States shift from travel health form with no one clear alternative

Lack of traceability is one concern regarding USDA Form 7001
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Fulfilling requests from clients for health forms for their pets when travelling domestically may not be as simple as it used to be, now that states are changing their guidelines.

The shift in the past year or so comes amid concerns about fraud along with expanding interest in electronic submission of certificates of veterinary inspection.

Dr. Valerie Ragan, director of the Center for Public and Corporate Veterinary Medicine at Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, said, "With globalization occurring these days, with a resultant increase in potential spread of diseases like African swine fever, this is just driving the interest in moving toward more secure CVIs and those that can be moved faster than paper products."

Dr. Ragan is a former assistant deputy administrator at the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. She presented the "Small Animal Requirements for Movement and Travel" webinar on March 29, sponsored by GVL, a company that offers electronic health forms.

State of flux

The USDA APHIS certificate of veterinary inspection, known as Form 7001, has been available since the late 1980s, first as a multipage carbon-copy format but more recently as a PDF. The form essentially certifies that a USDA-accredited veterinarian has examined an animal and that the animal meets regulations pertaining to where it is traveling.

"You used to have to mail a copy to the state, give a copy to the owner, and you kept a copy. In reality, a number of forms didn't get sent in, and that created a problem when we were trying to trace exposed or affected animals," Dr. Ragan said.

Now many states no longer accept USDA APHIS Form 7001 or are considering making the change.

Dr. Peter Mundschenk, Arizona state veterinarian, told JAVMA News that his office will accept "anything" right now for pets coming into Arizona, whether it's Form 7001 or another state's CVI, but he noted that the rules are currently being rewritten.

One problem with Form 7001 is that it is accessible online to anyone, not just veterinarians. Plus, the form does not have a unique identifying number, which prevents tracing the origin, Dr. Mundschenk said. These circumstances mean there is a higher likelihood that someone will forge a veterinarian's signature to create a fraudulent form.

"Someone could Photoshop a vet's name on it, and it could be reused over and over again," he said.

When Arizona's new rules go into effect, the state's CVI will have a unique identifier, and the state likely will no longer accept Form 7001, joining nearly half of the other states.

A single alternative has not taken Form 7001's place. Paper and electronic alternatives are widely available. In fact, nearly all states provide veterinarians with hard-copy CVIs for small animals, which are accepted by all the other states that require CVIs, but veterinarians must request the form by phone, by fax, or online. Further, many electronic options have a cost associated with them.

"We're in a transition time," between Form 7001 and an alternative, Dr. Ragan said. "In a lot of places, you can use one or the other, but not in all cases."

In addition, requirements vary among airlines. Dr. Ragan said: "They are right now in flux, shifting from printed to electronic. It's an active discussion now. If you send an animal by air, airlines have their own requirements that often have to do with acclimation. Check with the airline to see if they accept electronic or hard copy. Most are in the process of considering moving from one to the other. I would always print a hard copy anyway, just to have on hand."

Going electronic

Usage of electronically submitted CVIs is growing fast because certificates can be sent directly to a state veterinarian's office, meaning less chance of fraud thanks to authentication and unique identifying numbers.

"We'd love to have everyone go to an eCVI," Dr. Mundschenk said. "That way, we can transfer information more seamlessly into databases so they can track animal movements quicker."

GVL's eCVI is accepted in all 50 states. The Institute for Infectious Animal Diseases' AgView CVI also offers an eCVI option and is now also accepted by all 50 states. Other companies may be coming on line with their own options, but veterinarians should check that these options are accepted by the state of destination before using them, Dr. Ragan said.

For help, veterinarians can call the relevant state veterinarian's office.

Overall, Dr. Ragan urges the following:

  • Make sure to be properly accredited by the USDA.
  • Know the requirements for the species and the location where the animal is going.
  • Ask for help if needed.
  • Start the process early.

Regarding the first point, Dr. Ragan noted that some states may allow nonaccredited veterinarians to write CVIs, but not all.

Finally, although clients often aren't asked for health forms for pets while traveling, veterinarians can't control whether a client will be asked for a CVI.

"Realistically, dogs and cats aren't that much of a disease threat compared to livestock," Dr. Ragan said. "There's not much effort put into checking for health certificates for pets in a vehicle. But our job isn't to decide if they will check but to know the requirements and fulfill them and advise clients on how to meet them."

Related JAVMA content:

Pet travel website updated for pet owners, veterinarians (March 15, 2019)

Now available: model certificate for domestic travel of pets (Jan. 15, 2010)