WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Tina Smith (D-Minn.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) reintroduced legislation to combat the spread of foreign animal diseases entering the United States. The Healthy Dog Importation Act would expand the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services (USDA-APHIS) program by providing additional tools to monitor and safeguard the health of dogs being imported into the country.
“Human and animal health are inextricably linked, and we know that taking proactive steps can help prevent health emergencies,” Smith said. “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. I will continue working to move this bipartisan bill forward.”
“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,” Grassley said. “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.”
In addition to expanding the USDA-APHIS program, the Healthy Dog Importation Act would require every imported dog to have a certificate of veterinary inspection from a licensed veterinarian. The health certificate must attest that the dog has received all required vaccinations and demonstrated negative test results. This legislation would also create an online database containing documentation and import permits to ensure dogs entering the United States are being properly screened. This will also allow further cooperation and communication between APHIS, the CDC and U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
CDC estimates that up to 1.245 million dogs are imported into the U.S. each year. For the estimated 113,000 imported from countries that are at a high-risk for rabies transmission, CDC requires a rabies vaccination certificate, but no other health documentation or identification. For the 950,000 dogs imported from rabies-free, low-risk or moderate risk countries, CDC requires no documentation or vaccination.
The COVID-19 pandemic has increased public health officials concern regarding zoonotic diseases, which can be spread between animals and humans. The CDC reports that 60 percent of all infectious diseases and 3 out of 4 emerging diseases such as coronaviruses can be spread from animals to humans. USDA-APHIS has separate regulatory authority over dogs imported for resale. However, USDA’s import requirements apply to only half of a percent of all imported dogs.
Along with Grassley and Smith, the Healthy Dog Importation Act is also cosponsored by Sens. Jim Risch (R-Idaho), Raphael Warnock (R-Ga.), Roger Marshall (R-Kan.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.).
Legislative text is available HERE.
“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 U.S. each year and we must ensure they are in good health and not a risk to spread dangerous diseases. Senators Tina Smith and Chuck Grassley recognize the protection this bipartisan legislation would provide to our country. 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 Dr. Lori Teller, AVMA President.
“NASDA is grateful for Senators Grassley and Smith’s leadership to reintroduce this timely legislation. The pandemic, the current avian influenza outbreak, and the ever-present threat of deadly African Swine Fever show the need to better protect the U.S. from highly contagious pathogens and zoonotic diseases. This legislation is critical for NASDA members, as the state departments of agriculture regulate and oversee animal health programs in their states to protect against an animal disease outbreak and secure our food supply. The Healthy Dog Importation Act helps our partners at the U.S. 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,” said Ted McKinney, CEO of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture.
“NAIA commends Senators Grassley and Smith for taking action reduce the spread of zoonotic disease and pathogens. Last month, the CDC extended a ban on dogs imported from high-risk rabies-enzootic countries. The temporary suspension was put in place in June 2021 due to a rising number of incidents of rabid dogs entering the country, many with falsified rabies vaccination certificates. NAIA strongly supports CDC’s efforts to protect the public from rabies reintroduction; however, we are still concerned about the remaining 90% of dog imports that remain unchecked. For years, public health agencies have documented cases where imported dogs have brought other threats to animal and public health including new strains of canine influenza, leptospirosis, and screwworm. The bipartisan Healthy Dog Importation Act would establish commonsense health and vaccination requirements for all dogs imported into the U.S. and help eliminate the need for a blanket suspension,” said Patti Strand, President of the National Animal Interest Alliance.
“The American Kennel Club applauds Senators Grassley and Smith for their ongoing leadership and support of the Healthy Dog Importation Act. This common-sense legislation will protect U.S. public and animal health and avoid 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 U.S. standards into line with most other countries and demonstrates U.S. commitment to responsible care and healthy environments for dogs — and those who love them,” said Sheila Goffe, Vice President of Government Relations for the American Kennel Club.
The full list of organizations supporting the Healthy Dog Importation Act can be found HERE.