CDC issues health alert about imported dogs with falsified documentation

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MADISON, Wis. (NEWS RELEASE) – Animal health officials at the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) are reminding consumers and veterinarians to verify paperwork accompanying a new puppy. This reminder comes as a result of a U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Health Alert issued recently reporting an increasing number of dogs shipped to the United States with questionable documentation of prior rabies vaccination.

“In order to ensure that you are purchasing a puppy from a reputable breeder, we recommend that you purchase from a local breeder that will allow you to see the puppy before you make the final purchase,” says Dr. Yvonne Bellay, humane animal program manager for DATCP.

According to the CDC, the dogs are being sold online, by independent sellers or in pet stores or adopted through both U.S. and international sources. They include purebred, hybrid or mixed breeds and some distributors are providing breed registration papers. Dogs are being imported from rabies-endemic countries and in several instances importers have provided inaccurate rabies vaccine certificates. Documents also state that the puppies are older than 4 months of age and fully immunized against rabies. Upon examination, these animals are found to be younger than 4 months old and sometimes as young as 4-8 weeks of age. Documentation may also claim that the puppy was born and raised in the United States.

There are some things you can do to protect yourself, Bellay says. You should be wary if the breeder from whom you are considering purchasing a puppy does any of the following:

Won’t let you see where the puppies or dogs are kept. If the breeder refuses to let you see where the puppies are kept or offers to meet you in a parking lot instead, be suspicious. They may not want you to see the conditions of the facility where the dogs are kept.

Unable or unwilling to provide information about veterinary care. Breeders and shelters are required to provide a certain level of veterinary care to animals in their possession. If they are either unable to provide documentation of such care or are unwilling to provide the information to you, be suspicious. A dog seller should be able to provide you with detailed documentation of the dates of care and the care given. Also make sure to ask about a health guarantee. What will the breeder do for you if the puppy gets sick or, worse, dies?

Advertisements do not list a license number. A licensed breeder will have a valid license number and it will be listed in any advertisements or on their website. Not all breeders are required to be licensed if they sell fewer than 25 dogs per year, but it is prudent to look for a license number which will look like this: 123456-DS.

Does not have the parent on site. If you can't see at least the dam of the litter, forget it. Breeders will often seek a stud that will best match their dam, so they may not have both parents, but they should at least have one.

For your own protection and for that of your new puppy, do your research and know what to look for when shopping for a puppy or dog.

“We have many resources available on our website to help with the responsible purchase of a new puppy including questions you should ask and tips for internet shopping,” Bellay says.

In 2011, DATCP implemented a law that requires some dog breeders and others involved in dog sales, adoptions and sheltering to be inspected and licensed to ensure the safety and well-being of the dogs and ensure that purchasers are protected as well. The law requires the department to inspect and license every dog seller and dog facility in the State of Wisconsin that sells more than 25 dogs a year from more than 3 litters. It also requires that the dogs be examined by a veterinarian before they are sold or adopted and prohibits the sale of puppies until they are at least 7 weeks old.

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