Farm Bill Part 2: The Healthy Dog Importation Act Needs Your Support

Old dog at sunset. Labrador retriever walking on footpath.

In June, we discussed federal legislation impacting dogs and the outsize impact that the Farm Bill can have on canine issues.

The Farm Bill is important because it is “must-pass” legislation that authorizes funding for crucial U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) programs. It covers everything from food security and nutrition assistance to animal imports and dog breeding. It’s so massive (approximately $500 Billion over 5 years) that Congress only reauthorizes funding once every five years. As a result, the Farm Bill becomes a focal point for attaching any legislation related to the programs it funds.

Two federal bills being pushed by animal rights groups could cause significant harm to responsible breeders. We’ve asked for your assistance in contacting Members of Congress to oppose the Puppy Protection Act (H.R. 1624) and Goldies Act (H.R. 1788): https://www.akc.org/legislative-alerts/us-congress-animal-rights-groups-lobbying-restrictions-dog-breeders-congress-needs-hear-voice/

But there’s another measure, a positive bill—the Healthy Dog Importation Act (H.R. 1184 /S. 502), which can protect pets, people, and other animals from a potential public health crisis—that also has a chance to advance with the 2023 Farm Bill. We need your assistance to contact your Member of Congress and ask them to protect pet and public health by placing the Healthy Dog Importation Act in the base text of the Farm Bill.

 

Background

The National Animal Interest Alliance (NAIA) started reporting on international dog relocation programs back in 1999 when the first trickle of dogs from foreign countries started making their way into U.S. shelters and rescues. Since then, the trickle has turned into a torrent and there is no end in sight. When trying to predict the future of this thriving enterprise, keep in mind that the world dog population is estimated at 900 million and that this unregulated dog import business is incredibly lucrative.

In 2019, the last year for which we have statistics, more than 1.2 million dogs were imported into the U.S.—primarily for transfer via retail rescue and other retail markets. Estimates indicate that the numbers have increased since then. Many of the dogs being imported lack valid health certificates and receive little or no scrutiny at ports of entry. As a result, some have brought dangerous and contagious diseases such as canine influenza, brucellosis, leptospirosis, and rabies into our communities, threatening both animal and public health. Livestock groups are also becoming increasingly concerned that unscreened dog imports can carry highly contagious pathogens like African Swine Fever on their fur and in their bedding.

The Congressional Healthy Dog Importation Act (H.R. 1184 /S. 502) can help solve the problem of unhealthy imports and U.S. pet and public health.

The Healthy Dog Importation Act brings out of date requirements for the import of dogs into the United States into line with import requirements of other Western countries and many other countries. (See illustration on the following page.) It:
  • Ensures that all dogs imported into the U.S. from overseas are permanently identified and are accompanied by a certificate of veterinary inspection (CVI) issued by a licensed veterinarian accredited by a competent authority recognized by the Secretary of Agriculture. The CVI, or health certificate, must certify that the dog has received all required vaccinations and has demonstrated negative test results.
  • Allows documentation to be submitted electronically prior to arrival. All submitted information and CVIs will be made available to the secretaries of Health and Human Services (Centers for Disease Control), Commerce, and Homeland Security (U.S. Customs and Border Protection) through a centralized database to promote interagency coordination and streamline paperwork verification.
  • Provides resources to USDA through a certificate fee to fund these initiatives.