The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are banning dogs from several countries from traveling to the U.S. The CDC says dozens of countries are considered high risk for importing dog rabies into the United States.
The ban, which goes into affect on July 14, is temporary and will prevent dogs imported from countries in Africa, the Americas and Caribbean, Asia and the Middle East and Eastern Europe. Countries on the list include Egypt, Kenya, Russia, Peru, India, Dominican Republic and dozens of other countries.
The CDC does have the authority to issue advance written approval, or a CDC Dog Import Permit, to bring in a dog from a high-risk country, but only on an extremely limited basis. These requests must be made six weeks before the dog is intended to enter the U.S.
Dogs from high-risk countries that enter the U.S. without advanced written approval from the CDC will be denied entry and returned to the country of departure at the importer's expense, the center said.
Approximately 5,000 animal rabies cases are reported annually to the CDC, and more than 90% of those cases occur in wildlife.
"This marks a dramatic change in the types of animals reported as rabid since 1960, when the majority of cases were in domestic animal species, primarily dogs," the center says. "The principal rabies reservoir hosts in the United States today include bats, raccoons, skunks, and foxes."
According to the CDC, the number of human rabies deaths in the U.S. has been steadily declining since the 1970's – thanks to animal control and vaccination programs – and only 1 to 3 cases of human rabies are reported annually.
However, worldwide, dogs are the main source of human rabies deaths, contributing up to 99% of all rabies transmissions to humans, according to the World Health Organization.
Rabies infections cause tens of thousands of deaths worldwide each year, mainly in Asia and Africa, according to WHO
Once clinical symptoms appear, rabies is virtually 100% fatal, but interrupting transmission is feasible through vaccination of dogs and prevention of dog bites. WHO says. The organization is hoping to eliminate human deaths from dog-mediated rabies by 2030 with its policy initiative, "United Against Rabies."
While the CDC's ban is meant to prevent the spread of rabies to the U.S., the new order could impact animal rescues that save dogs from countries on the no-import list.
In a statement, China Rescue Dogs said "as devastating as this news is, we will not be sitting on the sidelines." The organization rescues dogs that might otherwise be killed in the annual Yulin Dog Meat Festival.
"Our mission remains the same, and our commitment is now even stronger," the organization said.
"This coming weekend is the Yulin Dog Meat Festival. China Rescue Dogs has not slowed down and our rescuers are still on the ground saving dogs from these horrific conditions and their ultimate demise," China Rescue Dogs said, adding that their shelter staff in China is still caring for rescue dogs and adoptions are moving forward.