The American Kennel Club welcomes the introduction today of the bipartisan Healthy Dog Importation Act of 2021 (HDIA) in the U.S. House of Representatives, and thanks Representatives Kurt Schrader, DVM (D-OR) and Dusty Johnson (R-SD) for their leadership in introducing the measure, as well as Reps. John Garamendi (D-CA) and Vicky Hartzler (R-MO) for their support.
This measure is a valuable solution to a potential public health crisis caused by the dangerous mix of skyrocketing imports of randomly-sourced dogs for U.S. adoption, inadequate current federal resources to check the health of dogs entering the U.S., and new incidents of dogs without valid health certificates carrying contagious and/or zoonotic diseases arriving in the U.S.
Healthy Dog Importation Act could also provide relief from recent protection efforts that established broad, temporary bans on the import of dogs into the U.S.
“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 bill sponsor Rep. Kurt 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.”
Background: The Need to Protect Public and Animal Health
The American Kennel Club recognizes the value of importing select, healthy dogs from overseas, freedom of choice in choosing a pet, and ensuring that people may travel with their pets with a minimum of disruption. However, we are also concerned about the increasing documented incidences of the importation of unhealthy random-source pets, particularly for transfer, where public and pet health may be inadequately protected.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), up to 1.25 million dogs are imported into the U.S. annually. Many of these dogs are coming in without valid health certificates –and many of them are carrying contagious zoonotic diseases.
Current pet import oversight mechanisms administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Customs were established prior to recent exponential growth in imports and are unable to adequately check canine health upon entry or protect against the public and animal health threat this represents.
This poses a serious threat to public health, including pets and other animals. The bill’s fact sheet notes “…exponential growth in dog imports from a wide range of overseas sources has resulted in recent incidents of dogs with non- native parasites and zoonotic diseases such as rabies, viral infections, canine influenza, brucellosis and others, being imported and passed onto the general public.”
The CDC currently requires rabies certificates for dogs imported from countries deemed to be high-risk for canine variant rabies, which was eliminated from the U.S. in 2007. However, because many of these certificates have been found invalid, a visual inspection provided by Customs and Border Protection personnel at the first port of entry may be the only health screening required for a dog entering the U.S.
Following the recent incident of a fourth dog entering the U.S. with canine variant rabies, the CDC announced on June 14 that they would temporarily suspend dog imports from more than 100 countries to protect against the reintroduction of canine rabies virus variant (CRVV).
The CDC ban is a crucial, short-term stopgap to protect public and animal health now, but it should only be temporary. The suspension creates a blanket ban on all dogs from these countries but does not address diseases other than rabies. “By contrast, the Healthy Dog Importation Act offers a comprehensive, longer term solution”, said Sheila Goffe, Vice President, Government Relations for the AKC. “HDIA’s requirements will go a long way to cover a broader range of health threats, provide improved reporting on dogs imported into the U.S. but also allow for importing healthy dogs from a wide variety of countries.
What Does the Bill Do?
Specifically, the measure:
- Provides authority to the Secretary of Agriculture to determine which vaccinations and other health information is required for entry of dogs into the U.S. This authority will be carried out by USDA’s Veterinary Services (VS) division.
- Requires every dog entering the U.S. to be accompanied by a certificate of veterinary inspection (health certificate), issued by a licensed veterinarian accredited by a competent veterinary authority recognized by the Secretary. The health certificate must certify that the dog has received all required vaccinations and demonstrated negative test results.
- Requires submission of health certificates to USDA, which will maintain a centralized, publicly available database. All submitted information will be made available to the secretaries of Health and Human Services (CDC), Commerce, and Homeland Security (CBP) to promote interagency coordination and facilitate verification upon arrival in the U.S
- Requires permanent identification of all dogs imported.
- Allows the Secretary of Agriculture to set fees for the issuance of importation permits to help offset costs for increased monitoring and oversight.
AKC also thanks the National Animal Interest Alliance and the American Veterinary Medical Association for their leadership on this measure.
“The basic health certifications in the Healthy Dog Importation Act is crucial to protecting the health and wellbeing of every dog in our nation – and the humans who care for them. We look forward to working with the sponsors to advance this important safeguard for pet and public health ,” said Dennis Sprung, AKC President and CEO.