By: Patti Strand  Date: 06/15/2004

For Immediate Release: June 1, 2004
For Information Contact Patti Strand


NAIA calls for tighter regulation of dog and cat imports


A rabid Puerto Rican “rescue pup” imported by a Massachusetts animal shelter exposes the glaring public health risk of “humane relocation.” According to a report by Massachusetts Public Health Veterinarian, Dr. Fredric Cantor, 6 people have received post-exposure prophylaxis so far. The sick puppy was shipped with 5 other pups by the Save-a-Sato Foundation, a group that routinely ships Puerto Rican street dogs to shelters in several states including New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Texas. In 1994, a rabies exposure in Concord, NH forced 665 people to receive such treatment before it was over. [See]. Similarly, this exposure resulted from a stray animal, in this case a cat, being placed in the pet trade.

Dog overpopulation problems have disappeared in many parts of the US, but surpluses still exist in some regions. “Humane relocation” has emerged to equalize this situation by transporting stray and unwanted pets from high to low supply areas for adoption. “If conducted responsibly between contiguous states within the Continental US, these services can reduce needless shelter euthanasia of adoptable pets,” said NAIA President, Patti Strand, “but when managed irresponsibly, these programs operate as unregulated pet stores and place the public at risk.”

As non-profit organizations, shelters are exempt from many of the laws that regulate pet businesses, a dangerous loophole that allows them to import and sell large numbers of stray dogs and cats from places as distant as Puerto Rico, Mexico, and Taiwan without appropriate oversight. Critics charge these quasi-shelters with paying more attention to turnover than to the health and welfare of the pets they adopt for high fees. "The Puerto Rican pup, like many of his companion imports, was too young for adequate rabies protection," said Strand, "but nonetheless was imported as part of this misguided distribution scheme. Because rabies is fatal once symptoms appear, this diagnosis places a significant burden on health agencies by preempting other important priorities."

In 2000, NAIA sounded the alarm about emerging pet relocation practices in Redefining Pet Overpopulation [/articles/archives/redefining.htm] where Strand wrote, “Significantly, the dogs that are being imported are not pets from private homes but strays from the streets, the most likely reservoirs for parasites and diseases. Worse, we're bringing them into communal shelters where they are most likely to pass on whatever diseases or parasites they have to other companion animals.”

In a 2003 follow-up article, Humane or insane? Importation of foreign stray animals into US shelters threatens health, sustains overpopulation [/articles/archives/humane_insane.htm] Strand warned: “From Florida, Texas and Michigan to New England and the Pacific Northwest, more and younger Puerto Rican dogs and puppies are finding their way into American shelters every month. Massachusetts in particular is a magnet and a distribution center for relocated surplus pets and strays… Some diseases and parasites pose serious health risks for human health as well as for dogs and other species... Dogs are a leading vector for rabies in many poor countries…Given the incubation period for rabies, from five days to several years, with 20-60 days being the norm, unquarantined importation of street dogs from poor countries with low rates of vaccination for rabies, is a disaster waiting to happen...”

“This rabid puppy confirms the importance of reviewing and tightening current laws, regulations and policies,” said Strand. Specifically, NAIA urges federal and state public health officials to consider adopting regulations for admitting dogs and cats, especially strays, to the North American Continent. These regulations should include the imposition of a quarantine similar to the one recently adopted by Hawaii, unless the dog or cat meets reasonable pre-approved protocols for vaccinations and parasite treatments, and has positive identification, and a health certificate issued by a licensed veterinarian. “Allowing feral and stray dogs and cats to enter the Continental US without complying with even these minimal screening requirements, places our citizens, pets and livestock at risk,” said Strand, an unnecessary risk that NAIA is determined to end."

The National Animal Interest Alliance is a coalition of animal owners and organizations dedicated to animal welfare, responsible animal ownership and maintaining the rights of animal owners to keep and enjoy pets. For more information, visit the NAIA website at, send e-mail to, or call (503) 761-1139.

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