Source: CBC (Extract)
Posted: May 19, 2024

Starting August 1st, new regulations stipulate that all dogs must be microchipped, vaccinated against rabies, and demonstrate apparent good health.

Advocates are concerned that revised entry criteria for dogs journeying from Canada to the United States may pose challenges for individuals relying on service or guide dogs.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has introduced updated guidelines aimed at curbing the spread of rabies. These guidelines entail a range of new prerequisites for dogs crossing the border, contingent upon factors such as the dog’s age, country of origin, and travel record.

It’s worth noting that these regulations extend to service dogs, not just pets.

Starting August 1st, dogs residing in Canada, who have not visited a “high-risk” country within the last six months, are required to be microchipped and possess thorough documentation of rabies vaccination. Additionally, the dog’s owner or guardian must complete an entry application form, providing two photos of the dog, and ensure the dog appears healthy upon arrival.

These regulations were announced in early May and will be enforced beginning August 1st.

Darryl Stickel, a consultant who is visually impaired, expresses that international travel for work is already quite challenging for him and his guide dog, Drake. He believes that these new requirements only add further complications and potential for mishaps.

“As someone with a disability, the more obstacles and procedures you introduce, the more chances there are for errors on my part,” he explained.

Stickel also highlighted the ambiguity in the language regarding the appearance of a dog’s health in the requirements. This vagueness could provide border officials with grounds to deny entry to individuals and their dogs.

Emphasizing that guide dogs are not considered pets, William Thornton, CEO of B.C. and Alberta Guide Dogs, mentioned that his organization is actively working to fully comprehend the implications of the new regulations.

Thornton acknowledged the significance of preventing the spread of rabies; however, he believes that service dogs should not be categorized alongside pet dogs.

According to Thornton, service dogs typically undergo vaccination, microchipping, and annual health evaluations. However, he expresses particular apprehension about the necessity, under specific conditions, for dogs to undergo a blood test assessing disease immunity within 30 days before travel.

“The potential impact on service dogs seems to be quite significant at this point… it may pose considerable challenges,” he noted.

In addition to his role as CEO of B.C. and Alberta Guide Dogs, Thornton serves as the chair of the International Guide Dog Federation. This federation comprises 100 organizations across 37 countries, representing 25,000 working dogs worldwide. Thornton stated that to his knowledge, the CDC did not engage with the federation during the formulation or subsequent publication of the new measures.

“I anticipate significant resistance from the [guide dog] sector… Our responsibility is to advocate for our guide dog users because the fundamental premise of acquiring a guide or service dog is to ensure freedom of access and travel,” he remarked.

CBC News reached out to the CDC regarding consultation with service dog organizations regarding the rule modifications but has not yet received a response.

As per the CDC, the rabies virus transmitted by dogs was eradicated in the U.S. in 2007, and the new measures are aimed at preventing its reemergence.

The regulation, it states, is informed by lessons drawn from the COVID-19 pandemic, during which the center temporarily prohibited the importation of dogs from countries with a high rabies risk.

The CDC informed CBC News that service dogs are subject to the same entry requirements as all other dogs; however, accommodations and exemptions can be arranged.

For dogs arriving via air travel, the CDC-registered animal care facility, where the passenger’s dog has a reservation, should arrange transportation for passengers and their dogs to the facility for the dog’s examination and revaccination—potentially expediting the process in theory. The CDC emphasizes that such requests need to be made during the reservation process.

Additionally, there is an exemption for foreign-vaccinated service dogs arriving at a sea port, provided the dog fulfills all other criteria, including obtaining a valid rabies test from a CDC-approved laboratory prior to arrival.