Grassley and Smith introduce legislation to prevent the spread of exotic animal diseases

WASHINGTON – Senators Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Tina Smith (D-Minn.) Today tabled legislation to control the spread of exotic animal diseases entering the United States. the Healthy Dogs Importation Act expand the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services (USDA-APHIS) program by providing additional tools to monitor and protect the health of dogs imported into the country.

“Maintaining animal health is essential to the overall public health goals of our country. It is important that we work to stop the spread of diseases that can harm both animals and humans ”, Grassley said. “This common sense proposal will expand an already existing program to ensure that all dogs entering the country are healthy and not at risk of spreading dangerous diseases.”

“COVID-19 is a devastating example of why the Healthy Dogs Importation Act is so important. The pandemic has shown us that human and animal health are inextricably linked and that we must take proactive measures to prevent future health emergencies ”, Smith said. “Mitigating the spread of foreign diseases in dogs will help keep pets and wild animals healthy. It could also help prevent disease and epidemics in humans. I will work to move this bipartisan bill forward with Senator Grassley.

In addition to expanding the USDA-APHIS program, the Healthy Dogs Importation Actwould require each imported dog to have a veterinary inspection certificate issued by a licensed veterinarian. The health certificate must certify that the dog has received all the required vaccines and has demonstrated negative test results. This legislation would also create an online database of documents and import permits to ensure that dogs entering the United States are properly vetted. It will also help strengthen cooperation and communication between APHIS, CDC, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

CDC estimates
that up to 1.245 million dogs are imported into the United States each year. For the estimated 113,000 people imported from countries at high risk of rabies transmission, the CDC requires a rabies vaccination certificate, but no other health documents or identification. For the 950,000 dogs imported from rabies-free, low-risk, or moderate-risk countries, the CDC does not require any documentation or vaccination.
The ongoing fight to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic has heightened public health officials’ concern about zoonotic diseases, which can spread between animals and humans. CDC reports
that 60% of all infectious diseases and 3 in 4 emerging diseases such as coronaviruses can be transmitted from animals to humans. USDA-APHIS has separate regulatory authority over dogs imported for resale. However, USDA import requirements only apply to half a percent of all imported dogs.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us the disruption that zoonotic diseases can cause to society’s ability to function fully. The Healthy Dog Importation Act would neutralize the threat of unhealthy dogs entering the country and give federal agencies the tools to implement a robust inspection system at all U.S. ports of entry for dogs. Now is the time to improve our dog import regulations to help prevent the next public health crisis. We applaud Senators Grassley and Smith for bringing this important bill to Congress ”, Dr Randy L. Wheeler, executive director of the Iowa Veterinary Medical Association, said.

“We are extremely grateful for the leadership of Senators Grassley and Smith, whose prescient and common sense actions today can protect the public and animal health of the United States and prevent preventable tragedy in the future, ” Sheila Goffe, vice president of government relations for the American Kennel Club, said.
“No one responsible person wants to bring an unhealthy and contagious dog into the country. By requiring all dog imports – from show dogs to rescued pets – to have valid and verifiable health certification, the Healthy Dog Importation Act brings U.S. standards into line with most other countries and demonstrates commitment. of the United States towards responsible care and healthy environments for dogs. – and those who love them.

“The NAIA is grateful to Senators Smith and Grassley for bringing forward this timely legislation. The pandemic shows the need to better protect the United States against highly contagious pathogens and zoonoses ”, Patti Strand, Founder and President of National Animal Interest Alliance (NAIA) said. “For years, public health agencies have documented cases where imported dogs have introduced rabies, new strains of canine flu, leptospirosis, canker sore and other diseases and parasites that threaten animal and human health. . While we applaud the Centers for Disease Control for taking action to reduce the risk of rabid dogs entering the United States from countries at high risk for rabies, we are also concerned about the 90 percent of imports of dogs that are not controlled. The Healthy Dog Importation Act is necessary to ensure that all dogs imported from overseas are healthy and disease free before entering the United States.

The full list of organizations supporting the Healthy Dogs Importation Act can be found HERE.

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