Here’s today’s fun fact, courtesy of the Government Accountability Office: More than one billion live animals were legally imported into the United States from 2005 through 2008. That’s more than three times the nation’s current human population.
But the influx of fauna has a darker side: So-called “zoonotic” diseases—infectious illnesses that can be transmitted between animals and humans—“can emerge anywhere and spread rapidly around the globe,” the GAO noted in a report released Monday.
Think severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, which killed hundreds of people back in 2003. With four federal agencies sharing responsibility for animal imports, “the statutory and regulatory framework . . . has gaps that could allow the introduction of diseases into the United States,” the report found.