USDA wants to toughen health requirements for imported dogs

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Nov 01, 2011

WASHINGTON, D.C. — USDA is considering new health requirements for dogs imported into the United States.

USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) could prohibit importation of dogs into the United States for purposes of resale, research and veterinary treatment, unless they are in good health, have received all necessary vaccinations and are at least 6 months old.

"The Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 added a new section to the Animal Welfare Act to restrict the importation of certain live dogs from any part of the world, and APHIS is seeking to implement that amendment with this proposal," the agency reports. "Under the proposal, individuals who fail to comply with these provisions are subject to fines, and must, at their own expense, provide for the care, forfeiture and adoption of each applicable dog."

If the proposal is passed, two certificates would be required for many live dogs imported into the continental United States and Hawaii: An original health certificate and a valid rabies vaccination certificate. "These certificates must bear the signature and the license number of the veterinarian issuing the certificate. Also, these dogs must come with an APHIS-issued import permit," APHIS says.

In the health certificate, the veterinarian must specify the name and address of the person intending to import the dogs, identify each dog by breed, sex, age, color and markings, and certify that:

  • the dog is at least 6 months old;
  • the dog was vaccinated (not more than 12 months before arriving at a U.S. port) for distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis, parvovirus and parainfluenza virus;
  • the dog is free of any infectious disease or physical abnormality that would endanger it, other animals or public health. The importing dogs would be required to be free of parasitic infection, emaciation, lesions of the skin, nervous system disturbances, jaundice or diarrhea, APHIS says.

For the rabies vaccination certificate, the veterinarian must specify the name and address of the person intending to import the dog(s), identify each dog by breed, sex, age, color and markings.

Certification must include:

  • date of the rabies vaccination (at least 30 days before the date of arrival of the dog at a U.S. port);
  • expiration date of the rabies vaccination to make certain the animal is still protected by the vaccine after the dog arrives at a U.S. port. If no date of expiration is specified, then the date of vaccination shall be no more than 12 months before the date of arrival at a U.S. port.

"Limited exceptions will be made for both the health certificate and the rabies vaccination certificate requirement for dogs that are coming into the country for veterinary treatment or for research purposes," APHIS reports.

An exception to the importation rules can be made for the 6-month age requirement for dogs that are lawfully imported into Hawaii from the British Isles, Australia, Guam or New Zealand, provided the dogs are not transported out of Hawaii for purposes of resale at less than 6 months of age. "This is because Hawaii is the only state in the United States that is rabies-free, and all of the above listed areas are rabies-free countries," APHIS explains.

This action was published in the Sept. 1 Federal Register. The agency was accepting comments until Oct. 31.