A4504, a new bill introduced in the NJ Assembly, would establish the “Stray Animal Study Commission,” to:

(1) identify and study stray animal and animal control issues in the State, including issues surrounding stray and feral cats colloquially referred to as “community cats” and “cat colonies,” and any funding shortfalls with regard to the issues identified; (2) study, explore, and develop solutions to (a) stray animal or animal control problems identified, and (b) problems in municipalities concerning feral cats, community cats, or cat colonies; and (3) provide recommendations for legal action, legislation, and possible funding sources address stray animal or animal control problems in the State, including, but not limited to, those associated with feral cats, community cats, or cat colonies.

While feral cats remain a concern generally, with the ongoing concerns about COVID-19 and the economy, it does not seem to be an opportune time to redirect the NJ Department of Health’s resources to such a study.

Additionally, the proposed 11-member commission fails to include interested, knowledgeable stakeholders, such as feline and avian veterinarians and environmental and wildlife organizations. These additional members o can be identified from the organizations listed in the NJDOH’s publication “Free-Roaming and Feral Cats,” including: American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP), American Bird Conservancy, American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), Association of Avian Veterinarians and New Jersey Audubon Society.”

Proposed members currently only include: the Commissioner of Health, the Commissioner of Community Affairs, and the Executive Director of the State Commission of Investigation, or their designees, who shall serve ex officio; a representative of the Humane Society of the United States, a representative of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, a representative of the New Jersey Animal Control Officers Association, and a representative of a county prosecutor’s office, and four directors or chief operating officers of animal shelters or pounds in the State.

The management of feral cat populations is highly controversial and concerns the health and welfare of feral cats, wild birds, the environmental impact and public health concerns.

Millions of free-roaming abandoned and feral cats exist in the United States. Most of these cats will suffer premature mortality from disease, starvation, weather extremes, or trauma, or euthanasia. Free-roaming and abandoned and feral cats are non-native predators and cause considerable wildlife destruction and ecosystem disruption, including the deaths of hundreds of birds, small mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and fish. They also pose a threat to public health. Zoonotic concerns include viral (e.g., rabies), bacterial (e.g., Yersinia pestis [plague], Fancisella tularensis, Campylobacter spp., Bartonella spp.), fungal . . . and parasitic diseases.
More information is available on AVMA and AAFP’s websites.

When the time is right to form this commission, necessary and additional members should be added, as described herein, .

The California Veterinary Medical Board has proposed amending the California Code of Regulations to clarify the process for veterinarians to compound drugs in a veterinary office for the treatment of an animal patient.  As reported in the “Initial Statement of Reasons,”

[t]he regulatory proposal is intended to provide guidance and an enforcement mechanism for inspectors to determine whether veterinarians and RVTs [registered veterinary technicians] are compounding drugs in accordance with their scope of practice, experience, and premises.  The rulemaking is necessary to provide veterinarians with guidance on the proper procedures for storing, handling, and preparing compounded drugs.

The Board’s regulations require the establishment of a valid veterinary client patient relationship before administering, dispensing or prescribing a drug, including a compounded drug.

The proposed regulations include a definition of “Compounding” which

means any of the following activities performed in a registered veterinary premises by a licensed veterinarian that has established the veterinarian-client-patient relationship for the animal patient(s) or a registered veterinary technician under the direct or indirect supervision of that veterinarian:

(1) Altering the dosage form or delivery system of a drug.

(2) Altering the strength of a drug.

(3) Combining components or active ingredients.

(4) Preparing a compounded drug preparation from chemicals.

The regulations would permit use of bulk substances for compounding but would require the direct supervision of a RVT if they were preparing the compounded medication from bulk substances.  Medications would not be considered compounded if they were reconstituted “pursuant to a manufacturer’s direction(s) for oral, rectal, topical, or injectable administration” or were simply split, crushed or a capsule was opened or flavorings were added to increase palatability.

The regulations require veterinarians to list an expiration date on a label of any dispensed compounded drug and to “ensure the safety and efficacy of a compounded drug preparation.”  It is unclear how safety and efficacy will be determined, keeping in mind that since the 1962, Congress amended the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act requiring that drug manufacturers must demonstrate to FDA that a drug is effective and safe before its approval and marketing.  While FDA has stated in Guidance #256, it “does not intend to take enforcement action for violations of the FD&C Act” when veterinarians compound medications for animal patients in compliance with its guidance, it also states that “[a]nimal drugs that are not FDA-approved, conditionally approved, or indexed are considered ‘unsafe’ and, therefore ‘adulterated’ under sections 512(a)(1) and 501(a)(5) of the FD&C Act.”  See Guidance #256, at n. 6.

California would also require veterinarians to conduct appropriate staff training and record keeping for the preparation, use and storage of compounded medications including, for example:  written policies and procedures manuals; formula documents for each compounded medication; the strength of the compounded formula; and a quality assurance program.

Veterinarians, pharmacists, registered veterinary technicians and other stakeholders should comment as described in the Notice of Regulatory Action about any concerns they may have about the proposed regulations and its potential impact no later than August 31, 2020.

Notable regulatory amendments and COVID-19-related inspection guidelines, described below, will impact Animal Welfare Act (AWA) licensees and registrants

New rules, finalized in May, 2020, amended the long-standing licensing renewal procedures and added additional requirements for veterinary care and canine husbandry requirements.  As reported by USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, the rule affects “nearly 6,000, persons who breed, sell, or exhibit animals for commercial purposes” and, in part, to USDA registrants.

The rule dismantles the annual renewal process for licensees following the initial approval of a license after the applicant proves they are in compliance with the Animal Welfare Act and related regulations.  Now, instead of an annual renewal thereafter, with regular unannounced inspections, licensees will have to prove they are in compliance every three years in order to obtain a three-year license.

A new license must be obtained upon change of ownership, location, activities, or [types or numbers of] animals.

For additional information about the amendments to the licensing requirements, see USDA’s Tech Note, “Questions and Answers: Three-Year Animal Welfare Act (AWA) License.

Also new, and applicable to licensees and registrants, dogs must have continuous access to potable water 24/7/365 days a year (with some minor, veterinary or IACUC-approved exceptions).  Specific watering systems are not required, but water must be present in bowls, receptacles or lixit faucets, with no visible contamination.

While veterinary care has always been required, such care and oversight are now more prescribed.  As described in Tech Note, “Questions and Answers: Access to Potable Water for Dogs and Cats,” facilities that breed or house dogs, requirements include:

For facilities with dogs, written formal arrangements must be made and signed by the Attending Veterinarian that includes the following; regularly scheduled annual visits, complete physical annual exams of each dog by the Attending Veterinarian, a schedule for vaccinations for contagious and/or deadly diseases of dogs (including rabies, parvovirus and distemper), a schedule for sampling and treatment of parasites and other pests (including fleas, worms, coccidia, giardia, and heartworm), and preventative care and treatment for healthy hair coats, nails, eyes, ears, skin, and teeth. Lastly, the written program of veterinary care must address the requirements for adequate veterinary care for every dealer and exhibitor in § 2.40 of this subchapter and every research facility in § 2.33 of this subchapter. A signed copy of the written program of veterinary care should be kept at the licensed or registered facility.

All licensees and registrants subject to AWA-related USDA inspections should review the “Standard Operating Procedures for Resuming Facility Inspections During the COVID-19 Pandemic,” issued on July 20, 2020.

 

For anyone concerned about protecting the privacy of their facility, be prepared to provide the inspector with “a clean and safe space (i.e., recently sanitized, able to maintain 6ft distance from others)” where the inspector can review hard-copy records and upon completion of the inspection report, return those records.

The alternatives described in the SOP in which records are provided to the inspector through online access or thumb drives that are viewed on the inspector’s laptop, should be carefully considered in light of the potential for those documents to be requested through open public records laws.

Inspections will be conducted using a tiered approach starting with facilities subject to high frequency inspections and new license applicants.

If an inspection cannot be conducted or completed because of COVID-19 related concerns, the report is supposed to record such concerns.  It is not clear how that information will be construed by activists opposed to the ownership and use of animals in those facilities.

Naturally, the health and safety of people and animals at the facility and of the inspectors is of paramount importance.

As previously reported,  the federal Health Dog Importation Act (“the Act”), introduced and sponsored by the three veterinarians in Congress Reps. Abraham, Yoho and Schrader, (Rep. Abraham is also a physician), targets and attempts to minimize threats to human and animal health from the over 1 million dogs imported into the US annually without adequate health screening.  The Act, according to a report in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, published July 17, 2020, has been heralded by the National Animal Interest Alliance, American Veterinary Medical Association and American Kennel Club as a necessary step to protect against the spread of infectious diseases and parasites.  These organizations and others, including the American Pet Products Association, American Sheep Industry Association, Animal Health Institute, National Assembly of State Animal Health Officials, National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, North American Veterinary Community, Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council and World Pet Association, recently signed a letter of support for the bill, stating,

[f]or the vast majority of imported dogs, rabies vaccination documentation is the only prerequisite for entering the country. Despite this, in the past five years, we have seen several cases of rabid dogs coming from Egypt, necessitating the Centers of Disease Control (CDC) to suspend all canine imports from Egypt. Furthermore, imported dogs can also carry – and have been documented carrying – other infectious diseases and parasites (e.g. canine influenza, leptospirosis, melioidosis, onchocercosis and screwworm) that pose a severe threat to other companion animals and livestock.

Mary Kennedy Withrow, a member of the state Dog Law Advisory Board, reportedly admitted that there is a risk to the importation of dogs to the Northeast, and that the Advisory Board is considering adopting importation requirements.

It has been well-established that the number of dogs for sale or adoption in the Northeast and other areas of the US have dramatically decreased as a result of successful voluntary spay-neuter programs and misguided bans on sales of professionally -bred dogs.  This led to the influx of dogs from other states and countries through transfers from shelter to shelter or rescue organizations, as well as the importation of dogs bred in other countries for sale in the US.

While the Healthy Dog Importation Act would not provide needed regulation over dogs in interstate commerce through shelter and rescue channels, it would regulate dogs imported from other countries, to prevent spread of infectious diseases and pests.

Care provided to chimpanzees at Project Chimps, a sanctuary for chimpanzees located in Georgia, has come under fire by “[m]ore than 20 former staffers and volunteers,” as reported by Rachel Fobar in Animal Wildlife Watch on July 8, 2020.   “Wildlife watch is an investigative reporting project between National Geographic Society and National Geographic Partners.”

In 2015, NIH announced that it would retire the 50 NIH-owned chimpanzees that were then available for research, send them to sanctuaries and would also phase out its funding for the remaining research chimpanzees that it supports.

At the time, and since then, those involved with and responsible for the care of chimpanzees at universities and primate facilities expressed concern that the care these chimps would receive in sanctuaries would not meet the same standards of excellence in the facilities where staff had extensive training and expertise in their care, as previously reported.

As Dr. Cindy Buckmaster, Chair of Americans for Medical Progress described in 2016,  some chimps who had been moved from their long-term care facilities to new sanctuaries suffered and some died after such a move.  For example, Gimp, a 45 year old disabled chimp, tragically died after he was introduced and attacked by new cohorts at a sanctuary he had been relocated to.  He had previously been housed at the retirement facility “Chimpanzee Breeding and Rehabilitation Resource in Bastrop, Texas—later known as the Keeling Center and now officially coined the National Center for Chimpanzee Care (NCCC)” for 35 of his 45 years.  Gimp was described as a sweet, vulnerable chimp who would not hurt a sole.

If the reports about Project Chimps are true, then such unintended consequences resulting from the forced relocation of chimps to such sanctuaries may be repeated.  Project Chimps, reportedly funded in part by the Humane Society of the United States, has been cited by USDA inspectors for (1) storing “containers of materials toxic to the chimps including bleach and other disinfectants” on an open shelf in the chimp housing areas (described as a repeat citation during a routine inspection on April 25, 2019; (2) on July 26, 2017 there were 2 non-compliant items listed on the inspection report, one for failure to maintain feed as required and without required labeling; and another because “[t]he enrichment plan currently incorporated into the Chimpanzee Care Manual is not complete.  It does not address the current social housing structure and the special considerations for chimps that may exhibit signs of psychological distress, juveniles and individually housed;” and (3) on May 11, 2017 USDA was not able to inspect the facility because reportedly, “[a] responsible adult was not available to accompany APHIS Officials during the inspection process at 11:50 am” on that day.

Project Chimps filed a lawsuit against two former employees, Crystal Alba and Lindsay Vanderhoogt, first in state court on June 1, 2020 and later in federal court on July 13, 2020.  In the latter lawsuit, which appears to be the active case, the following counts are alleged against one or both defendants:  Breach of Contract, Defamation and Libel, Misappropriation under the Defend Secrets Act, Misappropriation under the Georgia Trade Secrets Act, Conversion, Tortious Interference with Business Relations, Violation of the Georgia Computer Systems Protection Act, Violation of the Stored Communication Act and Civil Conspiracy.  Project Chimp alleges that the chimps medical records are amongst the documents it claims are its trade secrets.

No answer or substantive response has been filed by defendants in response to the Complaint.  It remains to be seen whether whistleblower status and first amendment defenses will be raised.  The parties have entered into settlement discussions, according to the Animal Wildlife Watch article.

 

Animal studies have and will continue to serve an essential role in medical development and public and animal health. This stays true for the current global efforts to find treatments and vaccines to combat the COVID-19 pandemic caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Animal studies are not only critical for understanding pathogenesis of COVID-19, but also required to evaluate the safety and efficacy of a drug or vaccine at preventing COVID-19. The importance of animal studies is exemplified by several works recently reported.

One of the most important ways scientists develop and test new therapies for COVID-19 is through experiments with animal models, such as mice. However, SARS-CoV-2 cannot infect mice because of the difference between the human ACE2 receptor and the mouse version. Consequently, researchers have had to genetically engineer mice by adding a human ACE2 gene to mice. In a study published in the journal Cell Host & Microbe on May 26, 2020, the researchers created a new mouse model using a CRISPR/Cas9-based technology that can be used for modeling SARS-CoV-2 infection (Cell Host & Microbe, May 2020). Compared to other genetically engineered mice, this mouse model is genetically more stable, having an expression pattern of human ACE2 receptor better matching that of humans.

In addition to the mouse model, scientists have studied the effects of COVID-19 on other animal models, including macaques and baboons. In a study conducted by the Texas Biomedical Research Institute, the researchers found that macaques rapidly developed clinical signs of viral infection and inflammation but recovered within a two-week period (see Rivard Report). The researchers believe that studying the macaques’ rapid immunological response could be helpful in developing a treatment for patients with COVID-19.

Another important use of animals comes in the development of selective antibodies that can neutralize the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The recent development of “nanobody” therapeutics derived from llamas and camels serves as an exciting new advancement in medical research. Nanobodies are a novel class of very small antibody-like molecules. As a result of their small size and simplicity, they can be manufactured at low cost, have high stability, low immunogenicity, and can be of very high affinity. These factors make nanobodies excellent candidates for therapeutics and diagnostics. It is currently an active research direction to engineer llama nanobodies capable of neutralizing the SARS and MERS viruses to generate nanobodies for neutralizing the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Because animal studies play an essential role in the development of treatments and vaccines for COVID-19, regulators, along with many researchers and biomedical ethicists, argue that animal studies should not be bypassed, despite the urgency of finding a solution to block the progression of the COVID-19 pandemic. One concern of skipping animal studies is the risk of vaccine enhancement associated with coronavirus vaccines, as expressed by Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID): “There are diseases in which you vaccinate someone . . . you actually enhance the infection. You get a good feel for that in animal models . . . . The worst possible thing you can do is vaccinate somebody to prevent the infection and actually make them worse.” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n7ii9WTDb9E).

The significance of the retention of animal studies is also identified in a report recently published by global regulators. “For all SARS-CoV-2 vaccine candidates it is necessary to obtain data in animals and to characterize the immune response induced by a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine candidate.” (See Global regulatory workshop on COVID-19 vaccine development).

Fox Rothschild is endeaving to help our clients as they drive the research and discovery to further understand the SARS-CoV-2 virus and to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. We have a team of experienced attorneys dedicated to assisting our clients in securing their intellectual properties in COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics (https://www.foxrothschild.com/intellectual-property/). Additional information about coronavirus resources for businesses, including veterinary practices can be found at: https://www.foxrothschild.com/coronavirus-resources/.

Joe Chen is a  summer associate at Fox Rothschild LLP

The rapid spread of the novel coronavirus (“COVID-19”) has sparked an interest in people all over the world to make sure their affairs are in order in case of sudden death or incapacitation. Many pet owners consider their pets as part of their families, so it naturally follows that they would also want to ensure their pets will be cared for even when they no longer can provide that care. Creation of a pet trust will allow pet owners to ensure their precious loved ones are cared for even if they cannot be the ones to care for them.

What is a Pet Trust?

A pet trust is a legal arrangement providing for the care and maintenance of a pet (or pets) in the event of the owner’s death or incapacitation. Pet trusts allow individuals, usually the pet owners, to name a pet guardian and to allocate funds in his/her estate be left to provide for the continued care of the pet in the event the original owner is unable to[1].

How Can I Create a Pet Trust?

An owner can create a testamentary pet trust in his will by designating portions of his estate to be used for the benefit of his pet.  In certain states, the courts have discretion to change terms and enforceability. For example in New York, the court can lower the allotted amount if the “amount substantially exceeds the amount required for the intended use[2].” However, the court cannot override the expressed intent of the testator, and the court may look to evidence outside of the will to evidence the testator’s intent[3]

Best Practices

The testator should elect a pet guardian to care for the pet. This person can be the same as the trustee, or someone else who is familiar with the pet’s routine. In New York, the court can appoint a trustee if no trustee is designated or the trustee is unwilling to serve.

Selecting two different people to act as the trustee and as the pet guardian will help prevent misappropriation of the trust property and ensure the terms of the pet trust are being adhered to. It will be hard to ensure the pet is adequately being taken care of if only one person is both the trustee and pet guardian[4].

Famous Examples

 In 2019, BBC reported that Karl Lagerfeld left €153 million out of his €200 million estate to his cat, Choupette. His estate has still not settled, but Choupette is currently living with her nanny in Paris[5].

In 2008, the Huffington Post reported Oprah Winfrey set up a $30 million pet trust for her four beloved dogs[6]. The animal law experts here at Fox Rothschild are ready and willing to review and update the trust should Ms. Winfrey desire.

Conclusion

 You do not have to be a rich celebrity to ensure your pet will be taken care of until his/her last breath. Contact your animal law attorney today to make sure your companion will always be cared for in the manner you wish.

Candice Iheme is a Summer Associate in the Princeton, New Jersey office.

[1] The Perfect Pet Trust: Saving Your Dog From the Unexpected, 9 Alb. Gov’t L. Rev. 107, 110

[2] N.Y. Est. Powers & Trusts Law § 7-8.1 (McKinney)

[3] In re Copland, 44 Misc. 3d 485, 489, 988 N.Y.S.2d 458, 461 (Sur. 2014)

[4] For example, what if the trustee decides that properly caring for the testator’s pet means it needs to be taken on 50-mile car rides in a Ferrari every day?  If the pet guardian and trustee are the same person, there will be no one who is checking in to make sure the allocated funds are not being misappropriated.

[5] https://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-47305450

[6] https://www.huffpost.com/entry/oprah-reportedly-leaving-_n_64477

 

As the spread of COVID-19 continues to increase rapidly across the globe, there are still many uncertainties between the relationship of animals and the virus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is only aware of a small number of animals infected with the virus after close contact with infected people. While human to animal transition of COVID-19 is rare, the CDC and American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) constantly provide updated guidelines on the operation of veterinary practices, as they are deemed essential healthcare businesses.

The CDC recommends that veterinarians minimize contact with pet owners through the use of telemedicine for consults and for helping triage patients. However, States vary on their requirements for the ability to use telemedicine and establish a veterinary-client-patient relationship (VCPR). For instance, in Hines v. Alldredge, 783 F.3d 197 (5th Cir. 2015) the Fifth Circuit upheld the Texas State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners (TBVME) requirement for an initial in-person examination to establish a VCPR. While the TBVME has issued guidelines on telemedicine, the Board holds that veterinarians must adhere to Texas laws and regulations regardless of whether they’re offering face-to-face services or services by telephone, internet, or other electronic means. Since Texas law prohibits a veterinarian from forming a VCPR solely by telephone or electronic means, the veterinarian must perform an in-person examination. In such cases, the veterinarians must abide by the CDC operating guidelines.

Similarly, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Mississippi, Utah, Tennessee, and Washington, are all additional states that do not allow VCPR to be established solely by telephone, computer, or other electronic means. On the other hand, some states have comparatively relaxed VCPR requirements, especially since the onslaught of COVID-19. For instance, in California, under the Code of Regulations Title 16 Section 2032.1, a VCPR is established where the client has authorized the veterinarian to assume responsibility for making medical judgements regarding the health of the animal, the veterinarian has sufficient knowledge of the animal to initiate a preliminary diagnosis, and the veterinarian has assumed responsibility for making such medical judgements regarding the health of the animal. There is no mention of a specific in-person initial examination, and thus, telemedicine can be conducted within an existing VCPR through such means in California.

In New Jersey, on March 19, 2020, Governor Murphy signed into law P.L. 2020, c. 3, which authorized the waiver of any state requirement necessary to facilitate the provision of health care services using telemedicine during the state of public emergency declared in response to COVID-19. Recently, as of June 18, 2020, Administrative Order and Notice of Rule Adoption Pursuant to P.L. 2020, C. 18, provides that veterinarians are authorized to provide the full scope of veterinary services. One of the requirements of the Administrative Order is to avoid person-to-person contact with animal owners and clients, encouraged through the use of telemedicine to the greatest extent possible. Thus, New Jersey is an example of a state with relaxed veterinary guidelines.

Overall, each state has its own guidelines to follow in terms of veterinary telemedicine practices. The AVMA informs that most smartphones, tablets, and laptops provide the necessary audio, visual, and data transfer capabilities to conduct basic telemedicine consults. Furthermore, in cases where no VCPR exists, the veterinary care professionals can only offer general advice that is not specific to a particular patient. Some of the areas where veterinarians are utilizing telemedicine services with an existing VCPR include: general wellness care, after-hours care, post-surgical care, hospice care, and facilitating access to veterinary care. Thus, veterinary telemedicine is decreasing in-person interaction and helping to prevent further spreading of COVID-19, while still providing for the health care needs of animals.

Bunyad Bhatti is a summer associate in the firm’s Princeton office.

Administrative Order and Notice of Rule Adoption Pursuant To P.L. 2020, C. 18, dated June 18, 2020, was just sent to all veterinary licensees from the Acting Director of the State Division of Consumer Affairs.

The Rule sets forth provisions to be implemented by veterinarians in their practices to minimize exposure to and spread of SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) amongst veterinary staff and clients.  The Rule is effective immediately and will expire “concurrent with the end of the state of emergency or the public health emergency declared pursuant to Executive Order No. 103 (EO 103), whichever is later.”

As set forth in the rule, the “COVID-19 Health and Safety Requirements for Veterinary Practice” include requirements to:

(1) avoid person-to-person contact with animal owners/clients (hereinafter “clients”);

(2) facilitate social distancing within the office;

(3) adopt enhanced office cleaning and disinfection;

(4) establish rigorous protections for staff; and

(5) stay informed about related developments and obligations.

The Rules encourage the use of telemedicine, the use of curbside drop-offs, contactless collection of information about patient health and issues, and the use of face coverings and other preventive measures as recommended by CDC and other governmental agencies, amongst other precautionary measures.

The Rules also require veterinarians to remain current about the testing of animals for SARS-CoV-2, which is still not broadly recommended, but can be conducted upon approval of state animal health officials where appropriate.  Records of COVID-19 infections in staff are required to be recorded and provided to the State Department of Health “if requested,” but it is unclear whether this requirement would violate the privacy rights of staff.

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.