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Bicameral legislation introduced to improve dog importation standards

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USDA and other federal agencies would receive necessary resources to responsibly screen large number of dogs entering the U.S.

The Healthy Dog Importation Act, an AVMA-championed bill that would reduce the spread of diseases that pose a threat to animal and public health, was introduced in the Senate today.

Senators Tina Smith, D-Minn., and Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, introduced the Healthy Dog Importation Act, building momentum for better standards related to dog importation. Recently, the AVMA reaffirmed its support for the legislation when Representatives Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., and Dusty Johnson, R-S.D., co-chairs of the Veterinary Medicine Caucus, reintroduced it in the House of Representatives.

If passed into law, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and other federal agencies would receive the necessary resources to responsibly screen the large number of dogs entering the U.S. each year. It would also require every imported dog to have a certificate of veterinary inspection from a licensed veterinarian confirming the dog is of good health and not a risk to spread diseases that could endanger animal and public health.

“The evidence for the need to permanently improve dog importation standards is overwhelming,” said Dr. José Arce, AVMA President. “The recent CDC notice has emphasized the necessity to ensure dogs entering the country are in good health and not a risk to spread dangerous diseases.”

He continued, “In order to protect public health, we must enact legislation that equips the federal government with the necessary resources to properly screen these dogs. Thanks to Senators Smith and Grassley, the Healthy Dog Importation Act has now been introduced in both chambers of Congress. The AVMA is dedicated to working with lawmakers and stakeholders to ensure this bill crosses the finish line.”

Recently, the CDC implemented a temporary suspension of dogs imported from countries that are considered high-risk for rabies – highlighting the need to strengthen dog importation requirements in all U.S. ports of entry.

The proposed legislation would create an electronic database containing documentation and import permits to help streamline federal oversight between the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, CDC, and Customs and Border Patrol.

"COVID-19 is a devastating example of why the Healthy Dog Importation Act is so important. The pandemic showed us that human and animal health are inextricably linked, and that we must take proactive steps to prevent future health emergencies," said Senator Smith. "Mitigating the spread of foreign diseases in dogs will keep domestic and wild animals healthy. It could also prevent illnesses and disease outbreaks in people. I'm going to work to move this bipartisan bill forward."

Senator Grassley commented, “Maintaining animal health is critical to our nation’s overall public health goals. It’s important that we work to stop the spread of diseases that can hurt both animals and humans. This commonsense proposal will expand an already existing program to ensure that all dogs entering the country are healthy and not at risk of spreading dangerous diseases.”

Earlier this year, National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) sounded the alarm on the potential for imported rescue dogs from (FAD)-positive countries to serve as disease carriers from their bedding, crates or coats. Especially given the recent discovery of African swine fever in the Dominican Republic, preventing African swine fever and other FADs from entering the country is one of NPPC’s top priorities.

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