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Professional organizations are voicing support for the Healthy Dog Importation Act
The AVMA, the Pet Food Institute, and the NASDA are among the groups that have applauded the bill’s reintroduction.
The Healthy Dog Importation Act has been reintroduced in Congress with bipartisan support. The bill is aimed at preventing the introduction and spread of diseases affecting animal and human health. The goal of the legislation is to improve importation standards to ensure a dog is in good health when being imported into the United States.1-3
The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), the Pet Food Institute (PFI), and the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) are among the organizations that have applauded the bill’s reintroduction.1,2 They were also among the 46 organizations, including state veterinary associations and the American Kennel Club (AKC), that signed a recent letter to US Senators Tina Smith (D-MN) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA), commending these lawmakers’ efforts to address “current gaps in oversight” and prioritizing the “prevention of disease introduction from imported dogs that threatens both animal and public health" by re-introducing the bill.4
“Strengthening our animal health infrastructure by improving the country’s dog importation standards is essential to maintaining public health…There are over a million dogs imported into the US each year and we must ensure they are in good health and not a risk to spread dangerous diseases,” said Lori Teller, DVM, DABVP (canine/feline), CVJ, president of AVMA, in an organizational release.1
“The [CDC estimates] that more than 1 million dogs are imported into the US each year and more than 90% of those dogs enter our country with minimal oversight. Unfortunately, the current process, or lack thereof can introduce dangerous foreign animal diseases and pests into the US,” added Atalie Ebersole, PFI’s senior director of government relations, in an organizational release.2
The Healthy Dog Importation Act provides solutions to the importation of unhealthy dogs into the US by expanding the US Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services (USDA-APHIS) program to monitor the health of dogs being imported into the United States. It would also ensure every imported dog would have a certificate of inspection from a licensed veterinarian confirming they are in good health and not at risk of spreading zoonotic diseases that could endanger animal and public health such as rabies and canine influenza.1-3
Ted McKinney, CEO of the NASDA, said the bill is critical to the organization’s members that regulate and oversee animal health programs in their respective states to protect against disease outbreak and to secure food supplies. “The pandemic, the current avian influenza outbreak, and the ever-present threat of deadly African Swine Fever show the need to better protect the US from highly contagious pathogens and zoonotic diseases…The Healthy Dog Importation Act helps our partners at the US Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services by providing additional tools to monitor and safeguard the health of dogs being imported into the country,” he said, in a Congressional release.3
In another prepared statement, Patti Strand, president of the National Animal Interest Alliance, said recent threats to public health have also included new strains of canine influenza, leptospirosis, and screwworm as well as rabies. Earlier this month, the CDC responded to an increasing number of rabid dogs entering the US by extending a temporary ban on canine importation from high-risk rabies-enzootic countries. “For years, public health agencies have documented cases where imported dogs have brought other threats to animal and public health,” Strand added.3
“Human and animal health are inextricably linked, and we know that taking proactive steps can help prevent health emergencies,” said Smith, in a Congressional release.3 “That’s why the Healthy Dog Importation Act is so important. Mitigating the spread of foreign diseases in dogs helps keep domestic and wild animals healthy. It can also help prevent illnesses and disease outbreaks in people.”
Grassley also noted that maintaining animal health is critical to overall public health goals in a prepared statement and emphasized the importance of working to stop the spread of diseases. “This commonsense proposal will leverage an existing program to ensure that all dogs entering the country are healthy and not at risk of spreading dangerous diseases,” he said.3
In addition to Grassley and Smith, the bill’s bipartisan sponsors and co-sponsors include US Senators James Risch (R-ID), Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Roger Marshall (R-KS), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and 8 Congressional Representatives: Dusty Johnson (R-SD-at large), Annie Kuster (D-NH-2), Eric A Crawford (R-AR-1), John Garamendi (D-CA-8), David Rouzer (R-NC-7), Jimmy Panetta (D-CA-19), Robert J Wittman (R-VA-1), and Betty McCollum (D-MN-4).5,6
“We have seen several outbreaks of diseases among animals and humans in the past few years – the Healthy Dog Importation Act would slow and prevent the outbreaks of some of these diseases,” said Johnson.1 “We want people in good health when they enter America. It should be the same for dogs.”
Sheila Goffe, vice president of government for the AKC, also described the bill as “common-sense legislation” for protecting the public and animal health and avoiding a preventable tragedy in the future. “No responsible person wants to bring an unhealthy and contagious dog into the country. By requiring canine imports to have a valid and verifiable health certification, the Healthy Dog Importation Act brings US standards into line with most other countries and demonstrates US commitment to responsible care and healthy environments for dogs—and those who love them,” she said in a release.3
In a statement, Kuster said she is proud to help reintroduce this legislation. “This bill will help bring together loving owners with healthy animals—a win-win-win for families, pets, and public health,” she added.1
Lawmakers and the bill’s supporting organizations vowed to continue advocating for human and animal health. “As the new Congress begins, the AVMA will continue to educate lawmakers about the importance of the Healthy Dog Importation Act and work to pass the bill into law,” said Teller.1
- AVMA helps reignite congressional push to strengthen dog importation standards. News release. AVMA. February 27, 2023.
- Pet Food Institute applauds re-introduction of Healthy Dog Importation Act to help prevent foreign animal diseases from entering the United States. News release. Pet Food Institute. February 27, 2023.
- Grassley, Smith reintroduce legislation to prevent spread of foreign animal diseases. News release. February 17, 2023. Accessed February 27, 2023. https://www.grassley.senate.gov/news/news-releases/grassley-smith-reintroduce-legislation-to-prevent-spread-of-foreign-animal-diseases
- Healthy Dog Importation Act-Letter of Support. Office of Sen Chuck Grassley (R-IA). February 16, 2023. Accessed February 27, 2023. https://www.grassley.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/2023-02-16_healthy_dog_importation_act_-_letter_of_support.pdf
- S.502-To amend the Animal Health Protection Act with respect to the importation of live dogs, and for other purposes. 118th Congress. Accessed February 27, 2023. https://www.congress.gov/bill/118th-congress/senate-bill/502?q=%7B%22search%22%3A%5B%22importation%22%5D%7D&s=4&r=2
- H.R. 1184-To amend the Animal Health Protection Act with respect to the importation of live dogs, and for other purposes. 118th Congress. Accessed February 27, 2023. https://www.congress.gov/bill/118th-congress/house-bill/1184/cosponsors?s=4&r=4&q=%7B%22search%22%3A%5B%22importation%22%5D%7D