Pandemic Puppy Craze Spurs Push for New Animal Import Standards

  • Panel calls for CBP to weigh additional animal-care facilities
  • ‘Abhorrent conditions’ dogs faced in Chicago sparked concerns

A surge in imports of pandemic puppies and other pets has prompted calls for new standards while animals transit through customs.

A House spending panel approved a provision today that would call on Customs and Border Protection and the Department of Agriculture to draft regulatory guidance for facilities that hold animals.

CBP detains imported animals with inadequate vaccination certificates in bonded facilities until health officials can review them. The agency “lacks adequate facilities and procedures to respond” to the spike in animal imports that started during the pandemic, the report accompanying the House Homeland Security appropriations bill warns, calling on CBP to set new standards.

Photo: Apu Gomes/AFP via Getty Images
A volunteer hugs one of 29 rescued dogs that arrived at Los Angeles International Airport on Feb. 13, 2021.

As families sought new pets during the pandemic, many shelters were “cleared out by adoptions,” Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.), who pushed for the provision, said in an emailed statement. “Unfortunately, it also means that some Americans turned to unsavory foreign breeders for their pets, leading to an increase in the importation of animals over the past year.”

Quigley began advocating for standard-of-care regulations and additional CBP animal-care facilities after learning about the “abhorrent conditions” that more than a dozen French bulldogs faced traveling into the U.S. through Chicago last year.

A group of 18 dogs from Jordan were quarantined with an airline cargo service after they arrived at O’Hare International Airport with improper vaccination documents. The dogs were left in cages without food or water for days, and at least one died.

“There are currently no CBP practices in place to require every bonded warehouse to maintain the standard of care for live animals that exceeds the basic requirements to the Animal Welfare Act,” Quigley said during a House Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee hearing in May.

There is only one CBP-bonded facility with the resources to care for live animals during the full length of quarantine, Quigley added.

The report would direct CBP to assess the need for more facilities.

To contact the reporter on this story: Nicole Sadek in Washington at nsadek@bloombergindustry.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Sarah Babbage at sbabbage@bgov.com; Robin Meszoly at rmeszoly@bgov.com

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