Dogs on the move: Estimating the risk of rabies in imported dogs in the United States, 2015–2022


Dog-mediated rabies virus variant (DMRVV), a zoonotic pathogen that causes a deadly disease in animals and humans, is present in more than 100 countries worldwide but has been eliminated from the United States since 2007. In the United States, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recorded four instances of rabies in dogs imported from DMRVV-enzootic countries since 2015. However, it remains uncertain whether the incidence of DMRVV among imported dogs from these countries significantly surpasses that of domestically acquired variants among domestic U.S. dogs.


This evaluation aimed to estimate the number of dogs imported from DMRVV-enzootic countries and compare the risk of rabies between imported dogs and the U.S. domestic dog population.

Materials and Methods

Data from the CDC's dog import permit system (implemented during 2021 under a temporary suspension of dog importation from DMRVV-enzootic countries) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection's Automated Commercial Environment system, each of which records a segment of dogs entering the U.S. from DMRVV-enzootic countries, was analysed. Additionally, we estimated the incidence rate of rabies in dogs imported from DMRVV-enzootic countries and compared it to the incidence rate within the general U.S. dog population, due to domestically acquired rabies variants, over the eight-year period (2015–2022).


An estimated 72,589 (range, 62,660–86,258) dogs were imported into the United States annually between 2015 and 2022 from DMRVV-enzootic countries. The estimated incidence rate of rabies was 16 times higher (range, 13.2–19.4) in dogs imported from DMRVV-enzootic countries than that estimated for domestically acquired rabies in the general U.S. dog population.


Preventing human exposure to dogs with DMRVV is a public health priority. The higher risk of rabies in dogs imported from DMRVV-enzootic countries supports the need for importation requirements aimed at preventing the reintroduction of DMRVV into the United States.

Authors: Emily G. Pieracci, Ryan Wallace, Brian Maskery, Colleen Brouillette, Clive Brown, Heesoo Joo


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