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New Federal Regulations Protect Canine Health and Restrict the Age of Puppies Imported for Resale

(Monday, August 18, 2014)

The United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA APHIS) today released new regulations, effective November 17, that will restrict the importation of puppies younger than 6 months of age into the continental United States for the purpose of resale, research or veterinary treatment. The new regulations do not restrict individuals who wish to import dogs they intend to keep for personal use, such as a pet or as part of a breeding program.

The AKC is pleased about the finalization of these regulations, which implement an amendment to the 2008 Farm Bill (Pub. L. 110-246/ 7 U.S.C. 2148) supported and developed by the American Kennel Club and a number of other animal welfare groups. The rule addresses public health concerns about the large numbers of puppies that are imported with little oversight into the United States for the purpose of resale or adoption.The AKC supported and provided some remarks during the rule’s public comment in September - October 2011.

The rule is designed to assure the health and welfare of dogs that are imported into the US from overseas. In many cases, these animals come from unknown origins (strays or street dogs) or unregulated high volume commercial breeders and may pose health and temperament risks to both the human and canine populations they come into contact with. The measure is expected to curtail the ”dumping” of puppies from unknown origins or substandard breeding facilities on US markets, where in many cases they may be marketed as "rescues”.

Strong enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act is supported by the American Kennel Club and other animal welfare organizations who recognize that that a large number of puppies are being bred overseas and imported into the United States in order to bypass the welfare regulations and standards required of U.S. breeders. In many cases, irresponsibly bred and undocumented foreign puppies end up at shelters, rescues or other informal or unregulated retail venues. Diseases borne by such animals can create public health risks for both animal and human populations.

What the Rule Does:

The new regulations allow for implementation of section 18 of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), which "prohibits the importation of dogs into the United States for resale purposes, unless the Secretary determines that the dogs are in good health, have received all necessary vaccinations, and are at least 6 months of age.”

The regulations provide guidance needed by US Customs to prevent the continued "dumping” of unregulated foreign puppies for resale onto US markets. The underlying law (7 U.S.C. 2133) defines resale to include "any transfer of ownership or control of an imported dog of less than 6 months to another person, for more than de minimis consideration.”

The new rule further clarifies that USDA considers de minimis to have "the standard dictionary meaning, which, according to Merriam-Webster is, ‘lacking significance or importance; so minor as to merit disregard.’” In most cases, adoption fees would not be considered de minimis; hence there is not a specific exemption for rescue dogs.

Similarly, the rule also clarifies that "consideration” means, "the inducement to a contract or other legal transaction; specifically: An Act or forbearance or the promise thereof done or given by one party in return for the act or promise of another.’"

The rule does not consider that dogs imported for training as working or service dogs to be imported for the purposes of resale. Therefore, the rule will not apply to the importation of those types of dogs. APHIS recognizes that not all dogs that are imported for training purposes ultimately achieve their final training goals, and some may be subsequently transferred. However, APHIS also warns that if puppies are imported for working, personal use or other exempted categories, and " it appears that a person is importing dogs for resale, research or veterinary treatment without meeting the requirements of the rule, [APHIS] may initiate an investigation and take appropriate action based on the results of that investigation.”

The new regulations do not restrict individuals who wish to import dogs they intend to keep for personal use, such as a pet or as part of a breeding program. The U.S. Centers for Diseases Control (CDC) govern importation of dog imported into the U.S. Although the CDC does not require general health certificates for pet dogs, many airlines, transporters and states do will require this information. Pets are also subject to inspection upon entry and dogs that do not have rabies certificates may be required to complete a period of confinement , demonstrate proof of rabies immunization, or obtain a rabies vaccination prior to or upon arrival. For more information about importing a pet visit the US Centers for Disease Control website.

AKC Government Relations will continue to provide information and guidance regarding the implementation and impacts of this new rule.

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