also struggle to implement the new restrictions.

“Airlines will be left to their own discretion to enforce these rules, and if they err, it’s up to the airline to export the dog back to the dog’s country of origin,” the Humane Society Legislative Fund said. “To avoid confusion or difficulties, some airlines may opt out of allowing customers to travel into the U.S. with dogs.”

Kathleen Wong is a travel reporter for USA TODAY based in Hawaii. You can reach her at kwong@usatoday.com.

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