Healthy Dog Importation Act Endorsed By Several Veterinary Groups

by Britt
Justin Veenema/Unsplash

With technology and the internet connecting people across borders and worldwide, dog lovers are no longer restricted by their location when selecting their next pup. As a result, over 1 million dogs are imported into the United States every year. This is great news for the dogs who found their forever homes and their new families. But with the number of dogs coming into the country on the rise, so too is the risk of disease transmission.

This risk was highlighted in June 2021 when a group of canines were imported from Azerbaijan through the Chicago O’Hare International Airport. A multistate investigation was launched by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) after one of the dogs tested positive for a highly transmissible rabies variant that had been eradicated in the United States.

Before the disease was discovered, the dogs were transported all over the country, including to California, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. Not only did this put dogs in the area at risk, but several people were also exposed. A total of 15 people were recommended to receive a rabies vaccination out of precaution.

For those working in animal welfare, this highlighted a severe risk to the American people and their pets. This led many to reassess the current importation process and what changes are necessary to prevent a reoccurrence of this situation.

In light of this potential risk, the CDC is currently temporarily suspending dogs imported from countries deemed high risk for rabies. This list of 108 countries includes Cuba, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Russia, Turkey, Ukraine, and Vietnam – all popular countries for importation.

Additionally, Senators Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Tina Smith (D-Minn.) reintroduced legislation focused on strengthening the dog import standards in the United States called the Healthy Dog Importation Act.

Prospective dog owners researching how to import a dog and how this bill could impact the process should rest assured that it is not designed to target international breeders and organizations that adhere to strict medical and vaccination standards. It calls for expanded monitoring of dogs that have been imported, as well as a requirement that all imported dogs have a certificate of inspection from a licensed veterinarian. This certificate will confirm that the dog is in good general health and that they are not at risk of spreading any disease that could risk the safety of animals and public health in the United States.

The bill is being supported by a long list of professional organizations, each acknowledging the importance of addressing existing gaps in the importation process. A letter of support to Grassley and Smith was signed by over 40 organizations, including the American Association of Veterinary Medical Colleges, the American Veterinary Medical Association, the Animal Health Institute, and the International Pet and Animal Transportation Association.

“Human and animal health are inextricably linked, and we know that taking proactive steps can help prevent health emergencies,” Smith explained. “That’s why the healthy Dog Importation Act is so important. Mitigating the spread of foreign diseases in dogs help 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.” 


Britt Kascjak is a proud pet mom, sharing her heart (and her home) with her “pack” which includes her husband John, their 2 dogs – Lucifer and Willow – and their 2 cats – Pippen and Jinx. She has been active in the animal rescue community for over 15 years, volunteering, fostering and advocating for organizations across Canada and the US. In her free time, she enjoys traveling around the country camping, hiking, and canoeing with her pets.

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