The New Jersey Senate Environment and Energy Committee unanimously voted to release the Homes for Animal Heroes Act (S2826) from committee.  The bill would requires institutions of higher education to offer cats and dogs for adoption when they are no longer needed for education, research or other scientific purposes.  During the hearing on September 13, 2018 the following nonprofit associations or individuals submitted slips or testified:

Best Friends Animal Society; Merck; Tom Leach and Cindy Buckmaster, Ph.D., and Karen Froberg, VMD from the New Jersey Association for Biomedical Research; and the National Animal Interest Alliance.

Homes for Animal Heroes, created by Cindy Buckmaster, Ph.D., and an initiative of National Animal Interest Alliance (NAIA),

is a product of the research community’s desire to find loving homes for their animals, as well as the need to educate the public on the real facts about our animal heroes, how they are cared for, and how they improve human and animal lives.

As stated on its website 

Homes for Animal Heroes (HAH) is a national program dedicated to rehoming retired research animals, mainly dogs, and sharing the facts about the critical role animals in research play in curing disease. HAH is building a network of dog experts that can effectively work with research institutions to rehome retired research dogs in every state across the country, one location at a time. Our goal is to permanently rehome these animal heroes into loving homes through a comprehensive foster-based program.

The program builds in successful outcomes by temporarily housing dogs with caregivers, trained “to acclimate former study” dogs to a home environment.  Potential adopters are also screened and interviewed for lifelong compatibility.

The program and the bill, do not require research facilities to place dogs with animal rescue organizations, many of which have not been trained to handle these animals, and most are nearly entirely unregulated.  Instead, the institutions and the staff who have worked closely with these dogs and cats, are able to place them in homes where they will have the best chance of remaining for the rest of their lives.

The unfortunate and misguided bans of sales of professionally and purposely-bred dogs throughout the United States (which as previously described violates the constitutional rights of many and exposes people and pets to a host of infectious, sometimes deadly diseases), reveals a dearth of objective and science-based research about the welfare of dogs (and puppies) historically provided to the public from breeders through pet stores compared with the welfare of these pets sold (aka adopted) through rescue and shelter channels.

Fortunately, through the work conducted at universities, including, for example, Purdue University’s Center for Animal Welfare Science (“CAWS”), and Mississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine, peer-reviewed, science-based research is underway and the results published.

At Purdue’s CAWS, researchers “facilitate the well-being of animals using sound science and ethics to investigate and promote the best animal care and management practices.”

Dr. Candace Croney and her research group, study the “Welfare of Breeding Dogs.”

The welfare of dogs housed in commercial breeding facilities is of great public concern.  However, little research has been performed to examine the welfare status of the dogs on-site at kennels, characterize the nature and extent of welfare problems experienced, and explore solutions. We are developing tools to evaluate the behavioral and physical welfare of commercial breeding dogs and create practical recommendations to improve their lives and those of their puppies.

In addition to studying techniques and practices used by dog breeders, the group also studies the multi-factorial issues involved when people chose to adopt or purchase a new dog.  Researchers conclude, as reported in “Factors that impact dog selection and welfare:”

Dogs are not selected based on a single factor. While animal shelters and rescue organizations work hard to encourage the adoption of the dogs under their care, they may not be able to meet the demand for purebred dogs. This demand creates the need for a solution that balances consumer freedom of choice as to where (and how) to obtain a dog with ethical concerns about procuring dogs from sources where animal welfare is not adequately protected.

Notably, the paper also identifies the fact that, regardless of the source, pets can experience varying levels of welfare.  Increasingly, as shelters are pressured into decreasing numbers of animals euthanized (a laudable goal, when properly implemented), shelter residents are moved from shelter to shelter or rescue or even adopted out, even when behavioral and/or medical abnormalities exist.

A study recently conducted at the MSU College of Veterinary Medicine attempted to take a sharp, science-based look at brick and mortar shelter populations in the United States.

One of the authors (Kimberly Woodruff) noted:

For many years, people have quoted numbers of animals going in and out of shelters, but there’s never really been any research behind them . . .Even beyond that, nobody really knows how many shelters are in the United States. There’s no official registry for shelters and no group providing oversight. Shelters can be anything from a few kennels to a huge facility that adopts out thousands of animals a year.

As previously discussed, the National Animal Interest Alliance has been tracking the movement of dogs and cats into and out of shelters, using data obtained from government agencies, and reporting this information on the NAIA Shelter Project.

Both the MSU research and the Shelter Project are hampered by the unreported movement of pets through rescue organizations, which are often completely unregulated, are not required to register or obtain a license to function, and do not report animal movement to any agency.  Some states have adopted laws governing these entities, including those in the Northeast, like Connecticut and Rhode Island, where so many transplanted pets are relocated.

As the MSU study discussed, concerns about the spread of diseases and pests through adoption networks must be addressed:

‘For example, there are a lot of dogs moving out of the Southeast and into other regions,’ [researcher] Smith said. ‘Well, this is a highly endemic heartworm disease area, we possibly could be transporting heartworms across the country. That means we need to do due diligence to control that disease. We may need to ask those shelters about how they’re addressing heartworm disease and other regional diseases.’

While rescue and adoption have largely replaced traditional pet sales, these marketing channels have increasing risks, especially since the “no-kill shelter” movement is being promoted by many.

In addition to risk from infectious, contagious diseases, sometimes fatal, there are risks from the adoption of dogs with known behavioral abnormalities, including predatory aggression.

As reported in the Zanesville’s TimesRecorder by Shelly Schultz in “Vet confronts commissioners about conditions at dog adoption center,  a veterinarian responsible for oversight at an animal shelter—Dr. Brian Williams—expressed his concern about dogs being adopted despite his risk-based assessment of their behavior.  As the National Animal Interest Alliance posted about Dr. Williams concerns, adopting out dogs known to be aggressive, creates “an immediate risk to public safety . . . [and] also threatens the mission of rescue as a whole.”

Unfortunately, the adoption of aggressive dogs has been reported to me a number of times.  In many cases, the dogs are immediately re-adopted to unwitting families even after viciously attacking and injuring the previous adopter.

As Dr. Williams observed, there are some dogs that are not suitable as pets for most people, based on their known aggressive behavior.   A shelter or rescue can attempt to rehabilitate such dogs, but even so, should inform any potential adopter about the complete medical and behavioral history and strongly consider euthanasia if the dog cannot be placed in a home without risking injury to humans or other animals.

For more, read the TimesRecorder article and NAIA’s blog.

California AB485 will criminalize what has been considered lawful interstate commerce since at least 1966, when Congress first passed the Animal Welfare Act, 7. U.S.C. §2131 et seq.

“The Congress finds that animals and activities which are regulated under this chapter are either in interstate or foreign commerce or substantially affect such commerce or the free flow thereof, and that regulation of animals and activities as provided in this chapter is necessary to prevent and eliminate burdens upon such commerce and to effectively regulate such commerce, in order – (1) to insure that animals intended . . . for use as pets are provided humane care and treatment . . .”  7 U.S.C. §2131 (Congressional statement of policy).

Pet stores in California will no longer be able to purchase and sell pets from USDA licensed and exempts breeders and dealers of dogs, cats and rabbits if AB485 becomes law.  Instead, pet store would only be able to source from the highly unregulated animal shelters and rescue organizations that distribute pets from random sources, often imported from overseas, and often infected or infested with diseases or pests that unwitting consumers have to contend with and pay for.

Pet stores that have provided a historic and lawful service matching up pet-seeking owners with professionally and purposely-bred pets with the physical and behavioral characteristics perspective owners desire, would be considered criminals under the new California law, upon adoption.

Unfortunately, this is no longer a novel attempt by nonprofit animal rights organizations’ decades-long campaign to eliminate professional, purposeful dog breeding, along with animal ownership (replaced with guardianship) and a host of other animal rights’ agenda.

The question is, when will consumers realize that their choices in pet purchases have been supplanted by activists who believe that pet breeding (and the intentional breeding of any species) is immoral and should be outlawed.

The public, clamoring for the 9,000,000 dogs needed each year for pet-owners seeking new pets, will soon have their choices severely limited.

What a sad state of affairs for pets and people alike and as we have repeatedly alleged, unconstitutional.

I previously described concerns about S3019’s impact to veterinarians.

There are additional concerns about the impact of this bill to animal shelters and NJ taxpayers.  And, it is inexplicable why S3019 exempts animal rescue organizations from provisions governing shelters since these unregulated organizations are becoming the primary way people are obtaining pets—through retail rescue channels.  See The Phenomenon called “Retail Rescue.”

Animal shelters are under increasing pressure from the no-kill movement to decrease or eliminate the number of animals they euthanize.  This creates a near impossibility for those shelters that provide for the euthanasia of pets as a service to pet owners who rely on shelters for that very purpose.  Additionally, some animals are unfortunately not suitable for adoption because of behavioral or medical disorders.  For these animals and the people who may unwittingly adopt them, euthanasia may be the best option.

Animal rescue organizations do not have to comply with any provisions that would govern shelters if S3019 becomes law.  They simply have to register with the Department of Health.  Certainly animals housed in any facility should be provided with proper care, but with the draconian and costly provisions in S3019, it is not clear why any private brick and mortar shelter would continue to exist.

Unlike “regulated animal facilities,” animal rescue organizations would not have to: (1) employ a State-certified director, (2) comply with strict feeding, housing, exercise, and medical care requirements, (3) maintain records of any sort, or (4) be subject to a civil action in Superior or municipal court brought by any person for failure to comply with this law.

Other concerns about the bill include, but are not limited to:

  1. The Department of Health would have to draft regulations regarding the recognition of cat and dog breeds by shelter staff.  However, studies have proven that “regardless of profession, visual identification of the breeds of dogs with unknown heritage is poor.”  See K.C. Croy, et al., What kind or dog is that? Accuracy of dog breed assessment by canine stakeholders.   Published by College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Florida, Gainesville.  Hopefully, DOH’s proposed regulations, if drafted, will include the deficiencies related to the visual identification of randomly-sourced pets.
  2. The cost of enforcing this bill will be significant.
    1. The law would require at least three inspections of regulated animal facilities by specially trained inspectors each year. While training is certainly a welcome and important advance, the cost would be considerable.
    2. The bill would require the Board of Veterinary Medicine, the Department of Health and Rutgers to develop certain training and certification programs that would be costly to develop and implement.
  3. The law would limit euthanasia of animals to veterinarians or a veterinary technician with specific training and certification in euthanasia. The law would require that the Board of Veterinary Medicine, in consultation with the Department of Health, establish training and certification, but it is unclear how this can proceed without requiring the licensure of veterinary technicians, something the legislature has not provided for.
  4. The law would encourage shelters to provide for “temporary” housing, even with other animals, instead of performing euthanasia.  While decreasing euthanasia is laudable, shelters should not be encouraged to violate DOH’s sanitary regulations adopted to decrease disease spread and behavioral incompatibilities that prohibit such housing.

S3019, in addition to its well-meaning intent, would have some positive effects, such as increased tracking and reporting of the movement of animals into and between regulated animal facilities.  Of course, this data should include movement through animal rescue organizations.

The provisions of S3019 that would help ensure that any adoptable animals are not unnecessarily euthanized is clearly laudable.  However, unless the State prohibits the unregulated importation of animals from other states and countries to rescues and shelters through retail rescue channels, animals that are unsuitable as pets will continue to reside in shelters and some will be euthanized.

We are proud to represent the New York Pet Welfare Association, whose members include purposely-bred dog owners, breeders, wholesalers, pet stores and veterinarians from across the country. This association, like many other hard-working, animal-loving businesses and individuals, has been increasingly under assault by wealthy nonprofit and retail rescue organizations, including ASPCA and HSUS, (“Retail Rescue Organizations”) intent on eliminating the only source of healthy, humanely-raised, highly regulated puppies in this country.

Over the next several blogs I will describe the legal challenges facing the interstate pet market, including the NYPWA and its members in New York City.

New York City adopted a law which was drafted to essentially eliminate pet stores as a source of pets for City residents—actions that necessarily impact interstate commerce as will be discussed. The law favors the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals, the City’s animal shelter (Animal Care & Control) and Retail Rescue Organizations that, despite their “nonprofit” status, are profiting handsomely from their transactions with pets, particularly dogs. As deputy commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Daniel Kass testified, the intended effect of this law is to make it “more difficult to acquire [dogs and cats] through pet shops, or more expensive to acquire puppies or kittens from breeders. We hope that, overall, the expanded regulation of pet shops will encourage New Yorkers to adopt from shelters run by Animal Care and Control.”

The City law bans sales to pet stores from all Class B licensees (whom USDA licenses as wholesalers who purchase from breeders and sell to pet stores) no matter how well they take of their animals. There are no stricter standards required for these licensees to comply with. In fact, the law, as it pertains to Class B’s, has no standards at all. As long as you qualify for and have obtained a USDA Class B license, you can no longer sell to pet stores in the City.

The City law also limits sales to pet stores from Class A breeders, as long as they have not been finally determined to have violated the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) within a specified number of years. Only a USDA Administrative Law Judge can make a final determination of such a violation. However, commonly, the Retail Rescue Organizations intentionally misrepresent that findings on USDA inspection reports are violations of the AWA. They are not. Noncompliant items on inspection reports are not considered finally determined violations of the AWA.

By limiting sales to pet stores from Class A breeders, the law silently prohibits sales from hobby breeders to pet stores—those with 4 or fewer breeding females that USDA has exempted from licensure after finding that they meet or exceed the humane standards of care required by federal law.

In addition to these sourcing restrictions, which animal shelters and rescues are expressly exempt from, the law requires that pet stores sell only dogs and cats that are spayed or neutered as long as they weigh a mere 2 pounds and are at least 8 weeks old. Despite testimony from veterinarians, including those with expertise in the field of animal reproduction, informing the City that such a requirement will unnecessarily harm many puppies and kill some, the City has not amended this law.

This law, as we have alleged, impermissibly discriminates against interstate commerce and creates an insurmountable obstacle for the entire interstate pet market to comply with the enforcement mechanisms set forth in the AWA and related regulations, which includes a robust licensing scheme for breeders, wholesalers, and retail operations. The law similarly creates an insurmountable obstacle for veterinarians and pet stores to comply with state laws governing veterinary medicine and also the draconian provisions mandating sterilization of pets before sale.

These issues will be discussed separately in upcoming posts.


By Sheila Goffe originally p

While the zika virus poses worrisome human health concerns, another potential health problem is brewing that threatens both humans and domesticated animals –the importing of foreign dogs for adoption.

Many people are unaware that the U.S. has become something of a favored nation for countries looking to export their rescue dogs due to several reasons.

First, Americans are big-hearted, and when seeking dogs many chose animals made available through rescues.

Second, there’s a readymade market here – Americans love canines and own an estimated 80 million dogs.

The vast majority of imported rescue dogs are not tracked in the United States – either upon arrival or after they enter rescue channels.

Lastly, import rules on dogs can be easily flouted, allowing foreign exporters to send us their sick animals.

The vast majority of imported rescue dogs are not tracked in the United States – either upon arrival or after they enter rescue channels. Patti Strand, founder and national director of the National Animal Interest Alliance, a non-profit that studies shelter trends and the importation of rescue dogs, estimates that close to one million rescue dogs are imported annually from regions not known for stellar canine health and safety standards. They include dogs from Puerto Rico, Turkey, several countries in the Middle East and as far away as China and Korea. That compares to about 8 million dogs annually acquired as pets in the U.S.

All of this underscores that without improved oversight of pet rescue organizations, there’s no way of definitively identifying how many foreign rescue dogs are put up for adoption here.

These foreign rescues may be well-intentioned, but they are courting disaster.

While it is often a challenge to gather information on an abandoned dog here in the U.S., it is even harder for a dog that originated overseas. Information may be missing, poorly translated or unreliable.

Challenges are especially serious when it comes to health and safety. Animals from other countries are not subject to the health and welfare laws of the U.S. and may arrive carrying serious and infectious canine diseases. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), although importation laws require all dogs to be examined by a licensed veterinarian, foreign paperwork is hard to verify and is commonly invalid or forged.

Likewise, the tracking, health and welfare standards that are required for dogs bred in the United States and sold in pet shops do not apply for pets identified as sourced from rescues.

Scores of “puppy mill” bills like New Jersey’s S. 63/A. 2338 that ban pet stores from sourcing professionally-bred pets in lieu of pets sourced from rescues threaten to expand the problem to epic proportions.

The threat to public health is anything but theoretical. On May 30, 2015, eight dogs rescued in Egypt arrived in New York, all but one bound for U.S. rescues. Within days, a dog sent to Virginia became ill and was diagnosed with rabies.

The discovery necessitated an enormous public health investigation involving four state departments of health, three U.S. agencies, the transporting airline and the Egyptian government. Numerous people were interviewed from the airline, rescue organization and veterinarian’s office. In the end, 18 people were vaccinated for rabies either due to direct exposure or concern for possible contact. The rabies vaccination certificate for the dog had been forged, according to the CDC.

This is just one case. The CDC reports a significant uptick in public health concerns and incidents of disease in imported dogs that can be passed between animals and humans.

For example, an outbreak last year in the Midwest of canine influenza that sickened more than 1,100 dogs was traced to the importation of foreign animals, very likely a foreign dog or cat.

“There are multiple international groups who are rescuing dogs from the meat market in Korea and shipping them into the U.S., and we have sketchy quarantine requirements if any at all,” said Dr. Ed Dubovi, director at Cornell University’s Animal Health Diagnostic Center.

Also at issue is the safety and suitability of foreign rescue dogs as family pets. Sources of dogs that are not socialized or bred to be pets are likely to require special handling and training that typical adopters — and even rescues –are not equipped to provide.

Without knowledgeable care, these dogs will end up back in a shelter situation.

Opening our doors is having other undesirable effects. Though some imported dogs are taken by legitimate U.S. rescues, others are becoming the product of unregulated, informal markets, including online retail “rescues.” According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, there have been numerous incidents involving smuggling of underage and sick animals. Substandard foreign breeders are taking advantage of all of these avenues into the U.S. market, rescue or otherwise.

The importation of rescue dogs does nothing to address issues at the source, and it actually encourages irresponsible breeding overseas. It has created an incentive for irresponsible brokers to round up street animals, buy dogs from Asian livestock markets and allegedly breed animals specifically for export to U.S. rescue markets. And because the animals are labelled as rescues, standards appear to be optional.

A pipeline for unrestricted imports of foreign “rescue” animals undercuts the mission of U.S. rescues, while creating a potential health and safety crisis.

The CDC is exactly correct in its analysis of the problem and its potential risks to Americans.

“Considering the public health risk posed by importation of animals for the purposes of placing them in adoptive homes in the United States, and the current oversupply of adoptable animals already in the United States, persons and organizations involved with importing pets for the purposes of adoption should consider reevaluating, and potentially redirecting, their current efforts,” the agency wrote.

Plenty of domestic dogs are languishing in shelters and in need of homes. Our duty is to help these dogs first.

Sheila Goffe is Vice President, Government Relations for the American Kennel Club. Follow the AKC on Twitter @akcdoglovers.


S63, previously discussed, will be heard this Thursday (June 23, 2016) by the NJ Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee at 10:00 AM in Committee Room 4, 1st Floor, State House Annex, Trenton, NJ.

The bill repeals, in its entirety, the Pet Purchase Protection Act (PPPA), which was amended, effective June 1, 2015, and is now considered to provide consumers with the greatest protections in the country when purchasing dogs and cats from pet stores in New Jersey.

Despite my concerns that the PPPA, in its current form, impermissibly regulates extraterritorial pet breeders in violation of the Commerce and Supremacy Clauses of the United States Constitution, repealing it will not protect consumers or pets.

Both the American Kennel Club and the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC) have issued alerts and are urging those concerned about its “adoption” (no pun intended) to submit comments.  You can access PIJAC’s notice here.

The bill also prohibits sales of dogs and cats bred by USDA licensed breeders to pet stores, limiting sales from stores to pets sourced from animal shelters and rescues (Retail Rescue Corporations).  These Retail Rescue Corporations obtain pets from random sources, unlicensed large scale substandard breeders, defined by USDA as “puppy mills” from outside of the state and the country.

Unwitting consumers believing that they are “rescuing” these pets, are doing nothing of the sort.  These pets are now being bred for the retail rescue market, from which Retail Rescue Corporations are profiting handsomely.  The protections afforded by the Pet Purchase Protection Act for pets sold with infectious, contagious diseases, and genetic disorders would put Retail Rescue Corporations out of business if the PPPA were to apply to them, since many pets sold (“adopted”) by these facilities suffer from these maladies.  Therefore S63 aims both to mandate sales sourced only from Retail Rescue Corporations and eliminates all accountability resulting from sales of sick pets.

S63 would also require only face-to-face sales of dogs and cats between breeders and consumers, requiring New Jersey citizens to drive or fly out of state to purchase directly from an USDA Class A breeder (there are no Class A breeders in NJ) and out-of-state exempt breeders.  Puppies cannot be sold over the internet and then transported to their owners in NJ by any means.  These restrictions represent the most egregious violations of the Commerce Clause in any pet store ban thus far considered or enacted.


A new bill in Kansas would amend the Kansas pet animal ac, adding licensing and other requirements for  animal rescue networks and pet animal foster homes.

House Bill No 2514, introduced during the Session of 2016 defines “rescue network,” “rescue network manager,” and “pet animal foster home” as:

“Rescue network” means the premises of a rescue network manager and all pet animal foster homes organized under that rescue network manager that provide temporary care for one or more dogs or cats not owned by an animal shelter that maintains a central facility for keeping animals.

“Rescue network manager” means the individual designated by a rescue network to carry out the responsibilities prescribed in section 1, and amendments thereto.

“Pet animal foster home” means the registered premises of an individual who has written and signed an agreement to provide temporary care for one or more dogs or cats owned by an animal shelter or a rescue network that is licensed by the state.

The law would permit rescues and animal shelters to house animals in foster homes, but requires compliance with the Kansas pet animal act at those homes, and also requires record keeping, and an annual fee “of not more than $10 to the department of agriculture for each subordinate pet animal foster home.”

The following provisions would govern rescue networks and require supervision and oversight needed in these often overlooked and under-regulated facilities:


New Section 1 (a) It shall be unlawful for any person to operate a rescue network unless a rescue network manager license has been obtained from the commissioner. Applications for each such license shall be made in writing on a form provided by the commissioner. The license period shall be for the license year ending June 30 following the issuance date.

(b) Rescue networks may utilize pet animal foster homes. Each rescue network shall be responsible for ensuring that pet animal foster homes subordinate to such rescue network comply with the Kansas pet animal act and all relevant rules and regulations. Rescue networks shall keep records of all pet animal foster homes that house animals and shall pay annually a fee of not more than $10 to the department of agriculture for each subordinate pet animal foster home.

(c) Each rescue network shall designate a manager who shall carry out the following duties:

(1) Approve the membership of each pet animal foster home in the rescue network;

(2) supervise intake of dogs and cats into the rescue network;

(3) monitor and ensure compliance of each subordinate pet animal foster home with all relevant laws and rules and regulations;

(4) maintain on such rescue network manager’s premises records pertaining to the adoption, placement or other disposition of each dog and cat receiving temporary care from the rescue network, membership of the rescue network, and any other records required by law or rules and regulations; and

(5) such other administrative duties as the commissioner may adopt by rules and regulations.

Regulation of offsite facility adoption events would also be required:

New Sec. 2. (a) Once an animal shelter or rescue network manager license has been obtained, the animal shelter or the rescue network manager may host adoption events at a location other than the licensed premises, so long as all applicable rules and regulations are followed at such other locations. Once the date and location of an adoption event has been determined, the animal shelter or rescue network shall provide advance notice to the animal health commissioner or the commissioner’s authorized representative.

Animal offered for adoption (aka “sale”) from animal rescue groups come from unknown and random sources, often with diseases, parasites and congenital or behavioral abnormalities that unknowing adopters must contend with.  Increased regulation over the sales of pets from these entities is long overdue.

December 18, 2015 / 64(49);1359-62

Julie R. Sinclair, DVM1; Ryan M. Wallace, DVM2; Karen Gruszynski, DVM3; Marilyn Bibbs Freeman, PhD4; Colin Campbell, DVM5; Shereen Semple, MS5; Kristin Innes, MPH5; Sally Slavinski, DVM6; Gabriel Palumbo, MPH1; Heather Bair-Brake, DVM1; Lillian Orciari, MS2; Rene E. Condori, MS2; Adam Langer, DVM1; Darin S. Carroll, PhD2; Julia Murphy, DVM3

Canine rabies virus variant has been eliminated in the United States and multiple other countries. Globally, however, dogs remain the principal source for human rabies infections (1). The World Health Organization recommends that when dogs cross international borders, national importing authorities should require an international veterinary certificate attesting that the animal did not show signs of rabies at the time of shipment, was permanently identified, vaccinated, or revaccinated, and had been subjected to a serologic test for rabies before shipment (1). On June 8, 2015, an adult female dog that had recently been picked up from the streets of Cairo, Egypt, and shipped by a U.S. animal rescue organization to the United States was confirmed to have rabies by the Virginia Department of General Services Division of Consolidated Laboratory Services (DCLS). This dog was part of a large shipment of dogs and cats from Egypt that rescue organizations had distributed to multiple states for adoption. During the investigation, public health officials learned that the rabies vaccination certificate used for entry of the rabid dog into the United States had intentionally been falsified to avoid exclusion of the dog from entry under CDC’s current dog importation regulations. This report underscores the ongoing risk posed by U.S. importation of domestic animals that have not been adequately vaccinated against rabies.

Case Report

On May 30, 2015, a shipment of eight dogs and 27 cats arrived at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City from Cairo, Egypt. The animals were distributed to several animal rescue groups and one permanent adoptive home in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia. Four dogs from the shipment arrived in Virginia on May 31, 2015, and were distributed to three foster homes associated with a Virginia-based rescue group (animal rescue group A).

On June 3, an adult female street dog (dog A) imported by animal rescue group A became ill. The dog had been imported with an unhealed fracture of the left forelimb, and 4 days after arrival at a foster home in Virginia, developed hypersalivation, paralysis, and hyperesthesia. Because of concern about rabies, a veterinarian euthanized the dog on June 5 and submitted brain tissue for rabies testing at DCLS. On June 8, DCLS confirmed rabies infection by direct fluorescent antibody testing and contacted CDC to coordinate shipment of specimens to assist with variant typing. CDC determined that the variant was consistent with canine rabies virus circulating in Egypt.

Public Health Investigation

After DCLS confirmed the rabies diagnosis, the Virginia Department of Health, the New Jersey Department of Health, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and CDC initiated human and domestic animal rabies exposure assessments associated with the entire animal shipment. The infectious period for dog A was considered to have begun 10 days before symptom onset and continued until death (i.e., from May 24 to June 5) (2). The investigation also involved the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the Pennsylvania Department of Health, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the foreign airline that transported the animals, the Egyptian Ministry of Health and Population, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

Potential human exposures were identified by interviewing U.S.-based airline cargo staff members, the U.S. transporter, dog A’s caretaker, and volunteers and employees associated with animal rescue group A. Upon the shipment’s arrival in New York, eight persons were involved in moving the dogs and cats from the plane onto a transport trailer and then into the U.S. transporter’s vehicle. The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene interviewed these eight persons; all reported having worn leather gloves while handling the crates and having had no direct contact with the animals. Public health investigators determined that the animals did not have contact with each other during transport except for dog A and her puppy aged 10 weeks (dog B), which were transported in the same crate. Both dogs had reportedly been collected off the streets of Cairo 5 days before shipment.

Among the eight dogs in the Egyptian shipment, only dog A and two dogs aged 6 months (dogs F and G) had certificates indicating rabies vaccination at or after age 3 months and ≥30 days before arrival at a U.S. port of entry (Table), as required by CDC dog importation regulations (3). Following dog A’s rabies diagnosis, rescue workers reported that the dog’s vaccination certificate had been intentionally predated in Egypt.

The Virginia investigation focused on contact with dog A after departing the airport cargo area through the time of the veterinary assessment in Virginia. Health department personnel in Virginia evaluated 30 persons for possible rabies exposure; no bite exposures were reported. Eighteen persons initiated rabies postexposure prophylaxis (PEP), including 10 who were considered to have been exposed and eight who requested PEP despite reporting no clear rabies exposure. Eight of the 18 persons receiving PEP reported having previously received rabies preexposure prophylaxis.

Domestic animal exposure investigations revealed that all animals in the Egyptian shipment, except for dogs A and B, had been crated individually in the airplane’s cargo hold and held separately after arriving in the United States, until delivered to their final destinations. Investigators thought it unlikely that the cats in this shipment had interacted with dog A, even while in Egypt. CDC’s cat importation regulations do not require that cats be vaccinated against rabies; therefore, the cats were not required under federal regulations to be confined, vaccinated, or revaccinated against rabies.

The Virginia Department of Health considered that the only dog among the animals in the Egyptian shipment to have been exposed to dog A during the rabies infectious period was her puppy, dog B. Dog A’s caretaker was pet sitting a neighbor’s dog and providing care within her household for eight other dogs, as well as nine other animals. The Virginia Department of Health identified seven dogs in dog A’s caretaker’s home as having been exposed to rabies. (Dog B was housed with a different caretaker.) The local health department determined that all of the exposed dogs except dog B had current rabies vaccination certificates from licensed veterinary hospitals. The dogs with current certificates received a rabies booster vaccination followed by 45 days of confinement at their owners’ homes, as recommended by the Compendium of Animal Rabies Prevention and Control (4). Dog B, who was aged <12 weeks at the time and had not received an initial dose of rabies vaccine, was vaccinated against rabies and placed in strict isolation* for 90 days, followed by 90 days of home confinement (Table). To ensure that the dog was vaccinated according to the vaccine manufacturer’s label specifications (at age ≥3 months), another dose of rabies vaccine was administered to dog B 1 month before release from strict isolation (Table). Dogs C and D each received a booster dose of rabies vaccine, followed by 90 days of home confinement.

The New Jersey Department of Health interviewed volunteers from a canine rescue group in New Jersey (animal rescue group B) that had received four of the eight dogs from the Egyptian shipment. All four dogs received either their initial rabies vaccination or a rabies booster vaccination and were ordered to be confined in their owners’ homes for 6 months (Table).


Rabies, the deadliest of all zoonotic diseases, accounts for an estimated 59,000 human deaths globally each year (5). The virus can infect any mammal, and once symptoms appear, the disease is almost invariably fatal (6). Importation of rabid animals into the United States has broad public health implications. The reintroduction of a canine rabies virus variant† or introduction of any nonendemic rabies viruses into a naïve animal population has the potential to change the epizootiology of rabies in the United States, leading to severe health consequences and economic losses (7).

To prevent human rabies exposures and introduction of rabies viruses, U.S. federal and state regulations place strict rabies vaccination requirements on dogs. Current CDC dog importation regulations require that dogs being imported from countries not considered rabies-free§ be accompanied by a valid rabies vaccination certificate (3). A valid rabies vaccination certificate documents a rabies vaccination for a dog aged ≥3 months that was administered ≥30 days before arrival in the United States (3). State regulations often are more strict. For example, all dogs and cats imported into Virginia by rescue groups must be accompanied by a Certificate of Veterinary Inspection issued by a veterinarian in the state or country of origin no fewer than 10 days before the animal enters Virginia. In addition, if the animal (i.e., a dog or cat) is aged ≥4 months, it must be vaccinated against rabies.

These importation regulations are difficult to enforce because of limited resources at U.S. ports of entry to inspect dog shipments. This report details the fourth known instance of a rabid dog imported from a non-U.S. territory since 2004 and the second instance of importation by a rescue organization of a rabid dog from the Middle East (4,8). However, other cases might have gone unreported because rabies can have a variable clinical course (4) that might not prompt animal owners or veterinarians to seek postmortem rabies testing.

CDC and state agencies have previously received reports of invalid or questionable health and rabies vaccination certificates for imported dogs (9); in at least one reported case, a veterinarian issued a Certificate of Veterinary Inspection for a dog that was already showing signs of rabies infection (10). CDC has attempted to address mounting concerns about importation of inadequately vaccinated dogs, either resulting from inaccurate rabies vaccination certificates or from legal importation under an existing mechanism allowing exceptions to CDC’s regulatory requirement (i.e., issuance of a dog confinement agreement that serves as a legal and binding agreement between CDC and the importer and lists requirements for vaccination and confinement of the animal).

In May 2014, CDC issued the health alert notification “Imported Dogs with Questionable Documents” specifically because of ongoing concerns with dogs’ entry documents listing incorrect ages and rabies vaccination status. In addition, in July 2014, CDC published the notice “Issuance and Enforcement Guidance for Dog Confinement Agreements”¶ in the Federal Register clarifying that entry into the United States of dogs that are inadequately vaccinated against rabies and coming from countries where rabies is endemic would only be allowed on a limited and case-by-case basis. In the incident described in this report, under the criteria outlined in the Federal Register notice, CDC would ordinarily have excluded five of the eight dogs in the shipment (dogs B, C, D, E, and H). However, CDC was not notified of the arrival of these dogs until after the dogs had already been admitted into the United States and left the port of entry. Because dog A was accompanied by a rabies vaccination certificate that only later was reported to have been falsified, CDC would most likely have admitted dog A.

This report underscores the current difficulties in verifying any imported dog’s rabies vaccination certificate and health status. The United States also is vulnerable to an increasing risk for rabies introduction and spread from other imported domestic animals, such as cats and ferrets. Considering the public health risk posed by importation of animals for the purposes of placing them in adoptive homes in the United States, and the current oversupply of adoptable animals already in the United States, persons and organizations involved with importing pets for the purposes of adoption should consider reevaluating, and potentially redirecting, their current efforts. Globally, animal welfare stakeholders should consider focusing their efforts on supporting local organizations that provide adoptive homes, along with health care services, for street animals in their own countries. In addition, although this report focuses on imported dogs and rabies, all animals pose a risk for transmission of zoonotic diseases (e.g., brucellosis, leishmaniasis, campylobacteriosis, leptospirosis, giardiasis, and cutaneous or visceral larva migrans). Documentation of overall health status, not just rabies vaccination, is critical to minimizing the risk from importing animals carrying zoonotic diseases.


Bryant Bullock, Lorrie Andrew-Spear, Fairfax County Health Department, Virginia Department of Health; Douglas Hubbard, Allison Hubbard, Marta Segarra, Whitney Wright, Charles Devine, David Goodfriend, Alison Ansher, Andrea Young, Erica Thompson, Patrick Jones, David Ferrell, Katherine Merten, Barbara Downes, Audrey Ryan, Brooke Rossheim, Maribeth Brewster, Matthew Lipani, Brent McCord, Rebecca LePrell, Laurie Forlano, Virginia Department of Health; Katherine Feldman, Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene; Alexandra Newman, New York State Department of Health; David Chico, New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets; Enzo Campagnolo, Division of State and Local Readiness, Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response, CDC; James Misrahi, Office of the General Counsel, CDC; Jorge Ocana, Harlem Gunness, Gale Galland, Yonette Hercules, Katrin Kohl, Ashley Marrone, Division of Global Migration and Quarantine, National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, CDC; Mary Reynolds, Inger Damon, Division of High-Consequence Pathogens and Pathology, National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, CDC; Egyptian Ministry of Health and Population; U.S. Customs and Border Protection; U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

1Division of Global Migration and Quarantine, National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, CDC; 2Division of High-Consequence Pathogens and Pathology, National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, CDC; 3Virginia Department of Health; 4Virginia Department of General Services Division of Consolidated Laboratory Services; 5New Jersey Department of Health; 6New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

Corresponding authors: Julie R. Sinclair,, 404-429-4299; Julia Murphy, 804-864-8141.


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* Isolation in this context refers to confinement in an enclosure that precludes direct contact with humans and other animals. In Virginia, this means that an animal is placed in a double walled enclosure that allows for feeding, watering, cleaning, and general care but will not allow for any person or other domestic animal to have contact with the isolated animal.

† In this incident, the phylogenetic reconstruction based on the complete nucleoprotein gene is closely related to a canine rabies virus variant circulating in domestic dogs in Egypt (Africa 4 clade).

¶ Available at