The federal government has imposed new restrictions on the importation of puppies under 6 months old, drawing praise from the American Kennel Club and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
The rule, part of an amendment to the Animal Welfare Act, prohibits young puppies from entering the continental United States for resale, research or veterinary purposes. Puppies under 6 months old will be permitted if they are a personal pet, breeding stock, or a show, competition or training dog.
The regulations were published Monday in the Federal Register and go into effect Nov. 17, 2014.
“We welcome this new rule as it will reduce the suffering of thousands of animals by curbing the importation of sick puppies from overseas,” said Cori Menkin, senior director of the ASPCA Puppy Mills Campaign. “Breeding facilities in foreign countries are not subject to oversight by the United States government, so the conditions under which many of these dogs are bred and raised are substandard. The new rule means that the U.S. no longer provides a friendly marketplace for these suffering animals.”
The AKC, which registers purebred dogs and sanctions events, stated that it was “pleased.”
“The measure is expected to curtail the dumping of puppies from unknown origins or substandard breeding facilities on U.S. markets, where in many cases they may be marketed as ‘rescues,’” the organization reported.
The number of dogs brought to the United States each year is unclear, with estimates ranging from more than 8,000 high-priced animals to 287,000 dogs of all kinds.
Dogs 6 months or older may be imported for resale, research or veterinary treatment if they are in good health and have been vaccinated against rabies, distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis, parvovirus and parainfluenza virus.
Young, unhealthy puppies were banned from importation under a 2008 amendment to the Animal Welfare Act, but enforcement was lacking because the legislation did not spell out how the regulations would be administered. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) developed the final rule as guidance.
APHIS opened the proposal to a 60-day comment period in 2011. More than 74,000 comments were received from animal welfare organizations, exporters, importers, breeders and veterinarians.
Critics claimed the restrictions on puppies less than 6 months old would interfere with free commerce, eliminate U.S. jobs and raise the retail price of puppies.
APHIS responded that imported dogs make up less than 1 percent of the U.S. canine population and that “domestic breeders and wholesalers are likely to see increased volumes of business.”
“Some current importers are also domestic breeders and will likely shift from sales of imported puppies to sales of puppies bred at their own domestic facilities,” the agency added.