New CDC regulation will disrupt international animal rescue efforts and families returning to the US with pets

WASHINGTON (May 8, 2024)—Today, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced a final rule that places restrictions on dogs brought into the United States from countries deemed by the CDC as low-risk or rabies-free countries in addition to high-risk rabies countries, making it harder for international rescue efforts to save vulnerable dogs and for families to travel back to the U.S. with their pets.

“The CDC’s job is to maintain public health, but these new requirements may needlessly delay Americans—including government personnel and military families—from returning to the United States with their pets, creating great anguish and breaking up families in the process,” said Tracie Letterman, vice president of federal affairs at Humane Society Legislative Fund. “The Humane Society Legislative Fund strongly advocated for sensible disease-prevention requirements because we should not have to choose between maintaining public safety and saving animals’ lives. With the confusion this new rule will cause, many rescues may have to make the heartbreaking decision to simply not bring dogs into the U.S.”

The rule will prohibit all dogs under six months of age from entering the U.S. For dogs over six months, individuals and groups bringing dogs into the country will now be required to show that the dog has not been in a high-risk rabies country for at least six months before arrival. If they cannot show this proof, they will face the potential for quarantine times before a dog will be allowed into the country.

Requiring such proof of a dog’s whereabouts for six months is especially challenging for rescued dogs or dogs adopted by Americans overseas—including military families—without a clear indication of how this will help protect the health of Americans and their pets.

The action also thrusts greater responsibility onto air carriers. Under this rule, dogs’ documentation will 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.

While these new requirements try to create a clear, efficient and standardized system that prevents potential rabies spread, they may significantly disrupt or delay rescue work. There have been no cases of widespread canine rabies in the U.S., and the CDC website lists the U.S. as being “canine (dog) rabies free.”

“Our rescue work often helps dogs, who are enduring desperate situations around the world, find refuge with American families who want to help,” said Adam Parascandola, vice president of the animal rescue team at the Humane Society of the United States. “These new requirements will make it difficult and expensive for international dog rescues to save and place healthy, vaccinated rescue dogs with their forever families in the U.S. This move will impact generations of vulnerable dogs, as overseas adoption offers them vital lifelines.”

Previously, American families could adopt healthy puppies and dogs from reputable international rescue organizations. The Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society International conduct such rescues, including dogs who become homeless after natural disasters, acts of human violence and war. HSI operates in many countries where companion animals experience extreme cruelty with very few legal protections and limited prospect of safe adoption by families within that country. Far fewer dogs will be able to find loving homes in the U.S.

The new rule goes into effect on Aug. 1, 2024, and the Humane Society family of organizations recommends that all rescue organizations and individuals traveling with pets familiarize themselves, prior to travel, with the new restrictions to prevent unnecessary delays.

Media Contact:
Kirsten Peek, 202-744-3875,