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Imported dogs with questionable documentation

To all Snohomish County veterinarians:

Actions requested: Be aware of imported dogs with questionable documentation and direct any questions about rabies vaccine or health certificates to your local animal control agency.  Refer clients to the CDC website or the websites below for any questions regarding zoonotic disease risks, animal importation requirements, and traveling with pets.


CDC has learned of several instances when importers have provided inaccurate rabies vaccine certificates for puppies arriving into the United States, particularly from rabies-endemic countries. These documents state that the puppies are older than 4 months of age and fully immunized against rabies. However, upon examination, these animals were found to be less than 4 months old and sometimes as young as 4-8 weeks of age. Documentation has also included falsification of birth location and breed registration.

Imported dogs are sold on-line, by independent sellers, or in pet stores.  They are adopted through both U.S. and international sources.  They may be purebred, hybrid, or mixed breeds; distributors may claim to have or may even provide breed registration papers.  They may be incorrectly identified as having been born and raised in the United States.

Federal regulations require that dogs coming from rabies-endemic countries be fully immunized against rabies [i.e., puppies at least 3 months of age must receive the initial rabies vaccination at least 30 days prior to U.S. arrival, and adult dogs (i.e., ≥15 months old) should be current on rabies booster vaccination].  Dogs that are not fully immunized and are coming from rabies-endemic countries may be allowed entry into the United States, at the discretion of CDC, if the importer signs a confinement agreement. This agreement requires the importer to confine the dogs at a specified location until they can be vaccinated against rabies and for 30 days thereafter. Adult dogs with a history of previous rabies vaccination (i.e., expired vaccination) may be released from confinement immediately after revaccination.


CDC recommends that veterinarians request the original rabies vaccination certificates (and English translations, if necessary) for any new patients. Veterinarians should strongly recommend that a dog be vaccinated against rabies by their clinic if:

  • the client is unable to provide the original certificate;
  • the certificate comes from an unknown source; or
  • the reported age does not match the physical appearance of the puppy.

For more information from the CDC:

Animal Importation information

Rabies-Free Countries list

Confinement Agreement

Compendium of Animal Rabies Prevention and Control

Healthy Pets Healthy People]

For more information from Washington State:

Washington State Department of Health-Rabies Vaccination Requirements for Pets

Washington State Department of Health-Rabies