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.
The bill, initiated with support from the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), would provide the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) with additional resources to monitor the health of dogs imported into the US and to ensure that imported dogs do not transmit disease, which could be a threat to animal and public health.
“Protecting the health of every dog imported into the US is essential to maintain animal health and reduce the potential spread of zoonotic diseases,” said AVMA President Douglas Kratt, DVM. “The re-enacted legislation in Congress tightens import regulations for dogs and provides the USDA and other federal agencies with the necessary resources to responsibly review the large numbers of dogs entering our country each year.”
Sponsored by Representatives Kurt Schrader, DVM, Oregon, and Dusty Johnson, South Dakota, co-chairs of the Veterinary Medicine Caucus, the Healthy Dog Importation Act requires that every dog entering the United States be certified to be a veterinarian Examination by a licensed veterinarian who confirms that 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 a million dogs are imported into the US each year, but less than one percent are screened for diseases such as rabies, flu, hepatitis, and distemper. Last month, CDC introduced a temporary suspension of imported dogs from 113 countries, which are considered to be a high risk for canine rabies, and stressed the need to permanently improve dog import standards.
The Healthy Dog Import Act would streamline federal oversight between the Animal and Phytosanitary Inspection Service, CDC, and customs and border protection agencies by creating an electronic database of documentation and import permits, says AVMA. This would help the federal government properly screen dogs entering the U.S. and reduce the risk of introducing dogs that can spread infectious diseases.
“As a veterinarian, I know the close relationship between animals and humans and what is necessary for their health and safety,” says Dr. Schrader. “The Healthy Dog Importation Act would finally provide the necessary oversight to ensure that the dogs brought into our country are healthy and do not endanger our people, our pets or our food supply chain. By taking critical safety precautions, we can identify potentially serious safety concerns and prevent those threats from becoming a public health crisis. “
“When animal diseases are spread to other animals or people, they can wipe out farm animals, kill thousands of people, cripple economies and destabilize entire nations,” added Johnson. “With the CDC’s recent decision to suspend imports of dogs, the Healthy Dog Importation Act will ensure that imports of pets from countries like China can be safely resumed as long as pets are up to date on vaccinations and have been properly checked for specific diseases by a licensed veterinarian. ”
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