Home > Animal Rescue, Animal Welfare Issues, Health Care - Dogs, Pet Adoption, Pet News, Pet Safety > Is it time to regulate rescue dog transports into Minnesota?

Is it time to regulate rescue dog transports into Minnesota?

Woman with Her Pet DogI’ve been stewing on this issue for some time now, but the recent outbreak of canine influenza in Chicago, and some of the recent stories I have heard about dogs transported here, has led me to believe it is time for Minnesota to regulate the transport of rescue dogs into our state.

I know it is odd for a rescue supporter and pet adoption advocate to suggest such a thing (I have no doubt it will be considered blasphemy by many local rescues), but I come at this as more than just a supporter of rescues. I come at this as a pet owner, an owner with senior dogs, dogs who have had recent health issues. I come at this as an owner who has seen rescues, acting in the best interest of the rescue dog, make critical but unintentional mistakes that have the potential to harm the dog populations that are already here.

From a lack of proper foster parent training and education to a lack of proper care for sick dogs with the potential to expose other dogs to illness, rescues have the potential to cause harm to existing populations of dogs in our state.

Just last month, a group of dogs were transported in from another state and placed in foster homes (after an urgent call went out for people to foster) with little being said about the health checks these dogs received before they were handed off to their new foster homes. I know that the situation was an emergency, and that rescues had little time to act, but I wonder if they gave any thought to what they might be transporting in with them before they drove them across state lines? Were the potential dangers considered beforehand? Did they get a full health assessment and blood workup done before they handed the dogs off to their foster homes?

Low Section View of a Man with His BulldogMore diligence must be taken, especially in light of hearing that the canine influenza was likely imported with a dog that came from China or South Korea and that Canine Brucellosis was recently transported into Calgary, Alberta, Canada via rescues in the southern U.S. and Mexico. I wholeheartedly support saving dogs, but we need to be more diligent. We need to be more thoughtful and plan ahead. We need to make sure we are not saving one dog while putting a whole population of resident dogs at risk.

In New England, the south to north dog transport (i.e., rescue transports from southern shelters to northern rescue groups) got so big that veterinarians became concerned. They started seeing more cases of parvo, rabies, heart disease and other dog diseases and parasites as a result of the dogs being brought into their states.  Massachusetts was the first to implement laws around dogs being transported into their state, but others soon followed including New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Connecticut.

To circumvent the Massachusetts regulations, officials say, some rescue groups simply told adopters to meet them over the border. New England was caught in a geographic game of Whac-a-Mole, trying to ensure that only healthy dogs were being transported by responsible rescues. Dr. Scott Marshall, the state veterinarian in Rhode Island, says that state saw parvo cases blossom from two or three each year into two or three each week in recent years before enacting regulations that mirror the Bay State’s. Today, all the New England states have rules. Boston Globe, May 12, 2013

The laws in New England require:

  • Rescues register with the state
  • Each animal have a health certificate that is signed by a veterinarian
  • Imported animals be held in isolation for 48 hours in an approved facility to allow dogs to recover from the stress of travel so their health status can be more accurately assessed
  • Must be examined by a vet after the 48 hour holding period

I know that implementing something similar in Minnesota will cause hardship for many rescues, at least initially, but I think it is necessary. Importing dogs from out-of-state is such a common event now that regulation is necessary. In the rush to save more dogs, some rescues are choosing to cut corners and worry about the health of the dog once they get here versus before. This is not to say that rescues are bad. They are not. They are in the business of saving dogs’ lives. Their heart is in the right place. But if we are to do it in a way that protects all dogs, both those in and out-of-state, we need to ensure that all groups are following protocols that ensures this is the case.

As always, I welcome your thoughts.


Animal Rescue—Transporting Fido Across State Lines

Massachusetts Animal Rescue and Shelter Regulations (initial Draft)

Buyer beware: Lack of regulation of dog rescues puts more burden on adoptive owners

Pet Rescue Groups Outraged by Legislation

State vet urging caution in adopting pets from groups without permits

With Rescue Dogs In Demand, More Shelters Look Far Afield For Fido

The Pros and Cons of Dog Transport

Companion Animal Transport Programs —  Best Practices

  1. April 30, 2015 at 7:35 AM

    We have similar circumstances here (Canada) in that many dogs are brought up from the Southern US and this has been attributed to our fast increasing incidents of heart worm. As has been my experience in these kinds of matters, there are far more questions than there are answers:
    Should we have left many “Katrina dogs” (e.g.) to their own fate after the hurricane?
    Should we stop allowing immigrants from third world countries?
    Should we stop volunteers from going to “hot spots” to assist in humane projects?

    It can be argued that it all comes down to the risk factor and one should not parallel animal issues with human issues. I agree …….. in a decision between a human and an animal, the human must “win” however, to totally ignore the plight of animals is just an inhumane as to ignore the plight of humans.
    It would seem to me that in our culture, which is driven by greed and self gratification, both the less fortunate humans and animals are facing difficult times and, looking at the “big picture”, our increase in incidents of heartworm pales my comparison with the amount of dogs that now have the life they were entitled to by birth. Nobody, regardless of species, should be allowed to suffer and/or die simply because of neglect, abuse, stupidity, or being “in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

    • Mel
      April 30, 2015 at 9:30 AM

      I agree that we should not ignore the plight of animals in need. the question is can we do so without forsaking the health of the animals that have already been saved. My biggest fear is that some rescue will make a serious mistake and import something that is devastating and the state will shut down imports completely, or make it even more restrictive. Can we have a balance between saving dogs and making sure we know what they are bringing in with them?
      Right now, horses in Minnesota are required to have a health certificate and are required to be quarantined for 30 days. Why not dogs?

      • April 30, 2015 at 9:40 AM

        I don’t disagree with your concerns however, we cannot totally control diseases carried by humans (re recent Ebola news) let alone animals. To suggest that something be done just in case somebody “makes a serious mistake” is where I am having issues. Do I not drive tomorrow just in case I am involved in an accident? Do we block entry into our country of all people from tropical disease prone countries? The “just in case” argument really does not stand up too well under scrutiny.

      • Mel
        April 30, 2015 at 9:15 PM

        I agree. We cannot totally control diseases. What I believe is that we can manage them better by quarantining dogs before sending them on their way to a foster home where the people may/may not be educated about the possible illnesses they may see and what to do if they do. The same applies to behaviors.

        I don’t think of health certificates as a solution or that quarantines will prevent illness, but I do think it necessary for rescues to “know” when a dog is sick and to handle it appropriately. I see too many rescues handing the dogs to a foster as soon as the truck pulls in. The health check sometimes happens later. Some groups vaccinate right away and then hand them off. What I am proposing is that there is a pause (or quarantine) between the transport drop off and the hand off to the foster or adopter. Too many sick dogs are being placed into homes without full knowledge of what they might be dealing with. I would also like to see fosters being trained on what illnesses they should be watching for and what to do when they see something concerning.

  2. timandcd
    April 30, 2015 at 8:06 AM

    Amen colinandray^^^

  3. Cathie Witzel
    April 30, 2015 at 11:13 AM

    I have many many opinions on this, the first of which is that health certificates are frankly worthless pieces of paper that mean almost nothing. I have known dogs with health certificates to literally drop dead within 36 hours because of parvo. I’ve seen dogs with health certificates be diagnosed 2-3 days later with sarcoptic mange, etc etc. A health check is one moment in time, and does not rule out anything – other than that the dog wasn’t showing any symptoms in that particular moment. I know that both rescues and transporters view these as a sort of minimum standard, but we need to quit pretending that they actually mean that a dog is healthy, free from disease or free from parasites.

    At this time, I’m unaware of any rescue having the resources to do an actual quarantine period, with time to do two-three sets of vaccines, worming, flea/tick treatment and multiple veterinary exams.

    As always, our best defense is spay/neuter and to do our best as rescuers to make sure dogs in the source area are vaccinated. Rescues don’t tend to have the financial resources to vaccinate owned dogs in remote communities, so perhaps that ought to be a focus, rather than turning up our noses ala not-in-my-backyard.

    Also, if parvo/distemper/rabies are the big concerns in receiving communities, then receiving communities should also be checking on the vaccination status of current dogs. Vaccination is highly effective in preventing these diseases.

    • Mel
      April 30, 2015 at 9:16 PM

      I agree that health certificates are only as good as the enforcement behind them. I don’t see this as an either or type of situation. I don’t think health certificates are a solution or that quarantines will prevent illness, but I do think it necessary for rescues to “know” when a dog is sick and to handle it appropriately. I see too many rescues handing the dogs to a foster as soon as the truck pulls in. The health check sometimes happens later. Some groups vaccinate right away and then hand them off. What I am proposing is that there is a pause (or quarantine) between the transport drop off and the hand off to the foster or adopter. Too many sick dogs are being placed into homes without full knowledge of what they might be dealing with. I would also like to see fosters being trained on what illnesses they should be watching for and what to do when they see something concerning.

  4. April 30, 2015 at 12:34 PM

    This is a very complex issue that needs attention and awareness of the consequences on both sides of the line. Here’s hoping we can come to a balanced agreement in the interest of our beloved fur-kids and that the outbreak becomes a historic chapter of the past and no longer a current one.

    • Mel
      April 30, 2015 at 9:19 PM

      Absolutely agree. I think this is a bigger issue than the canine influenza. That is merely one illness. Last year, no horses were allowed to be transported into Minnesota because of a very serious virus that was spreading through the horse populations here. It was devastating. I am worried that the lack of responsibility and diligence by some rescues will ruin it all for the many. I am seeing way too many rescues handing off dogs to foster parents as soon as they got off the transport truck. No health check. No vaccinations. Nothing. That is dangerous.

      • May 1, 2015 at 11:09 AM

        I think there are extremes on both ends of the spectrum; lackadaisical rescues and those whose rules are so bureaucratic, they drive people to less scrupulous ones or heaven forbid, puppy mill shops.

      • Mel
        May 1, 2015 at 11:55 AM

        So completely agree.

  5. April 30, 2015 at 2:50 PM

    This is a really tough call. So many contagious health issues are not easily detected in a timely manner, so how long do you wait? But do you risk further contamination by not quarantining? Tough call.

  6. April 30, 2015 at 7:15 PM

    I think it is something that should be considered, but it is complicated.

    • Mel
      April 30, 2015 at 9:13 PM

      I agree. It is complicated.

    • Mel
      April 30, 2015 at 9:29 PM

      Completely agree.

  7. kenzohw
    May 1, 2015 at 6:50 AM

    What you ask for is plain common sense. It is in the interest of all dogs and I am sure every rescue will agree for that reason. A lot of dogs will be saved when such a rule would be established.

  8. May 25, 2015 at 11:48 AM

    I’ve seen rescues put dogs straight into an adoption event within the time it took to get them off the truck and to the pet store (after 24 hours in a van). Considering the current influenza outbreak, rescues should be isolating dogs however they can. A foster can accomplish this with some understanding and training (IMO – it’s not always all about just loving up the dogs, fosters). And remember, canine influenza can be shed by dogs that are asymptomatic. I’d much rather see the rescues and transports step-up and show responsibility than having to legislate their cooperation. Like the above poster said – this is common sense.

  9. PJ
    May 25, 2015 at 4:21 PM

    YES! Where is the common sense in all of this?! Lack of heath testing, inadequate quarantines, lack of bio-security measures, untrained handlers, etc. all lead to the spread of disease that could otherwise be contained. Thousands & thousands of dogs are put to sleep every year in Minnesota, yet those from other states and COUNTRIES are still being shipped in. I just do not understand the rational behind that. :-/

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