United States Ban Dogs from High Rabies Countries – What You Need to Know


Dogs from High Risk Rabies Countries banned from US
Kim Hester – Pixabay

Effective July 14, 2021, the Center for Disease Control(CDC) will impose a temporary ban on dogs* entering the United States after having been in countries classified by the World Organization of Animal Health as having a high risk of rabies anytime within the past 6 months.  This includes dogs who have resided in, visited, or cleared customs and these countries within 6 months of import. Dogs intending to enter or reenter the US from these countries will not be permitted entry without an import permit from the CDC.

*Cats are not included in this ban.

Click here for high rabies countries.

Why is the CDC banning dogs from high rabies countries?

Rabies is a serious disease that kills almost 60,000 people worldwide each year. Once symptons show, there is no cure. Government agencies responsible for the import and export of live animals take this disease very seriously. The US has been free of canine rabies virus variant (CRVV) since 2007. Since that time, only 3 dogs with CRVV have been imported to the United States. On June 10, a shipment of 34 animals, including 33 dogs and one cat, entered the United States from Azerbaijan at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago. One of those dogs was adopted and, after showing tell tale signs of rabies, was diagnosed with CRVV. As a result, a large scale effort to track exposure of the dog to other humans and animals everywhere along the transport in multi cities and countries has commenced.

Ninety nine percent of all deaths in humans from rabies is as a result of a dog bite. In 2020, there was a 52% increase in the number of dogs that were ineligible for import to the United States, and 60-70% of all fraudulent/inaccurate rabies documentation were from dogs originating in high rabies countries.

When a dog is refused entry to the United States, it is returned to its origination country. The cost of returning the dog is born by the owner or the airline. In these cases, dogs are sometimes held in facilities that are not in accordance with the United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal Welfare Act, and are subject to lack of heating and air conditioning, warehouse equipment and machinery and sometimes the provision of sanitary needs is lacking.

When dogs are abondoned by their owners and the airline refuses to bear the cost of return, the responsibility falls on the Federal Government to bear the costs. The cost for housing, care, and returning improperly vaccinated dogs ranges between $1,000 and $4,000 per dog depending on the location and time required until the next available return flight. During the pandemic, airline service has been reduced, further increasing costs to house and provide veterinary care for these dogs.

How long will the ban last?

The CDC estimates that this ban will be in effect for approximately one year while plans to properly handle dogs who are denied entry are put in place. Import permits will be approved on a very select basis and cannot be appealed. The CDC’s decision on whether your pet will be approved for a permit will be final.

Who is eligible to apply for an import permit?

  • U.S. government personnel who are relocating back to the United States with Permanent Change of Station (PCS) orders or Temporary Duty (TDY) orders.
  • A US citizen or lawful US resident relocating to the United States for employment or education. In this case,the application must include written documentation from an employer or other official source stating the reason for the relocation, such as a letter by an employer or university stating that the U.S. citizen or lawful resident is relocating for reasons of employment or education.
  • Importers who wish to import dogs for purposes related to science or education or for exhibition or for an official law enforcement purpose.
  • Owners of service animals, if the dog is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. In accordance with U.S. Department of Transportation regulations at 14 CFR part 382. Emotional support animals, comfort animals, companionship animals, and service animals in training are not considered service animals and will not warrant approval of the permit due to those definitions.

Who Cannot Apply for an import permit?

  • Dogs intended for commercial purposes, such as adoption, resale, or transfer of ownership.
  • Dogs that will accompany owners on short-term travel to and from high-risk countries.

How can pet owners apply for an import permit?

Import permits will only be issued by the CDC on a very limited basis. Pet owners will need to apply for an Application for a Permit to Import a Dog Inadequately Immunized Against Rabies to the Director, Division of Global Migration and Quarantine at cdcanimalimports@cdc.gov.

Applications must be received a minimum of 30 business days (6 weeks) in advance. Permits are valid for 3 or less personal dogs per permit. One permit per person per year.

The following information must be submitted with the permit:

  • Proof of microchip AND
  • Proof of age (must be over 6 months to enter the United States from a high-rabies country) AND
  • Photo of identification page of the importer’s US passport or Lawful Residence card AND
  • Photo of full body and face of your dog AND
  • Clear photographs of your dog’s teeth:
  • front view of upper and lower teeth
    • side view of upper and lower teeth
    • A valid rabies vaccination certificate that was issued in the United States by a U.S.-licensed veterinarian. The certificate must substantiate that the vaccination was administered to your dog not younger than 12 weeks of age and at least 28 days prior to import for primary vaccination (see below for definition of primary vaccination)
    • A valid rabies vaccination certificate from a non-U.S.-licensed veterinarian. The certificate must substantiate that the rabies vaccination was administered to your dog not younger than 12 weeks of age and at least 28 days prior to import for primary vaccination (see below for definition of primary vaccination). The certificate must be in English or accompanied by a certified English translation*.


      Serologic evidence of rabies vaccination from an approved rabies serology laboratory (RNATT – rabies titer test) with results greater than >0.5IU/mL. RNATT must be administered a minimum of 30 days after the primary vaccination (see below for definition of primary vaccination). Samples must be sent to approved labs in China, Korea, France, United Kingdom or Mexico. Test results must be in English. Test is valid for one year. Pets can enter the US no sooner than 3 calendar months after the date the blood was drawn for the test.

Primary Vaccination
There are two scenarios where your pet will receive a primary vaccination:

  • It is the first rabies vaccination your pet has ever received after a microchip was implanted.
  • Your pet’s previous rabies vaccination had expired when this vaccination was administered (even for a day).

If your origination country is classified as a high-rabies country, then the primary vaccination must be given at least 28 days prior to entry to the United States, not counting the day of the vet visit.

All subsequent rabies vaccinations are considered booster vaccinations. Booster vaccinations are not subject to the 28-day wait if they are administered in the United States before the previous vaccination expires. Be sure and have rabies certificates for both vaccinations.

*A licensed translator will issue a signed statement on professional letterhead incuding the name, address, and contact information of the translator attesting that the translation is true and accurate representation of the original document. The certified translation must have a signatory stamp or elevated seal with the translator’s license number included. A certified translator service can be found online.

Rabies certificates must be issued in English or be accompanied by a certified translation and include the following information:

  • Name and address of owner
  • Breed, sex, date of birth (approximate age if date of birth unknown), color, markings, and other identifying information for the dog
  • Date of rabies vaccination and vaccine product information
  • Date the vaccination expires
  • Name, license number, address, and signature of veterinarian who administered the vaccination
  • Your pet’s microchip number (required if your pet received its rabies vaccination in a high-rabies country)

UPDATE: During the transitional period from July 14, 2021 – October 14, 2021, return travelers who left the United States (such as temporary travel for vacation) may apply for an Import Permit if they left the United States before July 14, 2021. Dogs who are granted import permits must enter the United States at one of these 18 airports: Anchorage, Atlanta, Boston, Chicago (ORD), Dallas, Detroit, Honolulu, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis, New York (JFK), Newark, Philadelphia, San Francisco, San Juan, Seattle, and Washington, DC (Dulles). where there is an approved facility for inspection. There will be more Points of Entry announced.

All dogs entering the United States with an approved import permit who are vaccinated outside of the US must be revaccinated within 10 days of arrival.

What happens to dogs who do not conform with the new ban?

Any dog from a high-risk country arriving without advance written approval from the CDC will be excluded from entering the United States and returned to its country of origin on the next available flight, regardless of carrier or route. Dogs will also be returned to their origination country if they arrive at a port of entry without a live animal care facility (JFK) or if the dog presented does not match the description of the dog listed on the permit or if the documentation proves insufficient.

Pet owners who are planning to return to the United States from high-risk countries should take note of this ban as it will affect their return to the States.

More information can be found here.


United States Ban Dogs from High Rabies Countries – What You Need to Know — 7 Comments

  1. Try a close country, Thailand for example, they are not banning nor is Canada, get to a Thailand airport and land in Canada, then rent a car?

  2. We are USA Citizens. We have lived in Mozambique and Malawi for 6 years and are returning to the states to retire in February 2022. I have two family dogs that I have had for 5 years and want to bring back with us. Are we eligible to apply for the CDC permit? IF we can follow all instructions of CDC, are they actually issuing permits from high risk countries?

  3. Sofija – if Ruby (your dog) cleared customs and entered Turkey, then, yes, she is subject to the ban as Turkey is classified as a high-rabies country. If the airline is holding Ruby in a secure area and will board her to the US without clearing customs, then she is not subject to the ban.

  4. Hi.

    I’m traveling back to US from Croatia where we spent 2.5months with the family (left on June 22nd). On our (unsuccessful) return to the US, we got held at the airport in Istanbul. We haven’t left the premises but Ruby had to get re-checked. Does that count as being in a high risk country?

  5. Asli – the only suggestion that we have at this point is to send your dog back to the US prior to July 14th. The CDC is not going to be generous with import permits for dogs entering from high-rabies countries. The only other option would be to export your dog to a rabies-controlled country for a 6 month residency.

  6. They released that suspension while I am in Turkey for vacation. I will come back to The US in August and according to the ban as a short term traveller, I cannot apply for the permit and cannot bring my dog back home from Turkey. I emailed to CDC and asked about my situation but they only sent a canned response. Do you have any idea what is the situation for people like me? Left the US before the ban but coming back after the ban. There is no solid information unfortunately and I do not know what to do?

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