Animal Advocates

‘Protect The Potcakes’: The Dangers Of The Upcoming CDC Ban on Caribbean Potcake Dogs

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On May of this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued their newest dog importation rules that will take effect on August 01.

The new importation rules, according to the CDC, are meant to protect the health and safety of people and animals by keeping rabies out of the country.

However, the blanket ban is posing a serious danger to the indigenous dogs of the Caribbean Islands – also known as “potcake dogs”.

Now, the Caribbean Dog Rescue Coalition, made up of a total 14 dog rescue organizations, is working hard to implore the CDC to amend the new rules to help thousands of healthy, rabies-free potcake dogs from being euthanized.

The New CDC Dog Importation Rules

Dachshund Dog Sits In Blue Pet Carrier In The Airport
Masarik /

Before we dig into the issue at hand, let us first take a look at what the new CDC dog importation rules look like.

On May 08, the CDC issued their new dog importation rules that will take effect on August 01 of this year.

Per the new rules, all dogs entering the United States must adhere to the following:

  • Appear healthy upon arrival
  • Be at least six months of age
  • Be microchipped
  • Be accompanied by a CDC Dog Import Form online submission receipt.

Additional rules also apply based on where the dog has been in the last six months and whether or not the dog is vaccinated in the United States. For example, if a dog is arriving from a country with a high risk of dog rabies, then the dog must be vaccinated against rabies.

And no dog is exempted from these rules – even service dogs and dogs born in the country must adhere to these importation rules.

This also means that the current temporary suspension for the importation of dogs from countries with a high risk of rabies during the COVID-19 pandemic will expire when the new rules go into effect.

The Caribbean Dog Rescue Coalition On The New CDC Ban

As per the Caribbean Dog Rescue Coalition, when the new importation rules were announced, there was one rule that was not previously mentioned nor made clear:

“Effective August 1st, the CDC is banning all dogs from entering the United States from ALL foreign countries under the age of 6 months old/180 days old.”

This means that rabies-free countries are not excluded from this ban, which the members of the Caribbean Dog Rescue Coalition are all from, and therefore do not pose a risk.

This has sent concern among Caribbean dog rescue organizations. And because of this, the Caribbean Dog Rescue Coalition, made up of 14 dog rescue organizations and committed to the rescue and welfare of the indigenous Caribbean dogs, was formed.

The Coalition is imploring the CDC to amend their new ban to at least allow rabies-free countries to be exempt or to reduce the age of the imported dogs from 6 months to 16 weeks.

Potcake Dogs Inside Kennels
Credit: Caribbean Dog Rescue Coalition

The latter request is due to the fact that members of the Coalition can only rescue potcake dogs by airlifting them off the islands. And a 6-month-old Caribbean puppy will exceed an airline’s in-cabin weight limit of 20 lbs.

The Coalition also highlights that the existing Caribbean Island rescue health protocols fall in line with the guidelines for required and recommended health care as outlined by the American Veterinarian Medical Association.

Linda Gunville, Director, Bruno Project Rescue, Inc. explains, “With the dog receiving a rabies vaccination at 12-weeks-old and adhering to strict health protocols, we oppose this blanket ban.” 

The Coalition also explains that the potcake dogs they rescue do not take up shelter space in the United States, where shelters are already at maximum capacity.

The President of the Bruno Project Rescue, Inc., Blake Ulrich, also says, “With respect to the intent of keeping canine-rabies out of the United States, this blanket ban will end up doing more harm than good for rescues within the Coalition. The dogs we rescue do not take up shelter space in the States as they travel directly into permanent homes.”

Janelle Nadeau, Foster Coordinator, Adoption Coordinator, and Flight coordinator for New Life for Paws also tackled the ongoing crisis across US animal shelters reaching maximum capacity and how it is not the responsibility that the potcake dogs must be burdened with.

Nadeau said, “Astronomically high veterinary costs and lack of low cost spay/neuter clinics throughout the US are a driving factor to why people cannot afford their pet and shelters overflowing.”

What Are Potcake Dogs?

Potcake dogs are mixed-breed dogs indigenous to the Caribbean Islands, specifically the Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands. The term “potcake dog” is a term of endearment that came from the leftover rice, peas, fat, and meat mixture often stuck to the bottom of a family’s cooking pot fed to the dogs.

Potcake dogs are also called cunucus and coconut retrievers. And they have a long and somewhat mysterious history.

They are believed to be derived from a mix of Labrador, German Shepherd, and Fox Terrier breeds that the Spanish and English people exploring the islands bought with them throughout the years.

And as a result of their heritage, potcake dogs vary in coat color, size, and appearance. But they typically have long noses, large, pointed ears, and a smooth coat.

Volunteer dog rescuer and Potcake Place K9 Rescue founder Jane Parker-Rauw describes a potcake dog as “intelligent, loyal, calm and resilient” – characteristics that make a wonderful family companion.

Furthermore, the dogs are also described as resourceful, strong, and brave dogs due to the fact that most of them have to live their lives in the streets, fending for food.

Protecting And Saving The Potcakes

Did you know that a potcake dog’s life expectancy on the island, with human intervention, is only three years?

This is because potcakes are mostly born in the wild and do not have a home of their own. As a matter of fact, locals consider these dogs as pests and do not treat them very kindly.

These dogs die from being run over by cars, tied up, drowning during hurricanes, being kept in boxes that are too small as they grow, being poisoned, slashed by machetes, stabbed by locals, etc.  So, staying in the island will do more harm than good for them.

There is also the problem of overpopulation on every island that potcake dogs are found. Unfortunately, most of the Caribbean Islands do not have enough resources or space to control this.

This is why numerous dog rescue organizations do their best to rescue and care for potcake dogs, so they can get a second chance at a safe, suitable, and loving forever home off the Caribbean Islands.

Furthermore, these dog rescue organization do not just take care of these dogs, they’re also doing everything they can to educate locals about proper animal care and the importance of spaying/neutering to change the locals’ perspective on the dogs.

While it is true that much more work is needed to protect and save potcakes, there is no doubt that these dog rescue organizations are slowly making a positive impact on the lives of these dogs.

How Does The New CDC Ban Affect The Potcake Dogs?

Most tourists fall in love with potcake dogs and want to adopt and bring them back home in the US.

As a matter of fact, back in 2011, one of our authors and the Co-Founder of Clear Conscience Pet, Amanda Malone Bennie, flew to the Turks and Caicos Islands with her family, fell in love with potcake dogs, and decided to adopt one.

The way these dogs get to go home to their forever home is by flying in-cabin with their adopters or with a flight volunteer as puppies.

And members of the Coalition fly between 100 to 150 dogs to safety and into their forever homes in the US each year.

However, since the upcoming CDC ban states that all dogs entering the country MUST be at least 6 months old, saving and adopting the dogs will be impossible and will, therefore, cause unnecessary deaths to thousands of puppies throughout the Caribbean.

Ulrich says, “The ban will cause thousands of innocent puppies on the island to die or live short lives where all they will know is starvation, dehydration, poor health and suffering.”

This is because at 6 months old, potcake dogs usually exceed the in-cabin weight limit of 20 lbs. At this point, the dogs will have to fly cargo instead of flying in-cabin.

Potcake Puppies Inside A Pet Crate
Credit: Caribbean Dog Rescue Coalition

But this poses another problem – as many Caribbean Islands do not allow dogs to fly in cargo due to the temperatures and the size of small island planes that don’t have enough space for kennels.

And those that do have cargo-capable planes charge thousands of dollars instead of the in-cabin fee of $125.

Alison Driscoll, President & Co-Founder of the Caribbean Canine Connection calls the CDC ban “cruel” and “inhumane” explaining, “This incredibly cruel and unnecessary ban on puppies under 6 months of age from being allowed to enter the US will lead to the suffering, torment, and death of thousands and thousands of puppies and dogs all over the world, who would have otherwise been able to receive a second chance at a happy, healthy, and wonderful life with a loving family here in the states.”

Furthermore, this will result in shelters (that are already at full capacity) to house puppies for months to a year until they can get a flight.

These puppies would’ve otherwise been given a new hope at life and would have been flown to their forever homes.

“The shelters simply do not have the physical space to take in and keep all of the dogs for 6 months let alone a few years,” Gunville reveals.

Furthermore, the Coalition works tirelessly to control overpopulation and each rescue group from the Coalition spays and neuters between 500 to 1000 strays a year.

With this ban, the issue of overpopulation will also cause problems for the tourist attractions, such as beaches, in the Caribbean Islands – as they will become breeding grounds for the dogs while overpopulation grows at a rapid pace.

Gunville explains, “The money received from the adoption donations is how the shelters are able to afford spaying and neutering the strays.

The Effects Of The New CDC Ban Before It Even Gets Enacted

Even before the new CDC ban takes into effect on August 01, members of the Caribbean Dog Rescue Coalition are already seeing and experiencing its devastating effects.

“After June 1st any newborn puppy born is left the fend for itself, most likely dying a horrifying and painful death and we will run out of time to save them. They wouldn’t be old enough to fly by the August 1st deadline,” Nadeau explains.

Nadeau also reveals that they have been receiving hundreds of messages from tourists begging them to help and rescue puppies they’ve found dumped throughout the island of Aruba, and they had to painstakingly refuse.

“Their time to be saved has run out,” Nadeau said. “Daily, there are pleas for NLFP to assist with a happy, healthy puppy who could easily be on their way to a much better life.”

What You Can Do To Help Protect Potcake Dogs

Potcake Dogs Inside A Kennel
Credit: Caribbean Dog Rescue Coalition

The Coalition is doing their best to help save potcake dogs so they can live a better life in the US. However, they cannot fight the good fight alone. So, they are calling for public support to pressure the CDC to reconsider its stance and amend the ban.

Animal lovers and advocates alike are urged to join their campaign to protect these vulnerable animals by doing any of the following:

  1. Learn more about the potcake dogs and the situation here.
  2. Support and sign the Humane Society of the United States’s petition opposing the ban here.
  3. Sign and share the following petitions:
  4. Use this sample letter to contact the CDC and lend your voice to the cause.
  5. Follow the Coalition on Facebook to read helpful information and stay up to date on the latest details of the situation.
  6. Buy any of the Coalition’s merchandise. Proceeds go towards the Coalition for any legal fees incurred.
  7. Donate to the members of the Coalition in any way, shape, or form. See all the members here.

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