CDC Import Rules: New Guidance Changes Vaccine Requirements, Shifts Focus to Canine Rabies

2019-03-26 | AKC Government Relations Department

Recently released guidance from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides clarification on the interpretation of “rabies free” that it uses when determining whether a dog can be imported into the U.S. without a valid rabies vaccination certificate. 

Previously, all dogs admitted into the U.S. were required to be accompanied by a valid rabies vaccination certificate unless the dog’s owner or importer submitted satisfactory evidence that the dog (if older than 6 months of age) had only been in a rabies-free country for the six months preceding arrival in the U.S.    

Now, for the limited purpose of dog importation, CDC has begun interpreting “rabies-free” to mean “canine rabies virus variant (CRVV)-free”.  CRVV is the type of rabies typically transmitted from dog-to-dog.  Dog owners and those who import a dog from a “CRVV-free” or “low-risk” country will not need a rabies vaccination certificate to be admitted into the U.S. (although they will still be subject other requirements, including inspection upon arrival at U.S. ports of entry). 

Of course, importers should also check state and local government rabies vaccination requirements of the final destination prior to entry or re-entry into the United States.  (This guidance does not affect the CDC’s interpretation of the term “rabies free” for other public health purposes.)

This announcement indicates a shift in CDC enforcement of U.S. dog importation regulations, from the risk of dogs importing rabies of any variant to a focus on the specific risk of dogs importing canine rabies virus variant into the U.S. 

CDC reports that with about 1.06 million dogs imported into the United States annually, this guidance will allow federal authorities to better focus their resources on preventing the reintroduction of CRVV from countries that pose the greatest risk.  

Click here for more information from CDC about Bringing Your Dog into the United States.  

For more information on canine policy, contact AKC’s Government Relations Department at (919) 816-3720 or

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