African Swine Fever (ASF) is a devastating viral disease of swine that isn’t currently present in the US or Canada. Although the ASF virus only infects pigs, it is quite hardy and can be tracked around by humans, other animals and contaminated clothing, equipment, animal feed and uncooked pork products (like sausages).  It can also be spread by certain soft-bodied ticks belonging to the genus Ornithodoros.

Recently, ASF was found in the Dominican Republic, which is a little too close for comfort. If it reaches continental North America, it will cause massive disease and death in pigs, major disruption of the pork supply chain, and have a devastating economic impact on pork producers and result in an immediately loss of export markets for a considerable period of time.

Keeping ASF out of the US and Canada is a huge priority.  There are already a lot of regulations and restrictions on things like pork products and feed from countries that are not known to be free of ASF, as well as rules for travellers  from these countries.  As an additional precaution, the USDA has added more rules for certain dogs being imported from countries where ASF is present.

The new rules don’t apply to dogs being brought to the US as personal pets, but only to those imported for resale / adoption (which includes rescues that don’t game the system by saying all the dogs they import are personal pets, when they’re clearly not), likely because there are already additional rules for this class of dogs, which makes it easier to apply/enforce a few more.  But it would be better if they could have just said “all dogs.”

It’s still a good step.  The new requirements are basic and logical, including:

  • Shipping containers have to be free of dirt, shavings, straw and any other organic bedding materials.
  • Bedding must be disposed of at the entry point “in a way that prevents the introduction or spread of ASF” (e.g. incineration, disinfection).
  • Dogs must have a microchip.
  • Dogs must be bathed at the U.S. post-entry point within 2 calendar days of arrival. (I’m not sure why they’re given 2 days. This could easily be done quicker).

These are straightforward, feasible and minimally disruptive. The risk of a dog being the source of ASF virus entry to the US are very low, but it makes sense to take basic measures like this, since a single case of ASF in the US would have devastating effects on animal health, animal welfare and the economy.

Similar step by Canada would make sense. There’s nothing to lose, and when the outcome could be catastrophic, being proactive is the key, even with low yield activities.