Pot-Bellied Pigs, a Hurricane, and Puerto Rico

Although Puerto Rico is considered a state, health concerns arise when live animals are shipped from the island to the continental U.S. ( freeimages.com )

When Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico last year, its impact was devastating. It destroyed an already compromised infrastructure and displaced thousands of people and pets. As part of the recovery effort, many animals were rescued and brought to the U.S., but this action has far-reaching implications in terms of animal health.

According to the Swine Health Information Center (SHIC), two pot-bellied pigs were shipped from Puerto Rico to the continental U.S., which prompted SHIC, National Pork Board, National Pork Producers Council, and the American Association of Swine Veterinarians to ask questions about related risks to the health of the mainland U.S. swine herd on producers’ behalf.

Personnel at USDA's Non-Identity Employee System (NEIS) responded to the inquiry, reports SHIC.

In their reply to the groups, NEIS said, “Movement of swine, including pot-bellied pigs, from Puerto Rico to the mainland United States is considered interstate movement. The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico is a part of the United States and is considered as a state under federal regulations. Swine transported interstate is not an international import. Therefore, a federal permit is not required, and the movement is regulated by each state. Brucellosis and pseudorabies are the main diseases of concern for the interstate movement. The United States, including Puerto Rico, is free of classical swine fever (CSF).”

"SHIC is watchful for events such as these and asking questions for the benefit of U.S. pork producers to ensure the health status of our national herd is not negatively impacted by such events, even those done under the guise of disaster relief and recovery," the Center said in a report.

Consumers with pets may not be as aware of, or concerned about, the impact of a foreign animal disease in the U.S. It's important that organizations representing animal agriculture remain vigilant in their oversight.