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The Unexpected Outcome of Stiff New Pet Breeding Laws

March 24, 2010 | 12,049 views
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Pet Import

Four years ago in 2006, nearly 300,000 dogs were estimated to have crossed United States’ borders, and the problem is growing.

Consumer demand for pure-bred and cross-bred puppies coupled with strict new domestic breeding laws is believed to be driving importation numbers even higher than four years ago.

Federal regulators have no real way of tracking exactly how many dogs are brought into the country, where they come from, where they are going, and whether importers are following up on vaccination requirements for underage puppies.

"One thing that really concerns veterinarians is, underage puppies come in and not only are they at greater risk of zoonotic diseases, but also other canine diseases," says Nina Marano, DVM, of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) Division of Global Migration and Quarantine. "It is a concern. It's a consumer issue; it's a public health issue; it's a veterinary issue. Really, it's a moral and ethical issue."

Dr. Becker's Comments:

You would think, given the number of adoptable dogs looking for forever homes in shelters across the U.S., there would be no market in this country for foreign-bred, imported puppies.

If that’s what you thought, think again.

More Than a Problem of Overpopulation

Not only does the importation of dogs add to the problem of pet overpopulation in the U.S., but many of these pups are not healthy. This poses considerable risk not only for the puppies, but for the humans and other animals these dogs come in contact with.

Of the 287,000 dogs imported in 2006, it is estimated about 25 percent were too young to be vaccinated for rabies. Importers sign contracts agreeing to confine puppies until they’ve received the rabies vaccine. However, since most puppies are sold almost immediately upon arrival in the U.S., it’s clear those contracts are routinely ignored.

Many puppy exporters and importers not only don’t honor contractual obligations, they also ignore federal regulations. The USDA prohibits carriers destined for the U.S. from transporting animals less than eight weeks of age, and any animal without a health certificate signed by a licensed veterinarian.

It’s widely assumed importers routinely lie about the age and health of puppies on import documents. And it is obvious health certificates are forged based on the number of puppies who become ill or die shortly after arrival here.

Imported, unvaccinated, underage puppies pose a significant risk for zoonotic diseases (diseases that can be transmitted from animals to humans) and other canine diseases as well.

Significant numbers of puppies become ill and/or die within a few days of arrival in the U.S. The rates of parvovirus, pneumonia, rabies, ringworm and serious congenital defects are higher in imported puppies than in dogs bred in this country.

Rabies is of particular concern because of its long incubation period. Puppies arrive here in apparent good health while incubating the virus, and then become ill with the deadly disease.

Imported dogs have also been tracked as carriers of diseases long ago eradicated in this country. One such disease is screwworm. A screwworm is a parasitic fly, the larvae of which eat the healthy tissue of living, warm-blooded animals.

What’s Behind the Puppy Import Trend?

There are several forces at work, including:

  • Higher hurdles for commercial breeders in the U.S. Due to heightened awareness and regulation of puppy mills, the laws for raising puppies in this country have grown more stringent. In Pennsylvania alone, 256 kennels were closed last year, compared to just 65 closures five years ago.

     

    Many of the foreign countries exporting dogs to the U.S. have fewer and looser animal health standards than we do, making the business of breeding a less expensive – and often less responsible – proposition.
  • Market demand. One particularly troubling aspect of the dog import business is that in spite of the heartbreaking number of abandoned dogs that languish and are euthanized in animal shelters across the country, people seeking new canine family members persist in purchasing puppies from pet stores, irresponsible local breeders, and over the Internet, from unknown, unresearched sources.

    Internet sales of puppies and dogs have caused an explosion of commercially bred and imported puppies – sales that are estimated to far exceed pet shop sales. Because U.S. puppy mill regulations have thankfully been tightened, it’s becoming harder to locate the exact breed or fashion hybrid people are demanding on an impulse, but foreign markets are able to supply these animals to demanding U.S. consumers.

  • Uneducated consumers. Many people simply are not aware of the risks and other issues involved in purchasing a puppy they know has been imported, or one for which the parentage and health history is unknown.

    Pet lovers are often led by their hearts, and impulse purchases (and even adoptions from shelters or rescue organizations) are common.

    Every companion animal regardless of origin deserves a loving family, including dogs bred in other countries. But seeking them out creates a demand for which there will always be suppliers, and does nothing to help the millions of pups in U.S. shelters who deserve a second chance at life.

  • U.S. puppy mill owners looking to increase profits. Or owners who’ve been shut down who are looking for a way to replace lost income. Many of these people become “puppy brokers,” or middlemen for imported puppy mill pets.
  • Not-for-profit, misguided or uninformed importers. Rescue groups and even veterinarians have imported dogs from other countries without an appropriate level of concern for the health risks involved.
  • Federal import regulations with no teeth. Government agencies like the CDC and the USDA don’t have the staff, resources or law enforcement authority to effectively regulate the import of live animals. In addition, most of the laws governing live animals crossing U.S. borders were written during a time when the only dogs being transported into the country were pets of families returning from extended trips or business abroad.

Two Ways to Attack the Problem

  1. Regulations to dry up supply. Awareness of the problem of imported dogs is slowly spreading, and animal welfare organizations are pushing legislation for better control and monitoring of import practices. Legislative improvements won’t happen overnight, or even quickly, but at some point in the future we can hope to see better regulation of the live animal import business.
  2. Education to dry up the demand. Again, awareness is key. Imported puppy mill puppies can present significant health risks and all the heartache and expense that go hand-in-hand with a sick pet. They also take up spots in homes and hearts that might have been filled by a special pup waiting hopefully in a shelter for someone to notice him.

Before You Purchase a Puppy from a Breeder, Take My 18-Point Assessment

Prior to purchasing a puppy from a breeder, consider taking my 18-point Assessment to determine how healthy of a pup you’ll be purchasing. By investigating the health and environment of your new addition you can greatly reduce health roadblocks in the future.

By interviewing the breeder you can discern how committed he or she is to the health and wellbeing of the animals. Many times by asking the breeder the right questions you can discover enough about the background of the animals that you may choose to spend your money with someone else.

If the breeder can't or won't answer the questions below about the parents, you should probably not buy a pup from him or her.

Dr. Becker's 18-Point Assessment

Please assign the most appropriate number to each question pertaining to the parents of the litter you are interested in.

Questions for the breeder:

  1. ___ I have fed a raw, balanced, living (fresh) food diet.
    • 0 - don’t know
    • 1 - almost none of their life
    • 2 - 25% of their life
    • 3 - 50% of their life
    • 4 - 75% of their life
    • 5 - most of their life
  2. ___ I have fed a store brand dry food.
    • 0 - don’t know
    • 1 - most of their life
    • 2 - 75% of their life
    • 3 - 50% of their life
    • 4 - 25% of their life
    • 5 - almost none of their life
  3. ___ I intentionally selected my companion/breeding stock based on excellent genetics/diversified gene pool and the breeder’s commitment to a healthy lifestyle.
    • 0 - don’t know
    • 1 - I didn’t consider/think about it or I purchased my pet from a puppy mill/pet store
    • 2 - my breeder gave me information about the dam and sire’s lineage
    • 3 - my breeder gave me information about my puppy’s lineage, the parents’ nutritional status
    • 4 - my breeder gave me information about my puppy’s lineage, the parents’ nutritional status, OFA (hip dysplasia ranking) and thyroid status, as well as cause of deaths of last 3 generations
    • 5 - my breeder gave me information about my puppy’s lineage, the parents’ nutritional status, OFA (hip dysplasia ranking) and thyroid status, as well as cause of deaths of last 3 generations. I independently researched the lineage to assure no inbreeding and asked the breeder to modify the pup’s vaccine protocol, if needed
  4. ___ I have modified my pets' vaccine protocol to eliminate unnecessary vaccines that could negatively affect their immune system.
    • 0 - don’t know
    • 1 - almost none of their life
    • 2 - 25% of their life
    • 3 - 50% of their life
    • 4 - 75% of their life
    • 5 - most of their life
  5. ___ I have supplied antioxidants and other nutritional supplements throughout my pets' lives, as their bodies dictated.
    • 0 - don’t know
    • 1 - almost none of their life
    • 2 - 25% of their life
    • 3 – 50% of their life
    • 4 - 75% of their life
    • 5 - most of their life
  6. ___ I have reduced my pets' chemical exposure by reducing topical insecticide application (flea and tick products), the frequency of heartworm prevention and the application of chemicals to my lawn and their immediate environment.
    • 0 - don’t know
    • 1 - almost none of their life
    • 2 - 25% of their life
    • 3 – 50% of their life
    • 4 - 75% of their life
    • 5 - most of their life
  7. ___ I have supplied a means of detoxification from toxic environmental substances (milk thistle after heartworm prevention, etc.) throughout my pet’s life
    • 0 - don’t know
    • 1 - almost none of their life
    • 2 - 25% of their life
    • 3 – 50% of their life
    • 4 - 75% of their life
    • 5 - most of their life
  8. ___ I have given my pet filtered water of some kind.
    • 0 - don’t know
    • 1 - almost none of their life
    • 2 - 25% of their life
    • 3 – 50% of their life
    • 4 - 75% of their life
    • 5 - most of their life
  9. ___ My pets have had healthy, smoke-free air to breathe.
    • 0 - don’t know
    • 1 - almost none of their life
    • 2 - 25% of their life
    • 3 – 50% of their life
    • 4 - 75% of their life
    • 5 - most of their life
  10. ___ My pet has had physical trauma that has brought us to the ER (hit by car, broken bones, dog fight, poisonings, etc.).
    • 5 - no trauma
    • 4 - minor trauma that did not require veterinary care
    • 3 - moderate trauma that did not result in recurrent medical issues
    • 2 - significant trauma that temporarily affected my pet’s life
    • 1 - significant trauma that has chronically affected my pet’s life
    • 0 - don’t know
  11. ___ My pet exhibits behaviors that could cause body damage over time; fence running, pulling on the leash every walk, falls or goes “spread eagle” on the tile regularly, “T-boning” or being the “T-boner” with another dog (body-bashing), as examples.
    • 0 - don’t know
    • 1 - almost none of their life
    • 2 - 25% of their life
    • 3 - 50% of their life
    • 4 - 75% of their life
    • 5 - most of their life
  12. ___ I have had regular chiropractic adjustments performed on my dog.
    • 0 - don’t know
    • 1 - almost none of their life
    • 2 - 25% of their life
    • 3 - 50% of their life
    • 4 - 75% of their life
    • 5 - most of their life
  13. ___ I have supplied joint supportive supplements (Glucosamine, MSM, etc.) throughout my dogs' lives as their bodies have required.
    • 0 - don’t know
    • 1 - almost none of their life
    • 2 - 25% of their life
    • 3 - 50% of their life
    • 4 - 75% of their life
    • 5 - most of their life
  14. ___ How true is this statement? "I have been blessed with a pet that is physically resilient and free from disease."
    • 0 - don’t know
    • 1 - I wish, my vet is my best friend (you’ve known them since your pet’s first year of life with one issue after another) because my pet is always having problems
    • 2 - my pet used to be healthy, until that one inciting incident... nothing’s been the same after that (allergic response, vaccine reaction, ACL rupture, tumor removal, etc.)
    • 3 - my pet has “the usual stuff”... I don’t expect perfection: I have visited the vet more and more for “stuff” that’s going on
    • 4 - my pet has had a few weird things happen, but all in all, has been incredibly healthy
    • 5 - my pet is thriving, above the level of disease: we visit our vet for wellness visits only
  15. ____My pet is predisposed to wacky behaviors, such as eating toxic house plants, foreign bodies (Q-tips, mulch, pins, clothing, etc.), licking unclean surfaces (garage floors, lead paint, etc.), slipping his/her collar, attacking other dogs or people (these are only examples, we are trying to assess the environmental risks your pet takes with this question).
    • 0 -don’t know
    • 1 - my pet eats everything I don’t want him/her to, regularly acts in ways that could be harmful to him/her
    • 2 - my pet sometimes “gets into stuff,” and does things that could cause harm to him/her
    • 3 - my pet is well behaved, but on occasion exhibits some behaviors that could lead to physical harm
    • 4 - my pet has never intentionally done anything inappropriate, but has had bad luck with occasional “accidents”
    • 5 - thank goodness, my pet is a saint with good luck
  16. ___My pet has had daily aerobic activity (intentional exercise) throughout his/her life. I make it a goal to exercise my pet on a daily basis.
    • 0 - don’t know or I consider "playing" exercise
    • 1 - almost none of their life
    • 2 - 25% of their life
    • 3 - 50% of their life
    • 4 - 75% of their life
    • 5 - most of their life
  17. ___ I have engaged in formal training (agility, obedience, tracking, etc.) and have continued this throughout my pet’s life.
    • 0 - don’t know
    • 1 - almost none of their life
    • 2 - 25% of their life
    • 3 - 50% of their life
    • 4 - 75% of their life
    • 5 - most of their life
  18. ___ I engage in some form of body work with my pet on a regular basis: body work, massage, T-Touch, acupressure, stretching, etc.
    • 0 - don’t know
    • 1 - almost none of their life
    • 2 - 25% of their life
    • 3 - 50% of their life
    • 4 - 75% of their life
    • 5 - most of their life

Results

Add up your score:

81-90

Exceptional guardianship... you are an empowered owner, proactive by nature, and have done all you can to allow your pet to thrive. You are to be commended and are a light to those around you.

Continue to set your benchmark high; you will accept nothing less than excellence for those in your care and your companion is tremendously blessed from the fruits of your labor.

Offspring from these animals have the best chances of living life with few to no metabolic roadblocks, combined with a proactive lifestyle these animals will thrive.

71-80

Good job! You have made wise choices to remove lifestyle obstacles in your pet’s path. You have the desire to create abundant health and allow your companion to thrive. Putting all the pieces together takes education, commitment and persistence. You are well on your way. The journey only gets more rewarding.

Offspring from these parents have a good chance of being healthy throughout their life by continuing a proactive lifestyle.

56-70

Well done. You have the desire to make all the right choices for your companion, but need encouragement, knowledge and commitment. You are learning lots at this point... applying it is another story! Recognize all of your efforts will translate into healthier, more vibrant relationships with your companions... and that’s why you started this journey in the first place.

Be encouraged; your pet is by your side through it all and reaping the benefits of your evolution on the journey. Offspring from these parents will need all aspects of wellness addressed consistently to achieve homeostasis and balance.

36-55

Congratulations, you have recognized that your companion’s health takes work! Health is on a spectrum and your pet is moving one way or the other. You want him/her to move towards health, you just need guidance, support and time. There is much to learn, but don’t stress!

You’re right where you need to be to apply one health principle at a time, building one healthy habit upon another. Before you know it you will see the benefits expressed in your pets, fueling your desire to learn more, apply more, and again, see your efforts pay off in terms of vibrant health and improved quality of life in that creature you so dearly love. Offspring from these parents may exhibit metabolic, skeletal and nutritional roadblocks that will take time, money and effort to correct and maintain.

25-35

Don’t panic! Now is your time to become empowered! You have accepted the responsibility to care for your pet(s) to the best of your ability... that’s why you’re here, learning. You have much to learn, but stop and celebrate the fact that you’re on your way. Initially you’ll feel overwhelmed, wondering if it’s all worth it. It is... you’re just not far enough along to see it. And besides, you’ve come to recognize your companion deserves nothing less.

It’s up to you to be persistent in putting the pieces together. These animals are surviving, but not thriving. With pointed, consistent effort these animals can feel better in their bodies, but should not be bred. Offspring from parents that are not thriving will rarely thrive themselves.

Less than 25

You have either rescued a pet with an unknown background, have recently recognized that health must be created (it doesn’t just happen), or have a companion that rules the house and has poor vitality/increased risk for disease. In any situation your companion, although happy, may not be healthy. There are lifestyle obstacles you must commit to addressing.

Rescued animals may have little degeneration prior to you adopting them; or there may be lots. Your only choice is to assume little has been done to improve health before you were in their life and best case scenario, you’ve provided proactive care that goes above and beyond what’s needed... your pet will benefit from these healthy choices.

If you have just started thinking about creating abundant living for your companion, recognize degeneration may already be present, but you have committed to providing the best quality of life to your pet from this point forward. You have consciously chosen health, the first step in creating it for your companion. You have lots to learn and do, time is of the essence.

The more proactive lifestyle changes you make at this point, the better, you can’t do too much now.

Don’t worry, and take the pressure off of you and your pet… every change means your companion is at a better place than before. These animals are surviving, but not thriving. With pointed, consistent effort these animals can feel better in their bodies, but should not be bred. Offspring from parents that are not thriving will rarely thrive themselves.

[+] Sources and References