Originally Posted: 25 Jan 2019 12:11 PM PST, republished with permission.

In most regions of the United States, dog overpopulation as an issue has been solved, and there are more potential owners than there are local pet dogs available. For example, many of the dogs that arrive in Northeastern shelters and rescues come from the southern United States, Puerto Rico, and sometimes even foreign countries.

Ending the dog surplus problem in some parts of the country is a challenge, due to a lack of clear records. To solve a problem, you have to be able to define it. Who is breeding these dogs? Who is surrendering them? Who is adopting them? And more and more, we’re having to ask where they coming from.

One thing we do know, is that fewer dogs are being bred in the United States while the practice of importing dogs from foreign countries for adoption is growing — and fast. So it is little surprise that the partial government shutdown has led to complaints from a group that brings 800+ dogs a year into the U.S., because they can no longer obtain the proper importation permits. This is just one organization of hundreds that are importing dogs in the Southwestern U.S., threatening the health of American dogs and flooding the dog marketplace.

This is why NAIA and our legislative partner, NAIA Trust are working so hard to find legislative solutions to this mushrooming problem.

Even though the government shutdown is currently over, concerns about the importation of dogs from other countries for sale/adoption in the United States remains a serious concern.  Such importation has already resulted in the introduction and spread of diseases infectious to humans and animals.

Originally posted on July 9, 2018 at NAIA Official Blog, reposted with permission.

More troubling news from the wild world of rescue import has been picked up by the Worms & Germs blog : a rescue dog with a known history of chronic health issues is imported into a private U.S. shelter from Thailand and tests positive for Melioidosis, a nasty zoonotic bacterial disease. This discovery leads to several potentially exposed people receiving blood tests (one showed signs of exposure, but none got sick), and ultimately the euthanasia of the dog.

Melioidosis is bad news

 

The plea for common sense from Worms & Germs author, Scott Weese (Ontario Veterinary College – University of Guelph), could have been written by us:

 

Logical importation practices are needed. How much time and expense went into shipping a paralysed dog transcontinentally from one shelter to another, when it was ultimately euthanized in the end anyway? I realize everything is done with good intentions, but thank about what could have been done for local homeless animals with the time, effort and expenses that were incurred here.

 

Dr. Weese generously labels the shelters and importers as well intentioned. But honestly, there must be a point where, when operations are carried out with such casual disregard for the health of shipped and local dogs (and adopters), where intentions can not be labeled as “good” — or at the end result is so damaging as to make intentions irrelevant.

 

Rescue importation, fueled by a lack of adoptable local dogs in many parts of the U.S. and the power of social media, has grown by leaps and bounds over the last two decades while U.S. dog import laws have not been updated since 1956. As a result, we are seeing dogs arrive here with everything from canine brucellosis, rabies, and the canine flu, to parasites and other vector-borne diseases. These are very serious issues, which is why NAIA has been working to modernize dog import laws for the last several years.

For more information, contact Patti Strand, NAIA President, at naia@naiaonline.org.

 

 

Rescue Road Trips, inc. (the Rescue), as previously described, transports dogs from the south to the northeastern states for sale/adoption.  The Rescue states that

No exchange of payment may occur within the boarders [sic] of the State of Connecticut.

Connecticut, in an attempt to protect consumers and pets, requires animal importers to register with the Commissioner of Agriculture, which the Rescue has done. Connecticut also requires:

“[a]ny animal importer who intends to offer for sale, adoption or transfer any dog or cat at a venue or location that is open to the public or at an outdoor location, including, but not limited to, a parking lot or shopping center, shall provide notice to the Department of Agriculture and the municipal zoning enforcement officer of the town where any such sale, adoption or transfer will occur, not later than ten days prior to such event. Such notice shall state the date for such sale, adoption or transfer event, the exact location of such event and the anticipated number of animals for sale, adoption or transfer at such event. Any person who fails to provide notice as required pursuant to this subdivision shall be fined not more than one hundred dollars per animal that is offered for sale, adoption or transfer at such event.” CT. ST. §22-344(e)(2)

The statute defines “animal importer” as a person who brings any dog or cat into this state from any other sovereign entity for the purpose of offering such dog or cat to any person for sale, adoption or transfer in exchange for any fee, sale, voluntary contribution, service or any other consideration.” CT. ST. §22-344(e)(3).

Is the Rescue attempted to avoid these requirements by arranging for the sale to occur before entering Connecticut?

The Rescue seems to be relying on a fact sheet written by CT Votes for Animals, dated 7/1/2015, titled CT Importation Law Fact Sheet (the Factsheet).

That Factsheet states:

An adopter who intends to keep a cat or dog as a personal companion is not an animal importer if the adopter owns the cat or dog at the time the animal is brought into Connecticut (e.g., the cat or dog is offered on Petfinder and adopted prior to arriving in Connecticut).

It is not clear whether the Rescue, assuming that notification to the State of Connecticut is not required if the transfer of ownership occurs online, before the Rescue enters the State.

But, if the sale/adoption occurs through Petfinder, before entry into the State, that transfer should be considered a non-face-to-face sale by USDA, in which case the Rescue would have to apply for and be approved as a licensee under the Animal Welfare Act. Currently, they describe themselves as an USDA Class T registrant, not as a licensee.

The Factsheet also appears to have other inaccuracies.

For example, it describes importation laws for dogs or cats pursuant to CT. ST. §22-354(a) as “Prior law.” However, currently, CT. ST. §22-354(a) remains in effect.

In addition to these importation provision, CT. ST. §22-344(f), “Veterinary examination of cat or dog imported into state by animal importer,” also requires:

“Any animal importer, as defined in section 22-344, shall, not later than forty-eight hours after importing any dog or cat into this state and prior to the sale, adoption or transfer of such dog or cat to any person, provide for the examination of such dog or cat by a veterinarian licensed under chapter 384. Thereafter, such animal importer shall provide for the examination of such dog or cat by a veterinarian licensed under chapter 384 every ninety days until such dog or cat is sold, adopted or transferred, provided no such dog or cat shall be sold, adopted or transferred to another person by an animal importer unless (1) such dog or cat was examined by a veterinarian licensed under chapter 384 not more than fifteen days prior to the sale, adoption or transfer of such dog or cat, and (2) such veterinarian provides such animal importer with a written certificate stating that such dog or cat is free of any symptoms of any illness, infectious, contagious or communicable disease. Such certificate shall list the name, address and contact information of such animal importer. Any animal importer who violates the provisions of this subsection shall be fined not more than five hundred dollars for each animal that is the subject of such violation.”

The Factsheet, however, replacing the term “provide” with “arrange” states that “the examination itself may occur after the 48 hour period [or] . . . after the 90 day period,” respectively.

That does not appear to be consistent with the statutory language or the legislative history.

The purpose of this provision, adopted in 2011, as summarized in the legislative history, was to, in relevant part, “(1) require a veterinarian to examine a cat or dog within 48 hours of the animal being imported and within 15 days before the sale, adoption, or transfer of the animal.” (emphasis added).

As further described:

“Veterinarian Services and Records Required

The bill requires an animal importer, within 48 hours of importing a cat or dog into Connecticut and before offering it for sale, adoption, or transfer, and every 90 days until the sale, adoption, or transfer is complete, to have a state-licensed veterinarian examine the animal. Each animal must be examined by a state-licensed veterinarian within 15 days before a sale, adoption, or transfer and the veterinarian must provide the animal importer a written health certificate for the animal. An animal importer who violates these provisions is subject to a find of up to $500 for each unexamined or uncertified animal.”

Since the laws in Connecticut were passed to protect human and animal health, at least in part, it is critical that dog sales and/or adoptions are conducted as these provisions require.

 

 

 

Retail rescue organizations like Rescue Road Trips, inc. (the Rescue) who purport to provide “loving, humane road trips to homeless, unwanted, and unloved dogs from Southern Kill Shelters . . . deliver[ed] to Loving ‘Forever Homes’ in New England and surrounding areas,” do nothing to decrease the number of dogs being irresponsibly bred.  They actually do the opposite by facilitating the irresponsible, non-purposeful breeding of dogs.

And, while preventing a dog from unnecessary death is laudable, this operation, like other rescues and some shelters that have largely replaced pet stores and professional breeders as the source of pets in the U.S., this Rescue appears to be quite profitable.

As reported on their website, they have saved over 55,000 dogs to date.  These are dogs moved from southern states to the northeast, where the supply of dogs for sale/adoption does not meet demand, despite statements by HSUS, ASPCA and others claiming that pet store sourcing bans are needed because of the local overpopulation of dogs purportedly caused by pet store sales.

Notably, the justification of a bill recently passed in New York related to regulation of rescues and shelters described the current state of the supply of pets, noting

The number of animals euthanized in U.S. shelters has seen a precipitous decline in the past four decades, from around 15 million annually in the 1970’s to around 3 million currently . . . there are literally hundreds of unregulated entities importing dogs into New York each year . . . [through] the almost 500 incorporated animal groups currently registered with the Office of the Attorney General’s . . . Charities Bureau . . .

The Rescue, reportedly charging $185 per dog per transport―plus another unreported adoption fee per dog―has earned over $10,000,000 in revenues to date.  While there are costs related to transport, the Rescue reports that volunteers pay for the dogs pulled from shelters, and for their medical care, and assists them with canine care along the way, all for no charge to the Rescue.

Think about how that much money could be used to educate dog owners in the south about responsible breeding and provide voluntary spay/neuter programs that have been so effective in many parts of the country, including the northeast.

According to the Rescue’s IRS 990, available on ProPublica’s website, it was formed in 2015, and for that year, revenues totaled $230,000 and the officers reported no working hours or expenses.  Does that mean that they have transported 55,000 dogs since 2016?

To its credit, the Rescue’s “Requirements to Board Transport,” are generally consistent with interstate animal health requirements and sound veterinary medicine, but there may be other concerns about their conduct, particularly in the State of Connecticut, to be discussed further.