CDC Dog Ban Creates Emotional Chaos, Financial Hardship for U.S. Diplomats, Travelers, Rescue Groups


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For Immediate Release:
Aug 09. 2021

Contact: Jennifer Skiff
917-900-6628 or jennifer@animalwellnessaction.org

Washington, D.C. – After a sudden and surprising far-reaching announcement, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on July 14, shut down imports of dogs entering the U.S. from 113 countries, causing unprecedented turmoil for American families with pets on their way back to the U.S. and crippling the life-saving work of U.S.-based animal rescue organizations conducting operations in dozens of countries. The CDC provided a rabies-prevention explanation for the abrupt change in policy, even though there have been just four cases of dogs entering the country with rabies in the last six years.

“The CDC has turned risk assessment on its head,” said Wayne Pacelle, president of Animal Wellness Action, which successfully pushed for a House amendment to a spending bill to provide CDC with an additional $3 million to conduct substantive screening of dogs so that those without disease could enter the U.S.  “This is a gross overreach by this agency, and the policy threatens to separate diplomats and other Americans overseas from their canine companions and it cuts off the work of rescue groups at the knees.”

Responding to criticism from other government departments, the CDC is granting some exceptions to the new policy for some U.S. personnel. But many citizens who were travelling with their pets when the gate closed are feeling stranded with some saying they’re forced to consider euthanizing their beloved dogs. 

“I’m getting emails and calls from around the world from people who are frightened and who say the CDC isn’t responding to their requests for exemptions to bring their dogs home,” said Jennifer Skiff, director of international programs at Animal Wellness Action.  “This is an animal-lovers worst nightmare. Our country should not be forcing people who have followed all the rules to leave family members behind.”

Citing just four cases of dogs with rabies that were prevented from entering the U.S. over six years (a period when 6 -7 million dogs were imported) and a lack of resources due to COVID as the justification for the suspension, the agency closed the gates without seeking input from affected parties, creating more emotional chaos during these already difficult times.

“The period between now and October is the period when some 4,000 Foreign Service members are moving from one assignment to another – with a concentration between now and the middle of August – and the prospect of having to leave the family dog behind in a foreign country is daunting, to say the least,” said Ambassador Eric Rubin, president of the American Foreign Service Association, representing 15,000 Americans posted overseas.  Rubin is calling on the CDC to grant exemptions for U.S. personnel who have received travel orders and who carry health certificates and proof of rabies vaccinations and to prioritize their import permit requests. 

“The CDC has overreacted, given that the risk of canine rabies isn’t very high,” says Susan Johnson, co-founder of Foreign Affairs Friends of Animals Network. “The suddenness and sweeping breadth of the CDC ban, the lack of supporting data to explain it, and the complexity of the permit process has placed unreasonable, disruptive, costly, and stressful burdens on USG personnel serving abroad with their family dogs.” Johnson notes that the CDC should immediately push back the effective date of a new policy to October 14 so that there is time to work with all stakeholders to refine and better target the policy and to put the necessary human and institutional infrastructure in place in a coherent and coordinated way.

In addition, thousands of dogs are imported into the United States each year through the work of animal welfare groups that have identified crisis situations for animals and people overseas.  Many international rescue charities adopt these dogs directly with American citizens before the dogs enter the country.  Due to the suspension, hundreds of dogs and families face an uncertain reunion.

Jacqueline Finnegan is the vice president of No Dogs Left Behind, a U.S. based rescue group that saves dogs from the illegal dog meat trafficking trade in East Asia.  “These dogs have homes waiting for them in the United States and loving adopters who are devasted by this new suspension,” says Finnegan. “The dogs we rescue come from illegal dog meat trade traffickers where they are destined to be burned and skinned alive.”  No Dogs Left Behind is one of 92 animal charities represented in a coalition led by Animal Wellness Action.  The organization does not oppose rabies screening programs and believes such programs can be conducted efficiently to allow life-saving rescue work to continue.

Press Conference:

  • Date: Monday, August 9, 2021
  • Time:  1:30pm EST
  • Wayne Pacelle, President, Animal Wellness Action
  • Jennifer Skiff, Director of International Programs, Animal Wellness Action
  • Ambassador Eric Rubin, President, American Foreign Service Association
  • Susan Johnson, Foreign Affairs Friends of Animals Network
  • Jacqueline Finnegan, Vice-President, No Dogs Left Behind

*AWA will provide interview contacts of people who have been waiting for their adopted dogs to arrive from countries.


Animal Wellness Action (Action) is a Washington, D.C.-based 501(c)(4) organization with a mission of helping animals by promoting legal standards forbidding cruelty. We champion causes that alleviate the suffering of companion animals, farm animals, and wildlife. We advocate for policies to stop dogfighting and cockfighting and other forms of malicious cruelty and to confront factory farming and other systemic forms of animal exploitation. To prevent cruelty, we promote enacting good public policies and we work to enforce those policies. To enact good laws, we must elect good lawmakers, and that’s why we remind voters which candidates care about our issues and which ones don’t. We believe helping animals helps us all.

The Center for a Humane Economy (“the Center”) is a non-profit organization that focuses on influencing the conduct of corporations to forge a humane economic order. The first organization of its kind in the animal protection movement, the Center encourages businesses to honor their social responsibilities in a culture where consumers, investors, and other key stakeholders abhor cruelty and the degradation of the environment and embrace innovation as a means of eliminating both.

The Animal Wellness Foundation (Foundation) is a Los Angeles-based private charitable organization with a mission of helping animals by making veterinary care available to everyone with a pet, regardless of economic ability. We organize rescue efforts and medical services for dogs and cats in need and help homeless pets find a loving caregiver. We are advocates for getting veterinarians to the front lines of the animal welfare movement; promoting responsible pet ownership; and vaccinating animals against infectious diseases such as distemper. We also support policies that prevent animal cruelty and that alleviate suffering. We believe helping animals helps us all.




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