Customs authorities at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) intercepted eight Pomeranian puppies smuggled into the United States from Russia.
Two Russian travelers, both 27, arrived at LAX on Aug.9, declaring that they were bringing four dogs along with them on their vacation to Mexico.
Customs and Border Protection officers, however, then found that the puppies’ vaccine paperwork was falsified because the puppies were too young to receive rabies vaccinations. The officers also discovered four more puppies that the two had abandoned in a carry-on bag in the inspection area.
“We would not say it was a dangerous situation, because the area is safe, but definitely irresponsible and cruel,” a spokesperson for the Customs and Border Protection told Fox News.
Both travelers finally admitted that they smuggled the eight puppies into the U.S. in order to sell them. One of the travelers said that she was expecting to be paid as much as $600 to smuggle the Pomeranians though LAX. Pomeranians are considered a luxury breed, so they can sell from $500 to up to $1,500 depending on the dog’s pedigree. The two travelers and all eight puppies were sent back to Russia.
“According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, smuggled puppies is an issue of concern because of the high-risk of human exposure to deadly animal diseases including rabies,” LaFonda Sutton-Burke, CBP Area Port Director of the Los Angeles International Airport, said in a statement. “We strongly advise travelers to become familiar with regulations about bringing their pets into the United States.”
“The motives behind illegal puppy importation are not immediately obvious. However, a closer look reveals a big business driven by profit at the expense of the health and welfare of the underage puppies,” Molly K. Houle writes for the CDC. “Importers aim to get around these regulations, because customers demand puppies as young as 8 weeks. Profits decline by the thousands with each month a puppy ages. The puppy-loving public creating the demand is part of the problem.”
According to the CDC, all dogs coming into the United States are required to be healthy. And they must be at least 4 months old to be properly immunized against dog rabies, which has been eradicated from the United States since 2007.
“Puppies can’t be vaccinated for rabies before they’re 12 weeks old, because their mothers’ antibodies prevent the vaccine’s protection. CDC’s age requirement is timed for when puppies are developing their own immune system. When puppies are vaccinated at 12 weeks, it takes a month for them to gain their own protective rabies antibodies to be fully immunized. Therefore, it is illegal to import a puppy younger than 4 months old from a country with high risk of dog rabies into the United States, because rabies poses a public health risk. Rabies almost always causes death.”
“Smuggling of live animals and endangered species, unfortunately is a recurring issue — not only at LAX but at most of U.S. international airports,” a CBP spokesperson told Fox News. “Here at LAX we’ve stopped individuals trying to smuggle exotic live song birds from Asia, endangered lizards from Australia, animal fur, reptile skins, ivory, even monkey skulls.”