As reported by the National Animal Interest Alliance (NAIA), bill – H.R.6921 (the Healthy Dog Importation Act) – has been introduced in Congress that would require proper health screening of dogs imported into the United States.  Such oversight is desperately needed to ensure that the one million plus dogs imported into this country are free from infectious diseases that, if unchecked, could spread to other animals and humans.

In addition to NAIA’s work on this bill, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) stated it “worked closely with Congressman Abraham (R-LA), the bill’s sponsor, and provided veterinary expertise in the drafting of the legislation  . . . introduced in Congress to ensure that all dogs entering the country are healthy and not at risk to spread dangerous diseases that could adversely impact animal and public health.”

Notably, Rep. Abraham and the two co-sponsors Rep. Ted S. Yoho (R-FL-3) and Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-OR-5) are all veterinarians and understand the risk that currently exists from the importation of dogs without appropriate screening and examination.

In “It’s Now or Never: Stop Dog Trafficking Now!,” NAIA president Patti Strand explained the how’s and why’s of “retail rescue,” including the risky practice of importing dogs into the U.S. for “adoption” (aka “sale”).  As voluntary spay neuter programs expanded in the U.S., coupled with animal activist-backed bans on pet stores and professional and hobby dog breeders “rescues expanded their networks to foreign counties, a phenomenon that has blossomed into a full-blown supply chain.  Today, an ever-increasing number of unhealthy and ill-tempered rescue dogs from both national and international rescues pour into our communities, arriving with temperament problems and illnesses that threaten U.S. dogs, livestock and the American public.”

Those illnesses include rabies, a nearly 100% fatal disease, and a novel strain of canine influenza virus that was linked to South China and Korea.  That virus affected about 1,300 dogs in Chicago in 2015 with a cost between $25 million to $75 million, according to Dr. Edward Dubovi, director of the virology laboratory at the Animal Health Diagnostic Center at Cornell University, as reported by The Washington Post.

The globalization of disease spread is now at the forefront of everyone’s mind, with the continued spread of the COVID-19 virus and associated illnesses and, in some cases, unfortunately, death.  While it appears unlikely that dogs serve as an effective fomite or vector in the spread of COVID-19, certainly the people traveling with dogs entering the country could be a source of spread to humans.

Now, more than ever, we need to be vigilant about and prevent the importation of infectious diseases and invasive parasites that are harbored in or on imported dogs or their human companions.