Guidance Regarding “Rabies-Free” Countries and Importing a Dog into the United States

On January 31, 2019, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published a Federal Register Notice (FRN) titled, “Guidance Regarding Agency Interpretation of “Rabies-Free” under 42 CFR 71.51(c)(1)(i).” Through this guidance, CDC is clarifying that it now interprets “rabies-free” in the context of its dog importation regulations to mean “canine rabies virus variant (CRVV)-free.” CRVV is the type of rabies typically transmitted from dog-to-dog. This clarification of “rabies-free” definition allows federal agencies to better focus their resources on preventing the reintroduction of CRVV from countries that pose the greatest risk, while continuing to protect public health. The FRN is available on the Office of the Federal Register’s website.

This guidance also describes the criteria CDC uses in determining whether a country qualifies as CRVV-free. Specifically, CDC identifies countries as CRVV-free, CRVV low-risk, or CRVV high-risk.

  • CRVV-free means that CDC has assessed the country as not having CRVV present, based on internationally accepted standards.
  • Low-risk means the country is at low risk for CRVV transmission, meaning the virus is limited to a localized area, surveillance and dog vaccination programs are adequate, and the virus is in a controlled status with the country heading toward eventual CRVV-free status.
  • High-risk means the country is at high risk for CRVV transmission as demonstrated by the presence and geographic distribution of the virus and by low quality of or low confidence in the country’s surveillance systems and its dog vaccination programs.

Once effective, individuals importing a dog from CRVV-free or low-risk countries will not need a rabies vaccination certificate for the dog to be admitted into the United States, although they will still be subject to the requirements set forth in 42 CFR 71.51. Owners and importers importing a dog from a high-risk country will be required to have a valid rabies vaccination certificate.

The Federal Register Notice informs dog owners and importers where they can locate up-to-date information on a country’s canine rabies status to facilitate a dog’s entry or re-entry into the United States. Importers should continue to check state and local government rabies vaccination requirements of the final destination prior to entry or re-entry into the United States.

Please see the docket details for more information or view as a PDF file [PDF – 7 pages].  For questions about this notice or CDC’s import regulations, contact CDC’s Importation and Animal Contact Team at