Up to October 2004, dogs and cats imported into Japan were subjected to a quarantine regimen which consisted of vaccination and a 30- to 365-day waiting period in the country of origin and a 14-day quarantine period upon arrival in Japan. This regimen was replaced by a new one, consisting of vaccination, antibody level titration and a 180-day waiting period in the country of origin, in November 2004. To evaluate the effect of this policy change, a quantitative risk assessment was undertaken. The risk of rabies entering Japan through the importation of dogs and cats from the USA under the old – and new – regimens was quantitatively assessed and compared. Under the new regimen, rabies will enter Japan once every 4932 years (90% confidence interval 1812–13 412 years) through the importation of dogs and cats from the USA. Under the old regimen, rabies would enter Japan once every 70 years (39–205 years), 83 years (45–267 years) or 190 years (104–609 years) assuming that the animal departs the country of origin 30 days, 180 days or 365 days after vaccination, respectively. This indicates the policy change would reduce the risk by a factor of 1/25–1/70.