VIEWPOINT: Permits for pets: Get real
By Barry Bach
FARGO - Bringing your pet across the North Dakota state border without a health certificate and import permit could be punishable by up to a $5,000 fine.
The Board of Animal Health has issued a Notice of Intent to Amend Administrative Rules. Among the regulations the board is proposing to amend is paragraph 48-02-01-02 of the North Dakota Administrative Code to include the provision that: "Except as provided in this section, no person may import any domestic animal (your pets, hunting dogs, horses etc.) or poultry without first obtaining an import permit from the office of the state veterinarian."
In addition, the vet has to check over your pet and give it a health certificate within 30 days of your border crossing. The cost of obtaining the import permit and health certificate is approximately $30. Also, any pet purchased from outside the state for sale in North Dakota will be subject to the same requirements, and the cost will be passed on to the purchaser.
The stimulus for this proposed amendment was the outbreak of foot and mouth disease in England in early 2001. Today, foot and mouth disease does not exist in England or North America. The real interesting part of this proposed ruling is that dogs and cats cannot contract foot and mouth disease, but the board requires they have an import permit to enter North Dakota. Bison, cattle, sheep and swine can contract foot and mouth disease, but they are exempt from this proposed ruling if they originate from a producer's premises in Minnesota, South Dakota or Montana and are delivered directly to a licensed livestock auction market in North Dakota.
Consequently, a rancher can bring a shipment of livestock that can carry the disease into North Dakota and not need an import permit. However, if he brings his dog that can't carry the disease, he must have an import permit for the dog
So, the bottom line from this ruling is the state board has determined we need to get health certificates and import permits for the dogs and cats crossing the border, even though they can't contract foot and mouth disease, even if it existed in this country. At the same time, they exempted the animals that can contract it and would be coming into contact with other livestock. Why did they exempt those animals? Because of the additional cost required to get the import permit and the burden it would put on each of their special interests.
To give you an idea how this can affect you, as written you would need a health certificate and import permit within 30 days of bringing your pet into North Dakota to do the following:
• Taking your pet to a bordering state for the weekend and returning.
• Bringing your dog or cat into North Dakota for any purpose.
• Bringing your hunting dog into North Dakota.
• Bringing your horse into North Dakota for a competition.
Additionally, the pet industry will be hit with additional charges to bring pets into the state. Those costs will have to be passed on to the consumer.
All this, to prevent a disease that does not exist in North America.
If this makes as little sense to you as it does me, help us by calling your local representatives. My concern is the lack of representation for pet owners and the pet industry on the Board of Animal Health. The board has eight members, six from the cattle, sheep, swine and bison industry. The other two board members are veterinarians, usually specializing in large livestock. You might ask your representative who the board answers to when it created senseless rulings such as this. The answer is nobody.
Board members are appointed by the governor and operate as a subagency under the Department of Agriculture, but answer to nobody but themselves. There are no elected officials in the chain of authority/responsibility.
I understand that the board only is trying to protect the livestock industry from a terrible disease, but common sense must prevail. People can carry foot and mouth disease as our pets can. Should we start requiring all people entering the state to have an import permit?
Please call your elected representatives and ask what this is all about. A public hearing on the proposed amendments is scheduled for 9 a.m. Tuesday in the North Dakota Heritage Center on the State Capitol Grounds in Bismarck.
Bach is a businessman and pet owner in Fargo.