As if there aren’t tens of thousands of dogs in need of homes in the US and puppy mills producing hundreds of thousands more yearly, now we have puppies being smuggled into the US from south of the border!! This is just insane!!

Almost two dozen animal control agencies converged at border checkpoints recently in an effort to stem the flow of puppies smuggled through for sale in the U.S., authorities said.

Officials from the Border Puppy Task Force said they expected to encounter more than 1,000 sick or underage dogs bound for the U.S. in the two-week operation that started on Labor Day.

The dogs, bred in south-of-the-border puppy mills, are often advertised in circulars or newspapers, then sold to unsuspecting American buyers, said , Southeast Area Animal Control and Authority captain.

“It’s a big problem from multiple perspectives,” he said, adding that the puppies are usually too young to be separated from their mothers and are hidden in cramped spaces with no food or water.

While Reyes said animal cruelty is one aspect of the problem, another is the public health threat presented by sick, unvaccinated dogs bred in poor conditions.

The total number of animals smuggled in for sale is unknown, but officials said it is a large and growing practice.

“We see thousands, and we’re only there a couple of weeks,” said Madeline Bernstein, president of Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals,Los Angeles.

Experts said mass importation of pets for profit is a new phenomenon that public health and animal control organizations are struggling to catch up with.

“It used to be people were importing their own pets,” said Dr. Karen Ehnert, senior veterinarian with Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. “The idea of selling them is really a new problem.”

When people bring their pets into the U.S., she said, the animals must be quarantined and monitored for months before it’s determined they don’t pose a public health danger.

Smuggled animals circumvent this system, and are often untraceable, officials said.

And the closure of U.S.-based puppy mills due to economic pressures coupled with an “insatiable appetite” for small breed, designer dogs are propelling an influx of imported animals, they added.

“These puppies are coming in across the border, and we have no way of knowing what their origins are or where they’ve been placed,” said Dr. Nina Marano, chief of the geographic medicine and health promotion branch of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Bernstein said tiny, “designer dogs” such as “tea cup” Chihuahuas and cockapoos are particularly popular.

While such breeds are usually purchased from legitimate breeders for thousands of dollars, the smuggled dogs can go for hundreds in cash, she said.

“It’s a huge industry and it’s very lucrative,” she said. “The incentive is to keep doing it.”

Often, the animals end up in the arms of children, Reyes said.

Public health experts said the animals often carry myriad diseases that can be passed to other animals and humans, including skin infections, fungal infections, encephalitis and rabies.

Canine rabies was once common in Los Angeles County, but since enactment of vaccination laws in the 1950s, the disease has been virtually wiped out in humans and domesticated animals, said Ehnert.

With the rapidly increasing number of imported pets, however, that could all change, experts said, adding that rabies is not controlled in Mexico.

“Rabies is actually quite common in dogs throughout the world,” Ehnert said. “Thousands of people die of rabies all over the world. It’s deadly in both animals and humans.”

Ehnert said those looking to buy dogs should ask sellers if the mother is onsite as a precaution.

SEAACA’s Web site advises buyers should not deal with sellers who want to meet in parking lots or parks, only accept cash and have no veterinary or vaccination records.

Bernstein said she will continue to pursue policy that prohibits dogs without proper vaccination records from entering via the U.S.-Mexico border.

“I’ll try to get the governor to sign an executive order that would ban dogs coming into California that are younger than 4 months and without proof of shots,” she said. “Then, even if (the task force) isn’t there, the customs people would have the tools to turn them away.” (SGVT Tribune)

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