Improved dog importation standards needed to protect public health

young woman outdoors with dog

The Healthy Dog Importation Act (H.R. 1184/S. 502) would protect both animal and public health by helping ensure that dogs are in good health when imported into the United States.

What’s the problem?

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 1 million dogs are imported into the United States each year. This number is increasing exponentially. As it grows, so does the risk of dogs spreading dangerous diseases.

Currently, fewer than 1% of imported dogs are inspected by any federal agency. The nation’s animal health infrastructure is not strong enough to protect the country against this public and animal health threat.

The Healthy Dog Importation Act—introduced by Senators Tina Smith (D-Minn.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), and Representatives Dusty Johnson (R-S.D.) and Annie Kuster (D-N.H.)—would address this issue head on by implementing measures to strengthen importation requirements for dogs entering the United States. The AVMA has championed this legislation and continues to do so.

What would the Healthy Dog Importation Act do?

The legislation would help prevent the introduction and spread of diseases impacting animal and human health through these measures:

  • Allocating the necessary resources to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and other federal agencies to responsibly screen the large number of dogs entering the U.S. each year
  • Ensuring every imported dog has a certificate of inspection from a licensed veterinarian confirming the animal is in good health
  • Creating a database of health certificates that would be submitted to the USDA and accessible to other federal agencies to promote interagency coordination

For full details of the bill, review the AVMA’s issue brief on the Healthy Dog Importation Act.

Who supports the legislation?

Since its first introduction in 2020, the Healthy Dog Importation Act has accumulated broad support across the veterinary profession. Working with stakeholder groups such as the American Kennel Club, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, Animal Health Institute, National Animal Interest Alliance, National Pork Producers Council, and National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, the AVMA is strengthening outreach to Congress to urge passage of the Healthy Dog Importation Act. Currently, a bipartisan group of 29 senators and representatives cosponsor the bill.

Why does the AVMA support the bill?

The AVMA strongly supports a robust strengthening of dog importation standards. Diseases such as rabies, canine influenza, canine distemper, leptospirosis, screwworm, and canine melioidosis have been diagnosed in imported dogs, which are often distributed to homes and farms throughout the country. The provisions in the Healthy Dog Importation Act would strengthen this facet of the nation’s animal health infrastructure to prevent future disease outbreaks, safeguard public health, and ensure dogs entering the U.S. are in good health.

The AVMA urges Congress to provide this necessary protection for our nation by passing the bipartisan Healthy Dog Importation Act.

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