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AVMA supports federal legislation to strengthen dog importation requirements

American Veterinary Medical Association

(WASHINGTON, DC) June 29, 2021— The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) today reaffirmed its support for the Healthy Dog Importation Act, designed to reduce the spread of diseases that could be dangerous to both human and animal health.

Reintroduced by Representatives Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.) and Dusty Johnson (R-S.D.), Co-chairs of the Veterinary Medicine Caucus, the legislation would provide the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) with additional resources to monitor and safeguard the health of dogs being brought into the U.S. to ensure that they are in good health and not a risk to spread dangerous diseases that pose a threat to 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,” said Dr. Douglas Kratt, 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.”

The Healthy Dog Importation Act would require every imported dog to have a certificate of veterinary inspection from a licensed veterinarian confirming the dog is healthy and 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 of these dogs are inspected for diseases such as rabies, influenza, hepatitis, and distemper. Recently, the CDC implemented a temporary suspension of dogs imported from countries that are considered high-risk for dog rabies. This notice emphasizes the need to permanently improve dog importation standards.

Diseases such as screwworm, canine distemper, rabies, canine influenza, leptospirosis, and canine melioidosis have been diagnosed in imported dogs, which were often distributed to homes and farms across the U.S. Although the Healthy Dog Importation Act will apply to all dogs imported into the U.S., its implementation will have a heavy focus on dogs being imported for transfer (donation, sale, adoption, etc.).  

The bill would streamline federal oversight between the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, CDC, and Customs and Border Patrol by creating an electronic database containing documentation and import permits. This database would help ensure the federal government is properly screening the dogs entering the U.S., thereby reducing the risk of importing dogs that may spread infectious diseases.

“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,” said Rep. Schrader. “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 AVMA is encouraging the veterinary community to contact their member of Congress and urge them to support this bill.