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U.S. to Ban Dogs From Over 100 Countries Amid Concern Over Spread of Rabies

Dogs from more than 100 countries will be banned from being brought into the United States for one year because of heightened concerns over the spread of rabies, federal health officials announced on Monday.

The countries targeted by the ban, which will take effect on July 14, are considered to be at high risk for spreading the deadly virus, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. They include the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Colombia, China, Russia, Ukraine, India and the Philippines.

Officials at the C.D.C. said that the temporary measure was necessary to prevent the reintroduction of a canine rabies virus variant in United States, where the variant has been eliminated since 2007.

As many as 100,000 of the one million dogs that are brought into the United States each year could be denied entry, according to the C.D.C., which said that it would make exceptions on a limited basis for owners of service dogs and foreigners moving stateside with their pets.

“Rabies is fatal in both humans and animals, and the importation of even one rabid dog could result in transmission to humans, pets, and wildlife,” the agency said on its website on Monday.

Health officials said that the number of dogs from high-risk countries that were denied entry into the United States in 2020 rose by 52 percent compared with the previous two years. Many of the dogs, which mostly came from Russia, Ukraine and Colombia, were rejected because the paperwork submitted for them was fraudulent and overstated their age, according to the C.D.C. Before the ban, dogs from the high-risk countries had to be at least four months old to be brought into the United States, giving them enough time for their rabies vaccinations to take effect.

The dogs, health officials said, had to wait longer to be returned to the countries where they came from because of reduced flight schedules, putting them at greater risk for illness or death.

Dr. Douglas Kratt, the president of the American Veterinary Medical Association, said in an interview on Monday that the temporary ban was the right step.

“This is a deadly virus,” said Dr. Kratt, who owns an animal hospital in Onalaska, Wis. “I think that is a great concern, not just for rabies but for any number of diseases, to protect the health and welfare of the animals.”

In the United States, the frequency of rabies transmission from dogs to humans has dropped sharply in recent decades because of animal vaccination programs and efforts to prevent dog bites. The virus, which has no cure once symptoms begin, causes tens of thousands of human deaths each year, mostly in Asia and Africa, according to the World Health Organization.

The new rules will apply to dogs that are hand-carried, checked in as passenger baggage or transported as cargo on flights to the United States, the C.D.C. said. The owners of puppies, emotional support dogs and service dogs must comply with the rules.

If an exception is made, it will be only for dogs that are least six months old (as verified by submission of current photos of the dog’s teeth), are microchipped, have a valid rabies vaccination certificate and have a valid rabies serologic titer from an approved laboratory if the dog was vaccinated outside the United States.

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