Rabid Dog Up for Adoption Enters U.S. with Falsified Papers

Jennifer Coates, DVM
Written by:
Published: January 4, 2016
Rabid Dog Up for Adoption Enters U.S. with Falsified Papers

I am all for animal adoption, but I have a question. Why would animal rescue organizations bring dogs and cats from foreign countries into the United States for adoption?

While we’ve made some progress in the number of healthy animals euthanized in this country, millions of adoptable dogs and cats are still being killed every year simply because we can’t find homes for them. Wouldn’t the money spent on relocating foreign animals be put to better use supporting domestic spay/neuter and animal adoption programs?

Even more importantly, importing homeless animals to the United States puts the health and lives of our pets at risk. Check out this case report that appeared in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s December 18, 2015 Morbidity and Mortality weekly report.

On May 30, 2015, a shipment of eight dogs and 27 cats arrived at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City from Cairo, Egypt. The animals were distributed to several animal rescue groups and one permanent adoptive home in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia. Four dogs from the shipment arrived in Virginia on May 31, 2015, and were distributed to three foster homes associated with a Virginia-based rescue group (animal rescue group A).

On June 3, an adult female street dog (dog A) imported by animal rescue group A became ill. The dog had been imported with an unhealed fracture of the left forelimb, and 4 days after arrival at a foster home in Virginia, developed hypersalivation, paralysis, and hyperesthesia. Because of concern about rabies, a veterinarian euthanized the dog on June 5 and submitted brain tissue for rabies testing at DCLS [Virginia Department of General Services Division of Consolidated Laboratory Services]. On June 8, DCLS confirmed rabies infection by direct fluorescent antibody testing and contacted CDC to coordinate shipment of specimens to assist with variant typing. CDC determined that the variant was consistent with canine rabies virus circulating in Egypt.

As a result of contact with this dog, 18 people received rabies postexposure prophylaxis. Seven U.S. dogs who were current on their rabies vaccinations but had been exposed to Dog A received rabies boosters and were isolated in their owners’ homes for 45 days. Dog A’s 10 week old puppy (Dog B) had not been vaccinated against rabies and was shipped in the same crate as Dog A. Dog B was vaccinated against rabies, strictly isolated for 90 days, home quarantined for another 90 days, and revaccinated for rabies before being released from home quarantine.

Adding intrigue to this situation is the fact that Dog A was shipped with a fake rabies vaccination certificate. As the CDC report states:

During the investigation, public health officials learned that the rabies vaccination certificate used for entry of the rabid dog into the United States had intentionally been falsified to avoid exclusion of the dog from entry under CDC's current dog importation regulations.

I’m in no way saying we should close our borders to animals with responsible owners who obey all of our import regulations, but why are we opening ourselves up to the diseases that homeless, foreign animals might bring with them when we are euthanizing millions of our own adoptable animals?

Dr. Jennifer Coates

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