P. 639

K. Polak1
1Soi Dog Foundation, International Animal Welfare, Phuket, Thailand
Katherine Polak DVM, MS, MPH, DACVPM
167/9 Moo 4, Soi Tambon, Amphur Talang
Mai Khao 10, Thalang District, Phuket, Thailand 83110
Considering the mass movement of animals through wildlife migration, pet relocation, shelter rescue efforts, and agricultural animal export, it is easy to appreciate
the constant threat of disease introduction and spread. When considering international transport programs, protecting public health and safety are primary concerns. Animals must be appropriately selected, screened for infectious disease, and the necessary processes followed for transport. Pet transport programs must comply with local and international regulations of both the importing and exporting country. While saving animals lives is a noble goal, it must be done responsibly to mitigate the risk of disease introduction and transmission.
Selecting transport candidates
Selecting animals for international pet adoption
and transport can be challenging. Animal welfare organizations must carefully screen and choose animals based on both medical and behavioral examinations. Animals should ideally be chosen based on the lowest risk of disease. While there is often emphasis placed
on adopting puppies and kittens due to their high adoptability, they are immunologically naïve and the most susceptible to disease.
Dogs should be assessed behaviorally as well as physically. It is critical that animals are well suited for adoptive homes since unlike traditional shelters, adopted animals cannot be easily returned if the adoption is unsuccessful. Ideally, international organizations that adopt animals internationally should have a network of foster homes and/or behaviorists who can help facilitate issues should they arise in the import country.
Written guidelines and protocols
Prior to the initiation of animal transport, comprehensive standard operating procedures and guidelines for animal care must be developed. Written protocols should include how animals are selected for transport, screened for disease, preventative health procedures while the animal is in the organization’s care, transport logistics, behavioral assessment, and post-adoption follow-up.
At the export site
After selecting an animal for adoption, the organization or individual shipping an animal internationally carries
the burden of ensuring that animal is free of disease
and eligible for travel into the desired country. Ideally the shelter or facility should have a preventive care program already in existence. Prior to travel, it is recommended that the following be performed noting that import restrictions may vary depending on the country of import and export:
Spay/neuter surgery – Sterilization should ideally be performed prior to travel. Spay/neuter surgery may allow for the identi cation of underlying conditions such as pyometra. Adequate time should be allowed between surgery and transport to allow for proper incisional healing. In international settings where veterinary training may be poor, it might be necessary to con rm the removal of all ovarian tissue in female animals prior to transport.
Comprehensive physical examination – This should be performed when deciding whether or not an animal is a sound candidate for transportation, and repeated within 24 hours of transport to detect signs of infectious disease. Vaginal and penile exams should also be performed to detect potential signs of canine transmissible venereal tumor.
Identi cation – Microchips are preferred and required by most countries for import.
Heartworm antigen testing – Many animals are transported from heartworm endemic areas to areas typically considered free of the disease. It is important to ascertain whether or not a dog has detectable antigen near the time of transport. The American Heartworm Society recommends that dogs with a positive heartworm test be started on doxycycline therapy prior to transport (1). Dogs with a negative heartworm antigen test should be re-tested six months following relocation. Some organizations may choose to treat infected dogs with either a two- or split-dose melarsomine protocol prior to transport due to the cost of treatment in the import country. Ideally, the transporting agency should allow 4-6 months to complete heartworm treatment prior to transport to reduce the risk of thromboembolism. All
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