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News Release
RI Department of Environmental Management
235 Promenade Street, Providence, RI 02908
(401) 222-2771 TDD/(401) 222-4462

For Release: November 8, 2013
Contact: Gail Mastrati 222-4700 ext. 2402
Betsy Grenier, RIVMA 751-0944

Make Sure Adopted Pets are Healthy

PROVIDENCE -- Following the recent importation of a rabid puppy into Vermont and in anticipation of the upcoming holiday season when many Rhode Islanders may be taking steps to add new animal members to their families, the RI Department of Environmental Management, RI Department of Health and RI Veterinary Medical Association urge Rhode Islanders to exercise due diligence when adopting a new dog or cat. There are steps that Rhode Islanders can take to help ensure the animal they are adopting is healthy and the adoption organization with which they are working is compliant with Rhode Island law. Paying close attention to these details can increase the likelihood that adopted pets will bring many years of enjoyment to Rhode Island families.

The recent story from Vermont emphasizes the importance of adoption through properly licensed and reputable rescue agencies. At the end of September, a stray puppy from Vidalia, Georgia brokered by an out-of-state rescue organization was adopted by a Vermont family. Shortly after the adoption, the puppy began exhibiting signs consistent with rabies and was ultimately euthanized and tested for the disease. The pup tested positive for rabies, and more than 15 people exposed to her have received rabies post-exposure vaccinations. This situation, while uncommon, underscores the importance of exercising due diligence and dealing with reputable sources when adopting a new pet.

Local humane societies are wonderful locations from which to adopt because potential owners have the ability to meet animals prior to taking them home, discuss with facility personnel any behavioral issues the animal might have, and obtain a copy of the animal's vaccination and health records. Local humane societies also work closely with licensed veterinarians who assess the health of the animals in the facility, treat any medical issues, and may spay or neuter new arrivals before they are made available for adoption.

Obtaining a new pet off of the internet or from a rescue organization based out-of-state can be more challenging. There are good rescue organizations to choose from, but all potential new pet owners should be aware of the state laws under which these organizations must transact business so they can ensure they are working with reputable businesses. Rescue organizations doing business in Rhode Island must register with DEM. Additionally, any dog or cat that is imported into Rhode Island for the purpose of rescue, foster care, sheltering, adoption, brokering, or remote sale must be accompanied by a Certificate of Veterinary Inspection completed by a veterinarian licensed in the animal's state of origin within 30 days of the import into Rhode Island.

"These measures increase the likelihood that the new pet is not carrying a contagious disease that could be dangerous to humans or other animals in the household," said Rhode Island State Veterinarian Scott Marshall, DVM. "Rhode Islanders are also strongly urged to only adopt animals that they have been able to meet in person prior to the adoption. Adopting or purchasing a dog or cat off of the internet, sight unseen, is a risky practice and makes it very difficult to determine the animal's health status and behavioral characteristics, both of which are critical to integrating a new dog or cat into a family."

Adopting a new pet can be an extremely rewarding process, but it also means making a tremendous emotional and financial commitment for the entire life of that animal, which can be as much as 18 to 20 years depending on the type of pet. It should not be an impulsive decision. Taking a few additional steps up front to help ensure that a new pet is healthy and well-adjusted can help prevent disappointment down the road. The RI Department of Environmental Management, RI Department of Health and RI Veterinary Medical Association urge Rhode Islanders to do the following when adopting a pet:
  1. Work with a reputable local humane society whenever possible.
  2. Meet with the pet prior to adopting to ensure that its behavior and demeanor is a good match for your family.
  3. Obtain the animal's medical record, vaccination history and Certificate of Veterinary Inspection if required.
  4. Ensure that the dog or cat is vaccinated for rabies if it is three months of age or older.
  5. If working with a rescue organization, ensure that the business is properly registered and licensed in the State of Rhode Island and in the state where the business is based, and/or with USDA Animal Care.
For more information, Rhode Islanders can contact DEM's Division of Agriculture at (401) 222-2781 for more information on which rescue organizations are appropriately registered, or visit the DEM website at for more information on this topic.


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