Concerns about animal health rise amid huge increase in number of pets imported into Colorado

Problem Solvers

DENVER — A FOX31 Problem Solvers investigation revealed a soaring number of animals coming into Colorado could be putting pets at risk.

The number of dogs being transported into the state has soared by an estimated 60 percent over the past six years, according to state officials.

“We are having animals imported from everywhere,” Nick Fischer with Colorado’s Pet Animal Care Facilities Act (PACFA) program said. “Not only states around Colorado but as far away as Tennessee and Arkansas and even the East Coast.”

PACFA officials say 17,000 dogs were transported into Colorado in 2013 to be adopted. That number skyrocketed to 35,000 dogs in 2018. The increase comes with concerns about health issues; officials say they are seeing ticks coming in from the east, heart worm from the south and a zoonotic disease — which is a disease that can spread from dogs to people — has already been reported in Colorado.

“We are looking at perhaps making facilities have a disease control and treatment plan,” Fischer said. “Basically, they quarantine the animals prior to adoption or they have vaccination prior to entry into the state.”

In September, the Problem Solvers exposed an outbreak of a deadly disease called distemper at former Westminster pet store Puppies N’ Stuff; at least 19 puppies died in a little more than one month.

“We did everything we could to make things right for the people,” former store owner Sandy McDonald said.

McDonald told the Problem Solvers a litter of Yorkies brought distemper into her store.

According to state documents, animal transporter Becky Busboom of Nebraska brought that infected litter of Yorkies to Puppies N’ Stuff on April 19; the litter of seven was diagnosed with distemper and euthanized, but the disease fatally spread to other dogs at the store.

In mid-May, Busboom drove 13 puppies into Colorado from breeders spanning three different states. At least one puppy died from distemper.

Busboom followed all regulations on her delivery. She declined to talk to us on camera.

Records show in 2018, Busboom transported 1,299 pets into Colorado: 714 to Puppies N’ Stuff, 469 to Pet City Aurora and 116 to Valley Pets in Fountain.

“The problem with these [inspections] — they are a visual inspection only. They are not a physical inspection,” Fischer said.

Colorado requires health certificates, which means a veterinarian must do a visual check of dogs and cats to be sold or adopted before they can come into the state.

At least one state representative is working on legislation to curtail disease at the state line.

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