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New Rules for Dogs Entering the United States

Alaskans commonly travel to Canada and the Lower 48 with dogs.
Dan Bross
Alaskans commonly travel to Canada and the Lower 48 with dogs.

(Fairbanks, Ak.) New rules for bringing dogs into the United States set to take effect next month (Aug) will have some unique impacts in Alaska.

The stricter canine border requirements are being implemented by the Centers for Disease Control beginning August first. Alaska state veterinarian Sarah Coburn says they’re aimed at keeping a canine variant of the rabies virus out of the United States.

“For the last few years there’s been some issues with higher risk countries with some fraudulent rabies vaccine certificates, improper vaccines being given, so there’s been some issues internationally with the import of dogs.”

Coburn says the new standardized border rules include a ban on bringing any dog under 6 months old into the US.

“We’ve had some people from Southeast Alaska where people may…Skagway or Haines, they may drive to Whitehorse for veterinary care, and if it’s a dog under 6 months of age, they’re not going to be able to do that.”

Dr. Coburn says there’s also a new microchip requirement.

“An owner with a US origin dog, that’s vaccinated in the US, that dog needs to be microchipped with an ISO certified, internationally recognized, microchip prior to being vaccinated.”

Coburn says a minimum of 28 days is required from when the micro-chip and rabies vaccination are administered, and the dog can enter the US. Rabies vaccination certificates have long been mandatory, but Coburn says the new rules require the vaccine to have been administered by a USDA accredited veterinarian, or at a facility managed by one.

“So if it’s a lay vaccinator, that will not be accepted is my understanding. So for rural Alaska with no veterinary services, those vaccines given by a lay vaccinator are appropriate in our state and they’re a very important public health intervention, but they will not be accepted for international travel.”

According to the CDC, another rule change requires completion of an online dog import form. An agency website says additional required documentation varies depending on where the dog has been in the 6 months before entering or returning to the United States. Coburn says she has reached out to the CDC for clarification on the new canine border crossing rules, particularly on how they will affect Alaskans travelling to Canada or the Lower 48 and back.

“I can tell you we’ve had many, many questions and people calling with questions or concerns or trying to get more information.”

Longtime North Pole veterinarian Jeanne Olson says even veterinarians are trying to figure out the new rules, and many people are unaware of the upcoming changes. She cites concern about those planning to head south with dogs this fall.

“Seasonal travelers up here that came up with a rabies vaccine certificate and that’s it. They’ll get a little bit of a surprise when they go to the border this year, so we’re trying to get the word out.”

Olson also highlights the issue of sled dogs transported between Alaska locations through Canada.

“There’s hundreds of dogs that migrate down to the glaciers in Southeast, outside of Juneau mostly for the Princess tours, and most of them don’t have microchips and certainly there are some that probably had pups, so there’s that little uniqueness to Alaska that is also something they hadn’t thought of.”

Olson says she understands the goal of keeping canine variant rabies out of the US, but that the new rules don’t make sense for travel between canine rabies free countries like the US and Canada. ###