At the end of June I brought you some information on a new rule some legislators in Maine were proposing which would require a five day quarantine on dogs immported from out of state.

Norma Worley, director of Maine’s Animal Welfare Division is trying to institute a new rule that will require all ‘imported dogs’ to be placed under quarantine for 5-days. Worley’s reasoning is that disease-laden dogs arriving in Maine are threatening the health of pets and she attributes this to the ‘parking lot dogs’, dogs that rescuers are bringing in and meeting with adopters in parking lots.

Now a 5-day quarantine doesn’t sound like a big deal but rescues are not shelters and they do not have the facilities to quarantine the dogs. This new rule will shut down legitimate rescues and drive up adoption rates from questionable sources. (Proposed Rule in Maine May Kill Thousands of Dogs)

There was a public hearing yesterday to discuss the proposed dog import rules and the more than 60 attendees were unanimously in opposition of the proposed rules.

A steady stream of Mainers who rescue and adopt from out-of-state shelters dogs destined for death testified Monday morning that Maine’s rescue groups already are providing a safety net against diseases and objected to the state’s suggested new regulations for dog importation.

Rescuers and supporters participating in a public hearing on the state’s proposed changes told officials about dogs such as “Sweet Pea” and “Mr. Boo” who were rescued from kill shelters in Southern states and who now assist handicapped owners.

“My sister said having Sweet Pea makes her life worth living,” testified Leona Fowler of Gardiner.

Instead of changing a system that already is working, the rescue advocates challenged state Department of Agriculture officials who proposed the new rules to become more aggressive in monitoring Maine’s irresponsible breeders and puppy mills.

The proposed changes include new inoculation requirements and a five-day isolation period after the dogs arrive in Maine to ensure they are not diseased or contagious.

Among officials from the Agriculture Department’s animal health and welfare divisions who carefully listened to the testimony Monday was State Veterinarian Don Hoenig. He said the proposed rule changes were prompted by two veterinarians who reported two separate cases of distemper brought into Maine by imported dogs.

But he quickly added that most animals brought to Maine for adoption are in good shape.

The suggested rule change that brought the most objection is the five-day isolation, an expense that most rescue groups said they couldn’t afford.

Chris Hanson of Almost Home Rescue, based in Buxton, said her group has rescued more than 700 dogs from Southern U.S. kill shelters.

“I beg you not to put the next 700 dogs to death,” she testified. “Maine’s rescuers are the lifelines for thousands of dogs that would have died.”

The proposals are just that — proposals — Shelley Doak, director of the Animal Health and Industry Division of the Maine Department of Agriculture told those at the hearing, adding that the current rules have been in place since 1988.

More than 60 people attended the hearing, and all said they were there to oppose the new rules. No one spoke in support of the changes.

One after another, the proponents talked about their own experiences and repeatedly said that even stricter isolation requirements are being met before the dogs even come to Maine.

“These rescuers are very much involved in doing the right thing,” said Steve Jacobs of the Animal Welfare Agency in Kennebunkport. He and many others suggested amending the proposals to allow in-home isolation, such as is done with suspected rabies cases.

Dr. Monique Kramer practices veterinary medicine on the Maine-New Hampshire border and has been performing animal rescues for 16 years. She said the proposals were premature and not based in science. She said the proposed five-day isolation doesn’t cover the incubation period for most diseases, and that climate change — not importation — is responsible for much of the spread northward of rabies, parasites and heartworm.

“It is inappropriate to blame rescues for these things coming to Maine,” Kramer said.

Many who testified said the officials should clean up Maine’s own animal messes before looking elsewhere.

“We’ve seen a lot of … diseases from Maine animals, not necessarily animals from the South,” Kramer said. “These proposed regulations do nothing about puppy mills and breeders where atrocious conditions continue.”

Suzanna Richard of the Maine Friends of Animals and the Dogs Deserve Better rescue group said she has helped rescue 300 dogs without a single case of parvovirus or distemper. “In the past year, three Maine shelters have been quarantined because of parvo. This was not the result of animal importation. The point is the rescue groups are already testing, immunizing and quarantining these animals,” Richard said.

Several people suggested a state registry of rescue groups and the imposition of quarantine regulations on those that have poor health histories.

“We have had more sick dogs from breeders in the state of Maine than from any other part of the country,” said Marla McCormick, president of a mini-Australian shepherd group that operates nationwide.

“The answer is not to shut down the rescues,” Jill Young testified. Young said she has adopted one out-of-state dog and fostered three others. “I also adopted a dog from a farm in New Gloucester,” she said. “It had more health problems than all the others. It had no shots, it wasn’t fixed, and it had Lyme disease.”

Ed Blain of Bailey Island said he paid a $400 fee for his rescued dog, and he figured that it cost the rescue group at least $552 in immunizations, veterinarian visits and transportation. “This is not a money-making proposition for these groups,” he said. Blain said that if the rescue groups shut down, people who are passionate about rescuing dogs would be forced to go underground. “Then there will be no controls,” he said.

After more than two hours of testimony, Doak of the state’s Animal Health and Industry Division said, “We take your concerns very seriously.”

She said written comments would be accepted by the Maine Department of Agriculture until July 25. By September, a meeting will be scheduled with members of the state’s Animal Welfare Advisory Council’s Dog Transportation Committee, agriculture leaders, and state officials representing animal health and welfare to determine what changes should be made to the rules.

After hearing the testimony Monday, Hoenig said home isolation “was certainly one idea worth looking at. We heard some good ideas here today. All along, this has been a collaborative process and it continues to be a collaborative process.” (Bangor Daily News)

I do hope most sincerely that they did listen and do give consideration to other ideas aside from the five-day quarantine rule which has the sad potential of killing many dogs that otherwise may finally have a chance at a new life. Rescuers work so diligently to save these innocently lives, don’t make it harder!

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