State Cracks Down on Unregulated Importation of Dogs

Reports that rescue organizations were carting hundreds of dogs into Massachusetts without veterinary examinations prompted the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) to issue an emergency order May 26, 2005, that requires registration of all organizations, a 48-hour isolation period, and updated record keeping. Officials believe that Massachusetts is the first state to issue such a requirement, and added that a legislative solution to the problem may be pursued in the future.

An MDAR investigation, prompted by consumer tips, revealed that more than 200 groups were bringing in dogs from Puerto Rico, Thailand, Virginia and North Carolina and selling them to residents with incomplete, inaccurate or forged health certificates. Some of the animals intercepted by an MDAR investigator tested positive for mongoose rabies, heartworm and parasites that are not typically found in Massachusetts, said Brad Mitchell, MPH, director of animal health for the MDAR. “I had no clue how prevalent this was,” he added.

Local demand for dogs and cats outweighs supply because of successful spay/neuter programs, Mitchell said. “Most people [in the rescue and shelter groups] mean well, and are operating on an emotional level but they don’t understand the element of animal health,” he added.

In addition to health concerns, MDAR investigators watched as some people, who paid between $150 and $550 – picked up their dogs and realized that the animals were not suitable for their families. “We want people to ask themselves, ‘Are we really solving the problem here,’” Mitchell said. “Dogs are a long-term commitment,” and since you cannot discern behavioral issues or get an accurate sense of size online, he stressed, “Adopting them from the Internet is not such a good idea.”

The new regulations also require organizations to maintain a physical address, and MDAR officials will be checking them, Mitchell said and added, “We will be monitoring these folks.”

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