Fox Rothschild LLP

As reported in the Washington Post on June 19, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has launched a “multistate investigation after imported rescue dog tests positive for rabies variant twice eradicated in U.S.”

This is the fourth case of a dog imported from a country with a high rabies risk later determined to have been infected with the canine variant of rabies virus, which was eradicated from the U.S. in the 1970s.  This form of the rabies virus transmits easily between dogs and has reportedly resulted in “59,000 human deaths a year-mostly in Africa and Asia.”

The facts reported by the Washington Post include:

  • The infected dog was a puppy “imported from Azerbaijan by a[n undisclosed] rescue group”;
  • The puppy was imported with 32 other dogs and one cat, arriving in Chicago on June 10, 2021;
  • The other 33 animals were sent to eight (8) other states, including: California, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania;
  • At least 12 people were reportedly exposed to the rabies-infected puppy;
  • An undisclosed number of other animals were also exposed and are presumably in quarantine; and
  • The cost of the federal public health investigation is estimated between $215,000 and $509,000.

As previously reported, CDC recently announced a temporary ban on the importation of dogs from 113 countries, deemed high-risk for rabies, with limited pre-approved exceptions.  Importations of dogs for adoption or resale would not be permitted.  Notably Azerbaijan is one of the listed high-risk countries.

What should you do to protect your shelter, rescue, family and pets?  Keep in mind that rabies infection is nearly 100% fatal, especially if not diagnosed quickly.  Infected animals are usually euthanized out of an abundance of caution.  Exposed animals are quarantined for periods of time depending on their vaccination status.  Exposed people can be effectively treated if treatment is provided quickly.

  1. Make sure all your pets are properly vaccinated;
  2. Have all pets examined by your veterinarian when you adopt/purchase them, and then at least annually thereafter;
  3. Do not adopt or foster animals unless you have sufficient proof of the source of those animals, preferably from birth, and proof of veterinary examination and vaccination (keep in mind that at least in some cases of dogs imported from high-risk rabies countries, they arrived with fraudulent importation documents); and
  4. Shelters and rescues should impose strict quarantine procedures and should require complete medical and behavioral histories for incoming animals.

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