GAO: Live animal imports need more collaboration
A congressional watchdog agency said the myriad of federal agencies with oversight of live animal imports must collaborate more effectively to prevent the introduction of devastating diseases into the environment and even to humans.
According to Government Accountability Office investigators, the United States legally imported more than 1 billion live animals from 2005 through 2008. With increased trade and travel, zoonotic diseases (transmitted between animals and humans) and animal diseases can emerge anywhere and spread rapidly, GAO warned.
Live animal imports are governed by five principal statutes and implemented by four agencies — the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Fish and Wildlife Service, Customs and Border Protection, and Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.
In the GAO's report, it examined potential gaps in the statutory and regulatory framework governing live animal imports that may introduce disease, and the extent to which the agencies collaborate to meet their responsibilities.
GAO recommends that the department secretaries of Agriculture, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, and the Interior develop a strategy to address barriers to agency collaboration and determine data needs to effectively oversee imported animals. In commenting on a draft of this report, the Agriculture, Interior and Homeland Security departments generally agreed with GAO's findings and recommendations.