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Stricter U.S. border rules for dogs could disrupt summer travel plans



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Windsor-Essex residents travelling with their dogs this summer may encounter some obstacles at the border as stricter new rules take effect Aug. 1.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is updating its dog importation regulations by making sure any dog entering the United States doesn’t present a risk to people and other animals.

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That means Canadian dogs who go to the U.S. must appear healthy, be at least six months of age, be microchipped, and be accompanied by a specific form.

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“There’s no question that this is going to have an effect on how people travel with their pets,” said Dr. Ian Sandler, chair of the national issues committee of the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association.

“That human-animal bond is such an important part of why we love our pets. This is going to be something that I think is going to play out significantly.”

The revised rules mainly concern dogs coming in from countries considered “high risk for dog rabies,” such as Brazil, Colombia, China, and India. Canada is among the countries the CDC considers “rabies-free or low risk.”

Rabies vaccinations historically have been mandatory for dogs entering the U.S. However, the new regulations will require owners of Canadian dogs to present a certification of rabies vaccination, signed by a veterinarian, within 30 days before entering the U.S.

“It’s hard to know if there’s going to be more congestion (at the border) and if this is going to be more problematic,” Sandler said.

Melanie Coulter, executive director of the Windsor/Essex County Humane Society, said the new rules will be a barrier for dog owners who frequently cross the border. 

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“If you travel for veterinary care or if you bring your pet to work with you, that’s going to be a very complicated option,” said Coulter.

“You have to have your vet record certified within the last 30 days and then the requirement to fill in a form two to 10 days before travel — that’s going to prevent travel without planning ahead for at least 48 hours.”

Mark McCondach and dogs
WINDSOR, ONT: MAY 23, 2024. Mark McCondach and his dogs Baxter, left, and Teddy are shown at their Windsor home on Thursday, May 23, 2024. Photo by Dan Janisse /Windsor Star

Windsor’s Mark McCondach heard about the new regulations during a visit to the vet May 10. It made sense to him at first but, after considering the close relationship between Windsor and Detroit, he now fears it will ruin the flexibility of people crossing back and forth with pets.

“We’ve taken our dogs over to the Detroit riverfront for a walk,” McCondach said. “Does that spontaneity and flexibility end on Aug. 1?”

McCondach was also referred to a veterinary clinic in Farmington, Mich., that specialized in neurological disorders after his dog Teddy couldn’t walk one morning.

“Our vet phoned the clinic in Farmington and we were there in about 45 minutes,” McCondach said. “He (Teddy) was assessed and spent two nights before being released to us. The only other place available to us was in Guelph, a three-hour and 10-minute drive away.”

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Sandler advised local owners to plan ahead as August tends to be the busiest month for travel. He said it’s important to speak to a veterinarian to make sure the vaccine and microchip requirements are met,

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The new regulations can be found on the CDC’s website — which also includes an online tool to help dog owners determine what rules apply to their pets.

“I think it’s always a good idea just to give yourself a little bit of time because again, it’s going to be hard to know how overwhelmed the website is going to be, prior to this Aug. 1. start date,” Sandler said.

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