SPCA International: CDC Ban on Importing Rescue Dogs from Many Foreign Countries Puts Vulnerable Animals at Risk

CDC’s recently announced policy change also penalizes responsible pet owners and jeopardizes the life-saving work of NGOs and animal shelters

New York, NY, June 21, 2021 – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced on June 14 that it will ban for one year the importation of dogs into the United States from more than 100 countries considered to be at high risk of rabies, in a shift from its longstanding policies. The ban will take effect July 14, 2021. In response, international animal welfare organization SPCA International is expressing its serious concerns about the impact this move will have on vulnerable dogs, responsible pet owners, and NGOs and animal shelters around the world.

Lori Kalef, Program Director at SPCA International, said, “While we understand the importance of protecting dogs and people in the U.S. from rabies, we are very concerned that this drastic and sudden change by the CDC will put huge numbers of healthy dogs at risk if they can’t travel to the U.S. safely to their adoptive homes. The move also penalizes responsible pet owners and jeopardizes the life-saving work of NGOs and animal shelters globally.”

SPCA International proposes that the CDC implement regulations similar to those for dog importation to Hawaii and the UK, which require a rabies serology test and mandatory quarantine period upon arrival to an approved CBP facility in the U.S. These requirements would strengthen the regulations in place in the continental U.S. before the CDC’s just-announced ban, while also streamlining importation process to ease the burden on the CDC and other governing agencies and ensuring public safety.

SPCA International has extensive experience saving and bringing rescue dogs into the United States from other countries through its Operation Baghdad Pups: Worldwide program. This program reunites U.S. service members with stray and homeless dogs and cats they befriend in countries where they’re deployed. Members of the military endure long deployments and cope with the harsh realities of the battlefield, as well as loneliness and separation from their families. Local dogs and cats they save and befriend abroad often play a key role in building companionship and bringing them joy in difficult times. At the end of deployments, soldiers are forced to leave their beloved animals behind. SPCA International enables these wonderful relationships to carry on by rescuing these animals overseas, ensuring that they adhere to all U.S. vaccination and quarantine requirements, and arranging for their safe and legal transportation into the U.S. to be reunited with their service member.

As quarantine and travel restrictions have become stricter due to the Covid-19 pandemic, SPCA International has been working with the CDC and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at John F. Kennedy International Airport (home of The ARK, America’s only approved import facility), to ensure that all dogs the program brings into the U.S. meet updated legal requirements.

Lori Kalef added, “We do not want to turn away applicants to our Operation Baghdad Pups: Worldwide program, which the CDC’s ban could force us to do. Rescue pets are a vital mental health support for many servicemembers. If soldiers are forced to leave their dogs behind, it often means imminent death and danger for the dogs. This change will also cause increased financial burden for animal shelters and organizations like SPCA International that care for these animals during their immunizations and quarantine as they await transport to the U.S.”

SPCA International also works with animal shelters around the world through its Shelter Support Fund program.  Many of the organization’s international partners rely on international adoptions to be able to rescue higher numbers of animals from abuse, neglect, and slaughter. With the CDC’s ban, the organization expects to see more animals euthanized and increased rates of animal illness, hunger, neglect, abuse, and culling as stray dog numbers rise.  While the U.S. has a robust shelter and adoption system, this is not the case internationally, particularly in countries with high stray populations and where keeping companion animals is less customary. Many shelters typically export adoptable animals to countries where pet adoption is more popular—mostly the U.S.

SPCA International encourages supporters to contact the CDC at [email protected] to urge them to reevaluate these extreme restrictions in favor of developing a new policy that would continue to protect U.S. citizens without putting rescue dogs abroad in danger.


About SPCA International

SPCA International is a global animal welfare organization with a mission that is simple, but vast: to advance the safety and well-being of animals. Through outreach, rescue and education programs, SPCA International spearheads lifesaving initiatives and assists grassroots animal activists worldwide. Visit us at https://www.spcai.org/