Durbin Applauds USDA Rule To Implement More Stringent Safety Standards For Important Puppies

New rule based on Durbin-authored provision in 2008 Farm Bill

[WASHINGTON, DC] – Today U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) applauded the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service's (APHIS) announcement of final regulations that will require that dogs imported to the United States meet stronger health and safety standards. The new rule – which is based on an amendment Durbin included in the 2008 Farm Bill – ensures that dogs imported for resale are vaccinated, in good health, and under six months of age. Buyers and veterinarians report that imported puppies suffer from higher than normal incidences of pneumonia, parvovirus, rabies, ringworm, and severe congenital defects.

“In 2007, I introduced an amendment in the Farm Bill to help close a loophole that allowed puppies to be shipped into the United States for resale even when they were in poor health or far too young for travel. The long awaited decision by the USDA is a victory for dog lovers, dog owners and the many dogs imported to the United States each year, Durbin said. “I thank Secretary Vilsack for his efforts to ensure all dogs are treated with compassion and in a humaane manner.”

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) requires importers to confine animals until they are old enough to be vaccinated, approximately 3 months of age, and for 30 days after vaccination. Yet, according to CDC, a significant number of puppies imported to the U.S. from countries including Russia, Ukraine, Hungary, Columbia and Mexico are shipped at 8 weeks of age or younger, before their immune systems are developed and before they can be safely vaccinated, increasing the likelihood that puppies have contagious diseases, are infested with parasites, and are too young to be weaned. The CDC lacks the staff, law enforcement powers and resources to ensure each shipment is safe.

The provision that Durbin included in the 2008 Farm Bill strengthened the minimum health requirements for commercial imports of live dogs destined for resale. It also provides USDA APHIS with enforcement authority.

In September 2011, APHIS published and took comments on a proposed rule in the Federal Register addressing the requirements of the new section of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA). Today’s ruling only applies to dogs that are shipped from foreign countries and intended for re-sale within the United States.

Last year, the USDA implemented a rule that closed a loophole in the AWA which allowed domestic puppy mills selling puppies via the internet to escape regulation and avoid inspection.  The implemented rule was based on the Puppy Uniform Protection and Safety Act, a bill introduced by Durbin and Senator David Vitter (R-LA). Under the AWA, wholesale animal breeders are regulated, licensed and subject to inspections by the APHIS; however, the law previously did not include breeders who sell puppies directly to the public, resulting in an enormous loophole as online puppy sales now surpass those of retail stores. As a result, puppies were often kept in cramped, unsanitary and inhumane conditions. The dogs raised in those substandard facilities and sold to unsuspecting families often suffer serious health problems and, tragically, many die as a result.