Thanks to successful pet population control campaigns, it's become increasingly common for shelters to use "puppy pipelines" to transport dogs from southern states with higher shelter populations to states that have high adoption rates. Now, that puppy pipeline can extend beyond our country's borders.
According to the American Kennel Club (the AKC), responsible pet population control campaigns, such as spay and neuter programs, have led many regions in the United States to experience a greater demand for dogs than the existing supply.
Additionally, increased regulations and media campaigns against domestically bred dogs have made it increasingly difficult for reputable breeders to stay in business or even to sustain a hobby. This trend has also reduced the numbers of dogs available for sale to would-be pet owners.
Successful campaigns that promote the adoption of rescue animals have tugged at the heartstrings of Americans, and we've responded by adopting approximately 3.2 million shelter animals annually.
To meet the increasing demand for companion animals, some shelters and rescues import dogs from outside of the United States, including Mexico, the Middle East, Asia, the Dominican Republic, and U.S. territories such as Puerto Rico.
Because adopted pets are coming from so many exotic places and many are seeing vaccination records that appear to be forged, diagnosing a sick animal has become increasingly difficult. Decades ago, the biggest canine communicable disease was likely kennel cough which could be controlled with vaccinations.
Now when a dog presents to a clinic with a cough, there are 13 different pathogens to worry about, and only two are covered with the kennel cough vaccine.
Despite the involvement of four government regulatory entities overseeing the importation of animals into this country, there is no accurate or recently-updated data or reports to quantify the number of dogs imported into the U.S. annually.
Just on a personal survey, I've known of several acquaintances that have adopted dogs from shelters that originated from Mexico and other countries, so imported rescues are definitely a trend.
According to the AKC, the growing numbers of imported dogs, often strays from developing countries, or from breeders who breed specifically for importation to the U.S., has led to an increase in the occurrence of zoonotic diseases (rabies, tuberculosis, and brucellosis), screwworm, and canine (Asian) flu in dogs imported into the United States risking the health of the U.S. human and pet population and agricultural animals.
Since there are no recent government reports or data regarding dog importation practices, the full extent of this potential public health problem is unknown.
Recently, the American Kennel Club and the National Animal Interest Alliance jointly shared concerns with the House Agriculture Committee about recent incidences of imported, random source dogs carrying contagious diseases being imported into the United States for resale or adoption as pets.
As a result, the House Agriculture Committee added an amendment to the House Farm Bill to address public and animal health risks caused by the irresponsible import of unhealthy dogs. The House Farm Bill will be revisited in June after being voted down on May 18, 2018.
To advance these efforts, these animal advocacy groups are hoping to have a similar amendment added to the Senate version of the Farm Bill. These groups are asking pet lovers to please contact their senators to encourage their support of an amendment to the Senate Farm Bill.
To address this critical public health threat to humans, agricultural animals, and pets, the AKC is requesting that the 2018 Farm Bill includes a provision requiring the USDA, in consultation with the Centers for Disease Control, Customs and Border Protection and the Census Bureau, to provide a report to Congress on the number of dogs imported annually into the U.S.
The results of the report will provide a roadmap for strengthened appropriate federal agency regulations and enforcement capabilities to protect human and animal health.
Why This Matters:
Diseases such as rabies (including the canine variant previously thought eradicated in the U.S.), canine flu, and brucellosis have been directly related to irresponsibly imported pets destined for resale/adoption.
These and other diseases have the capacity to seriously harm our pet, livestock, and human populations, therefore more data on imported animals is needed.
The AKC believes the Farm Bill provides an excellent opportunity to ask the Congress to strengthen efforts to ensure that all dogs imported into the U.S. are fully immunized, free of contagious diseases, examined by a qualified veterinarian prior to import, and have documentation regarding the source of the dog and the party responsible for it.
Such efforts can help bring U.S. health requirements for imported animals into line with those of other developed nations.
Are you interested in asking your senator to back the clause for better reporting on the numbers of imported dogs into the U.S.? Figure out which senator represents your state. Then contact your senator by writing a letter by mail, through your senator's web contact form, by calling, or even by visiting.
Remember, rescuing is a wonderful calling, but we should all have the right to be educated about the risks involved so we can make informed decisions as we add new members to our families.