Legislation recently introduced by the three congressional veterinarians would give the federal government new tools and powers to monitor and protect the health of imported dogs. The hope is to ensure that the federal government appropriately controls the large number of dogs entering the country each year to ensure that they are healthy and to prevent the spread of infectious diseases that could be introduced. in the United States by imported dogs.
Admittedly, bringing a dog to the United States can be complicated, given that no federal agency has regulatory authority in this area. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the US Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, and US Customs and Border Protection all have relevant regulations, depending on the circumstances. There are also potential requirements from states and airlines before a dog can be admitted to the United States.
The CDC currently requires all imported dogs to appear healthy. In addition, a valid rabies vaccination certificate may be required, depending on the country of origin of the dogs. The CDC last year issued guidelines for importers indicating that for the purpose of importing dogs, it would interpret a country’s rabies free status to specifically mean that the country is free from the variant. of the canine rabies virus, saying that this interpretation would allow federal authorities to better focus resources on preventing the reintroduction of CRVV, compared to other variants of the rabies virus, while protecting public health.
Estimates suggest that the USDA regulates, under the Animal Welfare Act, less than 0.28% of the estimated 1.06 million dogs imported into the United States each year, including 700,000 arriving at airports and 360,000 arriving at border entry points with Canada and Mexico, according to USDA’s “Report on the Importation of Live Dogs into the United States”, published in June 2019.
In addition, there is currently no legal provision requiring an import permit for the following situations:
- A dog that someone takes out of the United States and brings back as a pet.
- Companion dogs that leave the United States and return later.
- Dogs that organizations acquire internationally and import for adoption into the United States when there is no payment for the animals.
- Dogs that may present risks of diseases other than those related to human or animal health, such as distemper, canine flu and leishmaniasis.
The vast majority of imported dogs are assumed to be pets traveling with or to their owners, based on US dog use data collected by the USDA. In 2018, the USDA issued permits for 2,917 dogs that were imported for resale under the Animal Welfare Act. Dogs have been refused entry to the United States for non-compliance with CDC regulations, including 317 dogs in 2018, 704 dogs in 2017 and 466 dogs in 2016.
About 10% of dogs are imported from countries where the canine rabies virus is enzootic, according to CDC estimates. Since 2015, three cases of canine rabies have been imported in rescue dogs adopted from countries at high risk of rabies, according to information from the CDC.
On May 19, the Healthy Dogs Importation Act (HR 6921) was introduced in the United States House of Representatives by Representative Ralph Abraham, a Republican from Louisiana; Kurt Schrader, a Democrat from Oregon; and Ted Yoho, a Republican from Florida.
The legislation would require every dog entering the country to be permanently identified, in good health and accompanied by a veterinary inspection certificate. The health certificate must certify that the dog has received all the required vaccines and has demonstrated negative test results required by the USDA. Dogs entering the country for resale, transfer or donation must be at least 6 months old and accompanied by a USDA Import Permit. Exceptions include dogs used for research purposes or in need of veterinary treatment.
The bill would also streamline federal oversight, ensuring that documentation and import permits are shared electronically between USDA, CDC, and Customs and Border Protection, while clarifying enforcement authority. USDA key.
“Animal and public health officials, the American Veterinary Medical Association and the public have recommended that there be a federal agency to oversee and set the requirements for importing dogs,” according to the 2019 report from the USDA. “This recommendation may better help importers understand and comply with federal requirements and provide a more reliable method for tracking the number of dogs imported into the United States.”
The AVMA announced its strong support for the bill in a statement the same day the bill was introduced.
“For too long, dogs have entered the United States without proper inspection, increasing the risk of disease introduction and transmission,” Dr. John Howe, president of AVMA, said in the statement. “We commend Reps Ralph Abraham (R-LA), Kurt Schrader (D-OR) and Ted Yoho (R-FL) for introducing common sense legislation that would establish health and immunization requirements for dogs imported into the United States. The Healthy Dog Importation Act protects animal and human health by ensuring that imported dogs are healthy and free from disease and parasites before entering the United States.