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December 11, 2018

On Monday evening, U.S.  House and Senate conferees released a final compromise version of the federal Farm Bill (HR 2) which includes important priorities regarding animal importation and domestic violence.

The measure could go to the House of Representatives for a vote as soon as Wednesday, and to the Senate by the weekend.

Pet Imports: Pet and Public Health. The final version of the Farm Bill provides language consistent with House and Senate versions passed earlier this year that require reporting on the import of unknown numbers of potentially contagious, unhealthy dogs into the United States.

This measure is important because in recent years the United States has simultaneously experienced a large increase in the number of dogs imported for sale/adoption and a significant increase in disease consistent with imported pets. Diseases or parasites with increased incidence include a canine variant of previously believed to be eradicated in the U.S., canine flu, screwworm, brucellosis, and a variety of other infectious and zoonotic diseases directly related to irresponsibly-imported pets.

Part of the problem surrounds a lack of checks and reporting on pet animals being imported into the U.S. Currently, it is not even known how many pets are imported into the U.S. annually. To complicate matters, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has stated that animal health certificates required for entry into the U.S. are often invalid or forged.

The new report called for by the Farm Bill is a first step in attempting to address those issues. It will require the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to submit a report to Congress that provides information from the last three years on the total number of dogs imported in the U.S. and a breakdown on the number of dogs imported as personal pets versus for retail sale of any kind, including shelter/rescue adoptions.

The conferees underscored the importance of this issue by adopting a further provision to strengthen the coordination efforts between the Departments of Commerce, Health and Human Services, and Homeland Security to enable the (Agriculture) Secretary to collect, compile, and disseminate this data to Congress in order to better understand the public health implications of importing dogs into the United States. The report noted, (Conference) Managers recognize that little is known about the volume of live dogs imported into the United States, whether as personal pets or animals seeking adoption or purchase by American households. Animal and zoonotic diseases pose serious risks to the U.S., and greater understanding of the pathways these diseases could be entering the U.S., such as via imported live dogs, is warranted.

The AKC thanks Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Roberts and Ranking Member Stabenow, and House Agriculture Committee Chairman Conaway and Ranking Member Peterson for ensuring this important language remained in the final version of the bill. AKC also thanks committee sponsors Senators David Perdue (R-GA) and Bob Casey (D-PA), and Congressmen Neil Dunn (R-FL), Vicki Hartzler (R-MO), Kurt Schrader (D-OR), Ted Yoho (R-FL) and Ralph Abraham (R-LA) for advancing this initiative in the Senate and House versions of the Farm Bill.

AKC has worked to educate members of Congress on this issue for several years and thanks the many members of Congress whose support and concern over that time has helped advance this measure.

AKC also wishes to highlight the efforts of our partner in this initiative, the National Animal Interest Alliance, whose shelter reporting project has shined an important light on this issue nationally.

Assistance to Victims of Domestic Violence.  Another AKC supported measure, the Pets and Women’s Safety Act (HR 909/S322), known as the PAWS act was also included in the final text of the Farm Bill conference report. The measure adds certain federal protections for pets owned by victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, and dating violence if a pet becomes a victim in a domestic violence situation. The measure further creates a program to award grants to eligible entities to aid victims of crimes related to stalking and domestic violence.  This program is similar to a program established by the AKC Humane Fund a decade ago to provide support to domestic violence shelters so that victims can seek shelter with a pet that may be endangered in a domestic violence situation.

AKC thanks sponsoring Senators Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Dean Heller (R-Nev.); and sponsoring Representatives Katherine Clark (D-Mass.), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), Jeff Denham (R-Calif.), Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) and Mimi Walters (R-Calif.) for their years of effort on this initiative.

 

For more information, contact AKC Government Relations at doglaw@akc.org.

 

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