Dog importation bill would better protect animals and people

Published on June 30, 2021
three people walking a corridor in a government building

AVMA works with lawmakers to secure reintroduction in Congress

The Healthy Dog Importation Act, which would reduce the spread of dangerous diseases that pose serious threats to both animal and public health, was reintroduced in Congress this week. 

Representatives Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.) and Dusty Johnson (R-S.D.), co-chairs of the Veterinary Medicine Caucus, reintroduced the legislation in the House of Representatives. The bill would provide the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and other federal agencies with additional resources to monitor dogs being brought into the country to ensure they are healthy and don’t carry any dangerous diseases that could be spread to other animals or humans. 

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than a million dogs are brought into the country each year, but over 99 percent of them enter without being inspected by any federal agency. Imported dogs that are infected with screwworm, canine distemper, rabies, canine influenza, leptospirosis, and canine melioidosis are often distributed to homes and farms across the U.S. Under current law, only a rabies vaccination certificate is required for dogs from countries considered high-risk. Otherwise, no health documentation or identification is needed. 

Through the Healthy Dog Importation Act, every imported dog would be required to have a certificate of veterinary inspection from a licensed veterinarian confirming the dog is healthy, has received all vaccinations, and has passed all tests required by the USDA.

The legislation also would enhance federal oversight by requiring documentation to be shared electronically among the CDC, Customs and Border Patrol, and the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. This would help the federal government properly screen the large number of dogs entering the country, reducing the risk of them bringing in any infectious diseases. 

Recently, the CDC implemented a temporary suspension of dogs imported from countries that are considered high-risk for dog rabies. This notice emphasizes the need for permanent improvements to be made to dog importation standards.

You can help the AVMA build broad support for this bill in Congress by urging your representative to cosponsor the Healthy Dog Importation Act

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