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CDC puts up border wall against dogs traveling north

Sizable burden on animal rescues

Flash Gordon, my Mexican dog, with Gus, one of the dogs we have fostered into a new home. Gus now lives in Warner Springs.
Flash Gordon, my Mexican dog, with Gus, one of the dogs we have fostered into a new home. Gus now lives in Warner Springs.

Due to Mexico’s sweeping rabies campaign and free vaccination program, they have been officially rabies-free since 2019, and the last two cases of dog-to-human transfer occurred in 2006.

I have travelled across the border dozens of times with my dog –  and several fosters to new permanent homes – over the past decade. I have never once been asked for any paperwork, health certificates, or vaccination records. Rabies vaccinations may be required for air travel, cruise ships, and when entering certain states but were not required over the past few years since Mexico was declared rabies-free.

Now new CDC requirements for people traveling with their dogs from Mexico, whether the dog is from the U.S. or Mexico, include a microchip, a CDC form electronically filled out, and applicable vaccinations or health certificates. All information is to be tied to the microchip. The requirements come from a federal bill sponsored in 2020, the Healthy Dog Importation Act, which never got a vote. 

The original intent was to control cross-border puppy mills that do so to avoid certain state or federal domestic rules. That bill, however, struck down section 18, which defined ‘importer’ as “any person who, for purposes of resale, transports into the United States puppies from a foreign country”, and resale as “any transfer of ownership or control of an imported dog of less than 6 months of age to another person.”

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In the CDC regulations going into effect on August 1, 2024, ‘importer’ now means, “any person bringing a dog into the US, pet, rescue, or otherwise.” There are several sections in the new announcement, including ‘All Dogs’ and ‘Dogs from Low-Risk or Rabies-Free Countries’. 

A fuss in veterinary and expat circles has bubbled up. The CDC suggested timeline, for one, begins 60 to 90 days before crossing the border in either direction, and requires signatures and official stamp, photo, and more. The electronic form is not yet available and won’t be until July 15, and as expats or tourists (including me) get our dogs vaccinated in Mexico where we spend most of our time, it will require dealing with a sluggish bureaucracy to get the required ‘official government veterinarian’ stamp. 

Rescue operations are inundated with dogs on both sides of the border. The new regulations will severely hobble rescue efforts, according to insiders. Per Gabriella Stupakoff Morrison at Mulege Animal Rescue, “For the record, we are all for the CDC changing its laws since that hasn’t happened since the 50s. And we don’t disagree that a dog should be healthy before being admitted into the US. But the rest is overreaching, unnecessary (punitive even), and will place a sizable burden on our small organizations.” 

Vets in the U.S. weren’t even notified. I was in a back-and-forth with Rebecca Lemmon, a vet who had no clue of the policy before it’s release. She said that there is quite an uproar on the Veterinary Information Network. “Lots of frustrated people. And I mean, we just found out this week so over the next month or two it’ll get noisier. Especially when people start figuring out what they have to do with their dog.” At this point, the new regs are staggering to many, and if anyone is planning travel to Baja with their dog and return on or after August 1, they better read up on the new regs and follow them to a T, because as per the CDC, they will be turned back at the border. 


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Flash Gordon, my Mexican dog, with Gus, one of the dogs we have fostered into a new home. Gus now lives in Warner Springs.
Flash Gordon, my Mexican dog, with Gus, one of the dogs we have fostered into a new home. Gus now lives in Warner Springs.

Due to Mexico’s sweeping rabies campaign and free vaccination program, they have been officially rabies-free since 2019, and the last two cases of dog-to-human transfer occurred in 2006.

I have travelled across the border dozens of times with my dog –  and several fosters to new permanent homes – over the past decade. I have never once been asked for any paperwork, health certificates, or vaccination records. Rabies vaccinations may be required for air travel, cruise ships, and when entering certain states but were not required over the past few years since Mexico was declared rabies-free.

Now new CDC requirements for people traveling with their dogs from Mexico, whether the dog is from the U.S. or Mexico, include a microchip, a CDC form electronically filled out, and applicable vaccinations or health certificates. All information is to be tied to the microchip. The requirements come from a federal bill sponsored in 2020, the Healthy Dog Importation Act, which never got a vote. 

The original intent was to control cross-border puppy mills that do so to avoid certain state or federal domestic rules. That bill, however, struck down section 18, which defined ‘importer’ as “any person who, for purposes of resale, transports into the United States puppies from a foreign country”, and resale as “any transfer of ownership or control of an imported dog of less than 6 months of age to another person.”

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In the CDC regulations going into effect on August 1, 2024, ‘importer’ now means, “any person bringing a dog into the US, pet, rescue, or otherwise.” There are several sections in the new announcement, including ‘All Dogs’ and ‘Dogs from Low-Risk or Rabies-Free Countries’. 

A fuss in veterinary and expat circles has bubbled up. The CDC suggested timeline, for one, begins 60 to 90 days before crossing the border in either direction, and requires signatures and official stamp, photo, and more. The electronic form is not yet available and won’t be until July 15, and as expats or tourists (including me) get our dogs vaccinated in Mexico where we spend most of our time, it will require dealing with a sluggish bureaucracy to get the required ‘official government veterinarian’ stamp. 

Rescue operations are inundated with dogs on both sides of the border. The new regulations will severely hobble rescue efforts, according to insiders. Per Gabriella Stupakoff Morrison at Mulege Animal Rescue, “For the record, we are all for the CDC changing its laws since that hasn’t happened since the 50s. And we don’t disagree that a dog should be healthy before being admitted into the US. But the rest is overreaching, unnecessary (punitive even), and will place a sizable burden on our small organizations.” 

Vets in the U.S. weren’t even notified. I was in a back-and-forth with Rebecca Lemmon, a vet who had no clue of the policy before it’s release. She said that there is quite an uproar on the Veterinary Information Network. “Lots of frustrated people. And I mean, we just found out this week so over the next month or two it’ll get noisier. Especially when people start figuring out what they have to do with their dog.” At this point, the new regs are staggering to many, and if anyone is planning travel to Baja with their dog and return on or after August 1, they better read up on the new regs and follow them to a T, because as per the CDC, they will be turned back at the border. 


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