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The Strays of Sochi: Subject to CBP Inspection

Release Date: 
February 19, 2014

As the Olympic Games wind down in Sochi, Russia, U.S. athletes will be returning home to share their stories about their victories and defeats, but some members of Team USA have announced they plan to bring home more than just medals and souvenirs. Many have reportedly made plans to adopt one or more of the hundreds of stray dogs roaming Sochi.

Of course, it is one thing to board a flight home with “man’s best friend,” but it is quite another to clear Customs and Border Protection with any animal from foreign destinations. Enter CBP agriculture specialists, who encounter all kinds of live animals every day at U.S. land, sea, and air ports of entry.

The Sochi strays – like all live animals – are subject to CBP inspection at U.S. ports of entry. Normally, dogs must have a certificate showing they have been vaccinated against rabies at least 30 days prior to entry. If a dog appears to be ill, then further examination by a licensed veterinarian at the owner’s expense may be required. The Sochi strays are subject to CBP inspection at U.S. ports of entry.

The Sochi strays, however, have no such documentation. Most do not have any tags indicating they have been examined by a Russian veterinarian. That is likely to present challenges for travelers returning with dogs from Sochi.

The bottom line: Dogs may be imported without proof of rabies vaccination only under two conditions:

  1. if they have either spent the previous six months in a country that is free of rabies; or
  2. if they are vaccinated for rabies within four days of arrival at their final U.S. destination and within 10 days of entry into the U.S., followed by a required 30-day confinement period.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Russia is not considered rabies free.

If the dogs must be vaccinated, their owners must fill out a “confinement agreement” form, consenting to the quarantine of the animal until it is considered adequately vaccinated against rabies – typically at least 30 days post-vaccination. Confinement is legally defined as “restriction of a dog or cat to a building or other enclosure at a U.S. port, en route to destination and at destination, in isolation from other animals and from persons except for contact necessary for its care or, if the dog or cat is allowed out of the enclosure, muzzling and keeping it on a leash.”

Puppies (dogs under 3 months of age), which are considered too young to be vaccinated, must remain confined until they are old enough to be vaccinated and then at least 30 days beyond that date.

CDC regulations require importers to provide a contact address where the dog will be kept during the confinement period. If the importer will be housing the dog at several addresses or traveling with the animal, all points of contact must be provided to the Quarantine Station. Travelers importing animals should contact their Quarantine Station if they have any questions or concerns.

CBP also enforces regulations set forth by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. For example, owners of dogs imported from countries or regions affected with foot-and-mouth disease – and Russia is one of these countries – are advised to take the following precautions to prevent the introduction of the disease into the U.S.:

  • The feet, fur, and bedding of the pets should be free of any excessive dirt or mud;
  • The pet's bedding should be free of any straw or hay, or other natural bedding;
  • The pet should be bathed as soon as it reaches its final destination;
  • The pet should be kept separate and apart from all livestock for at least five days after entry into the U.S.

State regulations also apply to the U.S. importation of live animals. Travelers who decide to adopt an animal in any foreign country should consult their state veterinarian or visit the USDA website that links to state regulations.

Following importation, all dogs are subject to state and local vaccination or health certificate requirements. All pet dogs arriving in the state of Hawaii and the territory of Guam, even from the U.S. mainland, are subject to locally imposed quarantine requirements. Find additional information in the Compendium of Animal Rabies Prevention and Control.

Finally, many airlines have rules governing the transport of live animals on their aircraft. Travelers can find these rules on the carriers’ websites.