Many foreign shippers will falsify documents in order to meet minimum age requirements
By Dr. Jeanne Haggerty-Arcay
In recent years there has been a considerable rise in foreign pet travel through both adoptions and rescues. People can go online and order puppies in rare colors and have them shipped to the closest airport. Social media is used to find permanent homes for dogs rescued from other nations in which there is either a surplus of dogs or in which dogs are a normal part of the food supply. In either case, there has been a massive influx of foreign dogs into the United States, and with this influx comes the risk for introduction of foreign animal diseases.
There are stringent and specific guidelines that regulate the transport of animals into the United States. These regulations specify a minimum age, transportation methods, minimum health standards, and rabies vaccination. One veterinarian who does inspections at Los Angeles International Airport spoke at a recent conference. She reports that many of the dogs entering the U.S. through LAX are clearly underage and not old enough to be vaccinated for rabies, despite being accompanied by paperwork indicating an older age and a rabies certificate.
Also, there can be a lack of enforcement of these regulations. When these dogs arrive at various airports throughout the country, airport officials and veterinarians examining these dogs do not always have the authority to reject the shipments of sick and underage dogs. They do not have the proper jurisdiction, which makes enforcing the regulations very difficult. Other dogs completely bypass any inspection process by being hand-carried on board the airplane.
Many of you may wonder why you should care. These dogs are bringing new diseases to the United States. They may be exposing your pet to exotic diseases at the groomer, dog park, pet store, etc. As a veterinary community, we are not as familiar with these foreign diseases, which means they take longer to diagnose and subsequently treat.
There are some things that anyone looking for a new pet can do to help this situation.
Be wary of breeders who advertise online and offer a variety of rare colors or multiple breeds with puppies readily available. Many of these dogs are bred in Asia or Eastern Europe and shipped into the US. Reputable breeders only have small numbers of rare colors, and there are almost always wait times and a screening process when adopting from a reputable source.
Be wary of a puppy that arrives and appears younger than reported on the accompanying paperwork. Your veterinarian can help you determine the age. Many foreign shippers will falsify documents in order to meet minimum age requirements, often shipping puppies as young as four to five weeks of age.
If you have adopted a foreign dog which has received a rabies vaccine overseas, be aware that not all manufacturers and types of rabies vaccines are legally recognized in the U.S. In addition, the vaccination of foreign dogs should always be questioned. One recent veterinary speaker indicated that most of the foreign dogs vaccinate overseas had no detectable indications of vaccination/protection when tested. The documents are either falsified and the vaccine never was given or the puppies were too young/unhealthy to respond to the vaccine given. In either case, rabies vaccines may need to be given again once the dogs arrive in the U.S. Rabies has become a very serious issue. Recently many people have become exposed to rabies through the import of dogs, leading to the ban of dogs from certain nations.
If given the option, adopt or rescue domestically. We have an abundance of dogs within our own borders in need of good homes and they are as desperate for good homes as those overseas.
Dr. Jeanne Haggerty-Arcay received her undergraduate degrees in biology, biochemistry and Spanish from the College of Notre Dame, Belmont. She graduated from U.C. Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. She enjoys spending time with her husband and three young children.
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