African Rodent Importation Ban

Embargoed African Rodents and Monkeypox Virus

On June 11, 2003, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a joint order in response to the first reported outbreak of monkeypox in the United States. Specifically, CDC prohibited the importation of all African rodents into the United States and FDA banned the sale, distribution, transport, or release into the environment of prairie dogs and six specific genera of African rodents within the United States.

The six genera of African rodents include:

  • Rope squirrels (Funiscuirus sp.)
  • Tree squirrels (Heliosciurus sp.)
  • African giant pouched rats (Cricetomys sp.)
  • Brush-tailed porcupines (Atherurus sp.)
  • Dormice (Graphiurus sp.)
  • Striped mice (Lemniscomys sp.)

The order was later replaced by an interim final rule on November 3, 2003 (42 CFR § 71.56 and 42 CFR § 1240.63).

On September 8, 2008, FDA rescinded the part of the order that restricted the capture, sale, and interstate movement of prairie dogs or domestically-bred African rodents (42 CFR § 1240.63). However, CDC’s restriction on the importation of African rodents remains in place.

Importation Regulations

What may NOT be imported into the United States?
A person may not import or offer to import into the United States:

  • Any rodent of African origin, whether dead or alive, including:
    • Any rodent that was caught in Africa and then shipped directly to the United States .
    • Any rodent that was shipped to another country before being imported to the United States.
  • Any rodent, whether dead or alive, whose native habitat is in Africa, even if the rodent was born elsewhere.

What MAY be imported into the United States?
A person may import into the United States with written permission from CDC:

  • African rodents imported for scientific, exhibition, or educational purposes.

A person may import into the United Stated without written permission from CDC:

  • Fully taxidermied African rodents and completely finished trophies.
  • Products derived from animals, such as brushes that use animal hair and animal skins, if properly processed to render them non-infectious .
    • Such processes would include:
      • Inactivation by heat (heated to an internal temperature of 70ºC or placed in boiling water for a minimum of 30 minutes).
      • Preservation in 2% formaldehyde.
      • Chemically treating in acidic or alkaline solutions (soaking in a solution below pH 3.0 or above pH 11.5 for 24 hours).
      • The use of hypertonic salt.

Products imported under these exceptions are subject to inspection to ensure they meet the conditions set forth in the interim final rule.

What actions can CDC take to prevent the importation of monkeypox virus?
Under this rule CDC has authorization to:

  • Issue an order causing an imported animal to be placed in quarantine.
  • Issue an order causing an imported animal to be re-exported.
  • Issue an order causing an imported animal to be destroyed.
  • Take any other action necessary to prevent the spread of monkeypox virus.

Violation Penalties

Section 368 of the PHS Act (42 U.S.C 271) provides the authority to enforce section 361 of the same PHS Act. Section 361 of the PHS Act also provides for such inspection and destruction of articles found to be infected or contaminated and determined to be sources of dangerous infection to humans.

Any person who violates a regulation prescribed under section 361 of the PHS Act may be:

  • Punished by imprisonment for up to 1 year (42 U.S.C. 271(a)).
  • Punished for violating such a regulation by a fine of up to $100,000 per violation if death has not resulted from the violation or up to $250,000 per violation if death has resulted (18 U.S.C. 3559, 3571(b)).

Organizations that violate a regulation prescribed under section 361 of the PHS Act may be:

  • Fined up to $200,000 per violation not resulting in death and $500,000 per violation resulting in death (18 U.S.C. 3559, 3571(c)).

Please check with your state for any laws regarding the sale, distribution, or transportation of prairie dogs or African rodents.

Resources

Control of Communicable Diseases; Restrictions on African Rodents, Prairie Dogs, and Certain Other Animals Cdc-pdf[PDF – 208KB]External (Federal Register: 21 CFR Parts 16 & 1240; 42 CFR Part 71)

FDA removes its regulation from the Control of Communicable Diseases; Restrictions on African Rodents, Prairie Dogs, and Certain Other Animals interim final rule Cdc-pdf[PDF – 171KB]External