New York, NY- The American Kennel Club (AKC®), a not-for-profit organization, the world’s largest purebred dog registry and leading advocate for dogs, welcomes the introduction of the Healthy Dog Importation Act of 2023 in the United States Senate.
AKC is grateful for the continuing and bipartisan leadership of Senators Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Tina Smith (D-Minn.) as lead sponsors of the bill and Jim Risch (R-Idaho), Raphael Warnock (D-Ga), Roger Marshall (R-Kan) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) as original sponsors. This measure and their leadership will go a long way to addressing concerns about recent documented incidents of unhealthy dogs being imported into the United States.
The AKC has been long concerned about the threat of highly contagious and zoonotic diseases such as rabies, canine influenza and distemper, which have been carried into the U.S. by dogs imported without basic veterinary checks or valid health certificates.
Similar concerns about the import of rabies alone from infected dogs led the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to renew enhanced import requirements last month for dogs entering the U.S. from countries at high risk for rabies.
The Healthy Dog Importation Act provides a long-term solution that addresses a broad range of pathogens that can enter the U.S. via the import of unhealthy dogs. It does not ban imports from any specific country, but instead requires that all dogs imported into the U.S. submit valid health certificates from a licensed veterinarian accredited by recognized veterinary authority, be permanently identified and subject to checks or inspection at the port of entry.
“Dogs are being imported into the U.S. at records rates. Unfortunately, dogs imported without basic veterinary checks or valid health certificates are also bringing contagious and deadly zoonotic diseases such as rabies and canine influenza,” said Dennis Sprung, AKC President and CEO.
“This poses a serious health threat to our pets and the public. The basic health certifications in the Healthy Dog Importation Act will protect the health and wellbeing of every dog in our nation – and the humans who care for them.”
AKC thanks the National Animal Interest Alliance for their long-time leadership on the issue, and the American Veterinary Medical Association for their support of this measure.
The U.S. demand for pet dogs—without accounting for population growth—is more than 8 million dogs annually. U.S. Breeders are unable to meet this demand. Instead, as many as 1.245 million dogs are imported annually into the U.S., according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Exponential growth in the import of dogs – particularly from unregulated sources – has resulted in dogs with non-native parasites and zoonotic diseases such as rabies, viral infections and brucellosis being imported and passed into the general public, creating a significant threat to the health of other dogs, animals and the humans who care for them.
Zoonotic diseases – those which can be transmitted across species, including animal to human transmission, and include a variety of viruses such as corona and other viruses – pose a serious threat to US public health. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, some 75% of emerging diseases are zoonotic.
The American Kennel Club recognizes the value of importing breeding stock from overseas, the importance of insuring sufficient access to detection dogs that protect public safety and security, freedom of choice in selecting a pet, and ensuring that people may travel with their pets with a minimum of disruption. However, we are also concerned about the increasing documented incidences of the importation of unhealthy random-source pets, particularly for transfer, where public and pet health may be inadequately protected.
Current pet import oversight mechanisms administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Customs were established prior to the exponential growth in imports and are unable to adequately check canine health upon entry or protect against the public and animal health threat this represents.
AKC supports efforts to ensure that all dogs imported into the United States are fully immunized; free of infection, parasites and contagious diseases; and are individually certified as such by a qualified veterinarian. We look forward to working with the sponsors to advance this important safeguard for pet and public health.