Minimizing the spread of diseases that could be dangerous to both human and animal health is the goal of the recently reintroduced Healthy Dog Importation Act.
Launched with support from the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), the proposed legislation would provide additional resources to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to monitor the health of dogs brought into the U.S. and ensure imported canines are not carrying diseases that may threaten animal and public health.
“Safeguarding the health of every dog imported into the U.S. is essential to helping maintain animal health and reducing the potential spread of zoonotic diseases,” says AVMA president, Douglas Kratt, DVM. “The legislation reintroduced in Congress strengthens dog importation requirements and provides the USDA and other federal agencies with the necessary resources to responsibly screen the large number of dogs entering our country each year.”
Sponsored by Reps. Kurt Schrader, DVM (Oregon), and Dusty Johnson (South Dakota), co-chairs of the Veterinary Medicine Caucus, the Healthy Dog Importation Act would require every dog entering the U.S. to have a certificate of veterinary inspection from a licensed veterinarian, confirming the animal has received all vaccinations and passed all tests required by the USDA.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than one million dogs are imported into the U.S. each year, but less than one percent are inspected for diseases such as rabies, influenza, hepatitis, and distemper. Last month, CDC implemented a temporary suspension of imported dogs from 113 countries considered high-risk for canine rabies, emphasizing the need to permanently improve dog importation standards.
The Healthy Dog Importation Act would streamline federal oversight between the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, CDC, and Customs and Border Patrol through the creation of an electronic database containing documentation and import permits, AVMA says. This would help ensure the federal government is properly screening the dogs entering the U.S., reducing the risk of importing dogs that may spread infectious disease.
“As a veterinarian, I have a deep knowledge of the close relationship between animals and people and what is needed to ensure their health and safety,” Dr. Schrader says. “The Healthy Dog Importation Act would finally provide the proper oversight needed to make sure the dogs being brought into our country are healthy, and will not endanger our people, our pets, or our food supply chain. By having key safeguards in place, we can detect potential serious safety concerns and prevent these dangers from turning into a public health crisis.”
“If transmitted to other animals or humans, animal diseases have the ability to wipe out livestock, kill thousands of individuals, shut down economies, and destabilize entire nations,” Johnson adds. “With the recent CDC decision to pause dog imports, the Healthy Dog Importation Act will ensure pet imports from countries like China can resume safely so long as pets are up to date on vaccinations and have been properly screened by a licensed veterinarian for specific diseases.”
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