Approximately 4 million dogs are killed each year by injection and gas yet thousands and thousands of dogs are being imported into this country and along with the dogs come problems. Problems like foreign diseases and rabies. Rabies is the main one that the Center for Disease Control is worried about though.

“The No. 1 thing we think about is canine rabies,” said Nina Marano, head of a CDC unit responsible for drafting new regulations for dog importation.

Although no humans have been involved, there have been several incidences and Marano worries that it’s just a matter of time before it does involve people or the disease it transmitted to numbers of other dogs and animals. She hopes to have some regulations drafted and in place by next year to better screen imported dogs.

Some recent cases include;

  • In March, a dog from India flew through Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and reached its owner in Alaska before it was diagnosed with rabies, the CDC said.
  • In November 2004, a dog imported from Mexico was the first case of canine rabies in Los Angeles in more than 30 years, the county Animal Care and Control said.
  • In May 2004, a dog from Puerto Rico was taken to a Massachusetts shelter to be adopted but was diagnosed with rabies, the first such case in “decades” according to the state Department of Health.

And these are just confirmed cases and only of rabies.

“It’s a ticking time bomb,” said Patti Strand, president of the National Animal Interest Alliance, a group that represents breeders, pet shop owners and others interested in animal welfare. “We’ve spent fortunes and decades eradicating many of these diseases, and they may be reintroduced.”

The Border Puppy Task Force estimates that more than 10,000 puppies and young dogs came across the border from Mexico during a one year span and they are targeting ‘puppy peddlers’ for their sometimes dangerous importation and selling practices.

The problem is that laws in importation of dogs is very lax, the only requirement being proof of rabies vaccination or an agreement to keep the dog confined until it is vaccinated and there is time for the vaccination to become effective.

The Department of Agriculture closely monitors dealers who sell to pet stores, whether the dogs are raised or imported from other countries. Department spokesperson Jessica Milteer says her agency has no authority to monitor people who import large numbers of dogs and sell them on their own.

That gap is what concerns many in the dog industry.

Marshall Meyers, executive vice president of the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council, said those sellers use the Internet, newspaper classifieds and street corners to sell the unregulated dogs. Meyers said those sales make up a vast majority of the international dog trade.

Shelter owners say the importation programs are safe, moral and in demand.

Marianna Massa travels to Puerto Rico several times a year to screen dogs for the Northeast Animal Shelter in Salem, Mass. She said it would be difficult to argue against the program if people saw how strays live in Puerto Rico.

“Along the highway, you see dead dogs like we see squirrels,” Massa said. “People just hit them. They don’t care.”

Some, like Strand, say it’s silly and dangerous to go overseas for dogs when there’s plenty of strays here. About 4 million dogs are put to death by injection or gas every year in the USA.

“Pet overpopulation is a misnomer,” she says. “What we have is a pet distribution problem.”

Spay and neutering campaigns have been so successful in much of the USA — especially the Northeast and Northwest — that shelters need to look elsewhere if they want dogs to offer for adoption. But Strand says there is abundance of dogs in other parts of the country such as the South that could make up the difference.

Julie Potter, director of Northeast Animal Shelter, said they take in 800 dogs a year from the South. She said people usually want to adopt younger dogs, so they bring 200 dogs a year from Puerto Rico.

“If it’s something we can do to help, why not?” Massa said. (USA Today)

What do you think? Do we really need to import dogs from other countries and take a chance on importing more than just dogs? When we kill so many dogs in our own country, why bring more in?  Wouldn’t it be more prudent for us just to move the dogs from high density areas to areas where they’re looking for them?  Puppy mills ‘produce’ approximately 500,000 puppies a year, reputable breeders increase the puppy population but we kill 4 million dogs a year… there seems to be a problem here when there are so many dogs and puppies and we still feel the need to bring more in!

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