Tuesday, June 18, 2024

What are the new requirements for crossing the US border with a dog from Mexico?

Planning on traveling with your dog from Mexico to the United States? You aren’t alone. About 1 million dogs enter the United States from other countries every year.

If you are crossing the US border into Mexico with a dog — whether the dog is from Mexico or originally from the U.S. — you should be aware of the new dog import requirements established this week by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Dogs crossing the US border by land, sea or air will all have to comply with the new requirements.
Dogs traveling by land, sea or air will all have to comply with the new requirements. (Jimmy Conover/Unsplash)

The CDC says the new rules are to protect the health and safety of people and animals, and prevent the reintroduction of dog rabies to the United States.

The rabies virus — fatal to humans and animals — is very rare in the U.S., where canine rabies was eliminated in 2007.

The stricter rules have come about in response to an increasing number of incomplete or fraudulent rabies vaccination certificates. The CDC raised alarms after four rabid dogs were found to have entered the U.S. since 2015. And last year, Mexican public health authorities issued their own rabies alert, warning of an increase in human rabies cases.

What are the new CDC requirements for dogs entering the U.S.?

The new dog import rules require all dogs entering the United States to be at least six months old (at six months, puppies are old enough to receive vaccinations). All dogs must also have a microchip placed under their skin with a code that verifies rabies vaccination, plus a valid rabies vaccination certificate. A new electronic CDC import form must be filled out, too.

When do the requirements take effect?

The new rules become effective on Aug. 1. If you don’t follow the CDC rules, your dog won’t be allowed to enter the United States and, if you arrive by air, your dog will be sent back to the last country of departure at your expense.

New rules on crossing the US border with a dog could be tough for dog rescue organizations
Dog rescue advocates said that new rules were overly restrictive and could be an administrative burden for rescue organizations. (File photo)

What is different from previous requirements?

The CDC does not consider Mexico a high-risk country for rabies and the last verified dog-to-human transfer took place in 2006, so there has been little regulation regarding importing dogs from Mexico to the United States in recent years. Proof of rabies vaccination was occasionally required for air travel or when entering certain U.S. states by car.

What are vets and pet owners saying?

The newspaper The San Diego Reader reported that the CDC did not directly notify veterinarians in the U.S. of the pending rules change, although the CDC’s rule-making process was public and a draft version of the updated regulations was available last year. So, those caught off guard see the new regulations as staggering.

Veterinary Practice News published a report on May 13 that linked to the new CDC rules, but one San Diego vet interviewed by the Reader thought frustrations will grow since glitches are evident and the rule change takes effect in just two months. The CDC’s electronic form won’t be available until July 15, and the recommended timeline suggests beginning the form 2-10 days before crossing the US border with your dog, leaving a narrow window for border-crossers who may not be familiar with the new process. Meeting other pet-importation requirements may take up to 60 days, according to the guidelines. A full list of requirements is available on the CDC website, along with a clunky but useful “DogBot” that can tell you which instructions apply in your case based on a brief questionnaire.

Rescue operations, which abound on both sides of the border, are also bracing for the additional administrative hurdle. One animal rescue employee said that while a rule change was necessary (existing regulations were last updated in 1956), the changes are “overreaching, unnecessary (punitive even), and will place a sizable burden on our small organizations.”

With reports from NBC News, CNN and The San Diego Reader

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