NC rescue group that saves dogs from China meat trade joins fight against CDC ban on importing dogs

A new order from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has some animal rescue groups angry, desperate, and trying to get exemptions before it takes effect on July 14.

The order is intended to help keep rabies cases out of the U.S. by banning anyone from bringing in dogs from 113 countries classified as high-risk.

A North Carolina nonprofit that rescues dogs from the China meat trade says the CDC’s order will guarantee the deaths of millions of dogs.

China Rescue Dogs, based in Southern Pines, has brought more than 600 dogs from China to the U.S. in the past two years. Director Jill Stewart started the nonprofit after seeing firsthand what happens in China’s dog meat industry.

“Every day we are rescuing animals from the slaughterhouses and the meat trade in China,” Stewart said. “We have a lot of golden retrievers, poodles, labradors, malamutes, huskies ... these are all dogs that are overbred in China; and once they’re done, they put them on the slaughter trucks.”

(READ BELOW: The letter the coalition sent to the CDC asking for an exemption)

Stewart’s group has rescue partners in China who help to save dogs destined for slaughter. Stewart says many of those partners work in secret, out of necessity. Channel 9 spoke by phone with one rescuer in Wuhan. “Fita” said that while many Westerners may not realize it, dog meat is popular with a lot of people in China.

“They enjoy eating dog meat because they believe dog meat can keep them warm, make them stronger, you know, so there are a lot of dog meat restaurants in China,” Fita explained.

China also has a dog meat festival, called “Yulin,” which many activists are working to end.

“It’s a barbaric torture and slaughter – over 10,000 dogs and 15,000 cats in a 10-day stretch,” Stewart said. “But for us who work in China as rescuers, Yulin happens every day.”

The new CDC order will prevent groups like China Rescue Dogs from bringing dogs into the U.S.

It orders “a temporary suspension for dogs imported from countries the CDC considers high risk for dog rabies.”

The ban applies to 113 countries, including China, India, Russia, Egypt, Kenya, Haiti and Honduras.

The CDC states the move is “to ensure the health and safety” of those dogs and to protect the public against “the reintroduction of canine rabies.” It follows an incident last month involving a group of 33 dogs brought to the U.S. from Azerbaijan by a rescue group. One of the dogs subsequently tested positive for rabies, which the CDC says was eradicated in the U.S. in 2007.

In addition, the CDC states that in 2020, more than 450 dogs from high-risk countries arrived in the U.S. with “incomplete, inadequate or fraudulent rabies vaccination certificates.”

Stewart said her group always vaccinates and thoroughly documents the dogs they bring to the U.S.

“Once we get them in our possession, we immediately take them to a vet where they’re quarantined for 30 days and their vaccinations are given,” she said.

“What we are asking for is an exemption [to the CDC order]. We are doing everything right.”

Channel 9 contacted the CDC, which responded, “Rescue or adopted dogs from high-risk countries are not eligible for importation or a permit. There are no plans to allow for exemptions.”

China Rescue Dogs has joined other animal rescue groups to form a coalition, asking the CDC to reconsider the order and provide an exemption. They’re also encouraging supporters to contact their senators and Congressional representatives and ask them to pressure the CDC to change course.

“These are animals that have no rights. We are the voice for the voiceless,” Stewart said. “Without rescues like ours and nonprofits helping and assisting and finding loving homes in our country, they don’t have a chance.”

To learn more about Stewart and her rescue group, go to chinarescuedogs.org.

(WATCH: Chained, scarred dogs rescued from alleged dogfighting ring in Gastonia)