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Schrader, Johnson Introduce Bipartisan Healthy Dog Importation Act to Protect Animal and Public Health

Today, Co-Chairs of the Congressional Veterinary Medicine Caucus, Reps. Kurt Schrader (D-OR) and Dusty Johnson (R-SD) introduced the Healthy Dog Importation Act of 2021. This bipartisan plan would ensure dogs imported into the United States are not at risk of spreading dangerous diseases that could harm Americans and our animals.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over one million dogs are imported into the U.S. each year, however only about 1% of them are screened for diseases or infections. Rabies especially poses a risk because the deadly viral disease is difficult to detect until symptoms appear, which often means it is too late to be treated. While rabies is mostly found in wild animals in the U.S., the CDC says most rabies deaths in people around the world are still caused by dog bites and transport of the infected animals into the U.S. remains a concern.

The current lack of oversight and minimal screening requirements present a serious health hazard not only to pets and livestock, but also to the food supply and public health. The Healthy Dog Importation Act would close these gaps in U.S. importation laws by requiring all dogs entering the U.S. from any country to have valid certification of necessary vaccinations, as well as a certification of good health signed by a licensed veterinarian. 

“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,” Rep. Schrader said. “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,” said Rep. Johnson. “Over one million dogs are imported into America each year, but less than 1% of those animals are adequately screened for deadly diseases. 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.”

The introduction of the Healthy Dog Importation Act by Reps. Schrader and Johnson comes as the CDC recently issued a notice that the agency will temporarily halt dog importation from countries with a high-risk for dog rabies. That notice was issued following a spike in imported animals from high-risk countries presenting fraudulent vaccination papers, as well as a multi-state public health investigation that found over a dozen people were exposed to an imported dog that tested positive for a rabies variant. But the High-Risk Dog Ban, which begins on July 14, 2021, impacts only 6% of imported dogs and more oversight must be implemented to ensure proper universal health and safety standards.

Joining Reps. Schrader and Johnson as cosponsors are Representatives John Garamendi (D-CA) and Vicky Hartzler (R-MO).

Further support for the Healthy Dog Importation Act of 2021:

“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,” said Dr. Douglas Kratt, American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) President. “The legislation reintroduced in Congress today 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. We must have a robust inspection system in place within all U.S. ports of entry for dogs. Thank you to Representatives Kurt Schrader and Dusty Johnson for their leadership in Congress on this important issue.”

“Dogs are being imported into the U.S. at records rates. Unfortunately, dogs imported without basic veterinary checks or valid health certificates are also bringing contagious and deadly zoonotic diseases such as rabies and canine influenza,” said Dennis Sprung, American Kennel Club (AKC) President and CEO. “This poses a serious health threat to our pets and the public. Thanks to the leadership of Congressmen Schrader and Johnson, the basic health certifications in the Healthy Dog Importation Act will protect the health and wellbeing of every dog in our nation – and the humans who care for them."

“NAIA commends Representatives Schrader and Johnson for taking action to protect animal and public health,” said Patti Strand, founder and President of National Animal Interest Alliance (NAIA). “Last week, the CDC suspended the importation of dogs from more than 100 countries due to a rising number of incidents of rabid dogs entering the country, many with falsified rabies vaccination certificates. Still, the scope is limited to 6% of the more than one million dogs imported annually and does not address the potential spread of other dangerous pathogens and pests including canine influenza, leptospirosis, melioidosis, canine brucellosis, leishmaniasis, onchocerciasis, and screwworm.

The Healthy Dog Importation Act would ensure that all dogs brought in from overseas are healthy and free of disease and parasites before entering the United States.”