Veterinarian-sponsored dog importation bill introduced in Congress

Published on May 20, 2020
three people walking a corridor in a government building

This week, the Healthy Dog Importation Act was introduced in Congress to ensure that all dogs entering the country are healthy and not at risk to spread dangerous diseases that could adversely impact animal and public health.

To meet the U.S. demand for pet dogs, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that more than one million dogs are imported into the U.S. each year. An increasing number of unhealthy dogs entering the U.S is alarming public and animal health officials, especially as the COVID-19 pandemic has crystalized concerns regarding zoonotic diseases.

Under current law, the importation of canines is overseen by the CDC and APHIS. Of the more than one million dogs imported each year, only about one percent are screened for diseases such as rabies, influenza, hepatitis, and distemper. This poses a serious health threat not just to other dogs and household pets, but to our livestock and food supply. Current pet import rules can’t protect against this public and animal health threat.

Introduced by Reps. Ralph Abraham (R-LA), Kurt Schrader (D-OR), and Ted Yoho (R-FL)—all veterinarians—the Healthy Dogs Importation Act provides the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) with additional tools to monitor and safeguard the health of dogs being imported into the U.S. The legislation would require every dog entering the country to be permanently identified, in good health, and accompanied by a health certificate issued by a licensed veterinarian accredited by a competent veterinary authority recognized by the USDA. The health certificate must certify that the dog has received all required vaccinations and demonstrated negative test results required by the USDA. Those entering the country for resale, transfer, or donation must be at least six months of age and accompanied by a USDA import permit.

The bill would also streamline federal oversight, ensuring documentation and import permits are shared electronically between the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), CDC, and Customs and Border Patrol, while clarifying APHIS' key enforcement authority. These changes will help to ensure that the federal government is responsibly screening the large number of dogs entering our country each year, and that we are mitigating the spread of infectious diseases brought into the U.S by imported dogs.  

Read the full text of the Healthy Dog Importation Act.

Comments

Arnold L. Goldman DVM, MPH
May 20, 2020 Permalink

Healthy Dog Importation Act

I am proud that AVMA has chosen to support this legislation, which will help ensure the health of all animals and the public in the United States. While it has always been true that the importation of most domestic animals, as well as their interstate movement, have been well regulated for the purposes of protecting animal health and welfare, we have arguably been less strict when it came to the movements of dogs. With the vast number of dogs intended for individual ownership moving internationally today, the need for closer health inspection and control is clear. With animal health (and public health) the top priority of AVMA members, this legislation is a natural fit for our support. Bravo AVMA!

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