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The Rules for Bringing a Dog into the US to Get Stricter: Here’s What’s Changing

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced new rules last week for bringing a dog into the United States.

Starting August 1, all dogs entering the country must be at least 6 months old, must be microchipped, and must be accompanied by either proof of a rabies vaccine or proof that the dog hasn’t been in a country considered high-risk for rabies over the last 6 months. 

Additionally, the dog will need to “appear healthy upon arrival,” and the owner will need to present a receipt verifying online submission of the CDC Dog Import Form. That document will become accessible online starting July 15, according to the CDC

Up to now, bringing a dog into the U.S. has not, in most cases, required presenting rabies vaccination documentation. You just have to provide a written or verbal statement that your dog has not been in a high-risk country for rabies within the past 6 months. There has been no age minimum or microchip requirement for dogs, either. 

The tightened restrictions are intended to “prevent the re-introduction of dog rabies into the United States,” the federal agency states. The virus was eliminated in the U.S. in 2007, but the CDC grew alarmed about the potential for the return of dog rabies amid a surge in international pet adoptions during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

In 2021, the CDC temporarily suspended the importation of dogs from more than 100 countries with a high risk of rabies. When the updated dog-entry rules go into effect August 1, that suspension will finally end—but the trade-off is having more stringent entry regulations. 

Dogs coming into the U.S. from one of the high-risk countries must meet additional requirements and may be subject to a 28-day quarantine.

“This really isn’t a big change” for most U.S. pet owners, Dr. Emily Pieracci, a CDC veterinary medicine officer, assured NPR. “It sounds like a lot, but not when you break it down; it’s really not a huge inconvenience for pet owners.”

Most pet dogs in the U.S. are vaccinated against rabies as a matter of routine, after all, so pet owners who travel internationally with their dogs shouldn’t have to jump through too many extra hoops. 

Pieracci also points out that the regulations were probably overdue for an update, given that current dog importation policies relating to vaccination date to 1956. 

The American Veterinary Medical Association and the animal protection organization SPCA International both support the CDC’s changes, NPR reports. 

But not every group dedicated to the welfare of animals is on board. 

The Humane Society Legislative Fund issued a press release arguing that the CDC’s policy change will “mak[e] it harder for international rescue efforts to save vulnerable dogs and for families to travel back to the U.S. with their pets.”

Especially difficult for international dog rescue, the statement warns, will be the requirement to show “proof of a dog’s whereabouts for six months” to verify that the animal hasn’t been in a high-risk country. 

Further, the Humane Society Legislative Fund expressed concern about how the CDC’s rules require “dogs’ documentation [to] be checked by airlines despite airline employees’ lacking the specialized training to properly verify information such as a dog’s age. 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. To avoid confusion or difficulties, some airlines may opt out of allowing customers to travel into the U.S. with dogs.”

To help sort out the new rules, the CDC has launched DogBot, a new question-and-answer tool on the agency’s website. According to the CDC, travelers can use DogBot to “determine what rules apply to their dogs based on their travel dates, where their dog is traveling from, and where their dog was vaccinated.”

For more information about bringing a dog into the U.S.—or to give DogBot a try—go to