Some animal rescue groups fear countless dogs will starve or be killed if they are denied entry to Canada under a recently announced policy.
This week the This was announced by the Canadian Food Safety Authority that it will bar commercial dogs from entering the country from September 28 – World Rabies Day. A commercial dog is defined as a dog intended for resale, adoption, fostering, breeding, show or exhibition, research and other purposes.
The agency listed more than 100 countries classified as high risk of canine rabies.
Vancouver resident Jenni Baynham and her sister, a Qatar resident pilot, founded Fur Bae Dog Rescue four years ago. They help bring dogs into Canada from the Middle East and additionally help with domestic dog rescues.
Bayham worries about the consequences for dogs who need a second chance.
“Some of the animal shelters we work with in the Middle East can take around 200 dogs. When they can no longer take in dogs, these dogs are hit by cars and starve to death. There’s a lot of atrocity when people just shoot dogs or try to run them over with their cars,” she said.
The nonprofit jumps ensure dogs are vaccinated, microchipped, spayed or neutered before boarding a plane, she told CTV News
“We protect ourselves and our dogs from this [rabies] through vaccination. Pretending it was about rabies has been upsetting to us in the rescue industry,” Baynham said.
The CFIA claims the new measure will help protect the health and safety of people and pets.
“The CFIA has consulted with public health authorities regarding the risk to human health, and it has been determined to be significant enough to justify the implementation of an action to prevent the introduction of canine rabies into Canada,” wrote a spokesman for the authority made a statement.
“With commercial dog imports increasing 400 percent in recent years, the introduction of canine rabies poses a serious health risk to Canadians and their pets. While rabies vaccine is very effective at preventing rabies in dogs, it does not guarantee protection, it does.” unless the dog is vaccinated appropriately and regularly,” the email continued.
MOVE APPROVED BY THE VET
The news comes amid an already ongoing push to better regulate the animal rescue industry.
Last year there were two cases of canine rabies in Ontario. There was also a recent case of brucellosis in a rescue dog in Vancouver.
dr Adrian Walton, a veterinarian at Dewdney Animal Hospital, said he supports the CFIA’s decision. Not only have there been cases where vaccination documents have been falsified, he says, but sometimes vaccination alone cannot prevent the disease.
“If you’re in a country where canine rabies is endemic, there’s no way to prevent rabies from coming into that country, even if you get vaccinated,” he said. “It could already be rabid, and it can take up to a month to six months for its animal to show clinical signs.”
dr Walton said by then it will be too late for humans.
“Unfortunately, that means a death sentence for anyone infected with rabies,” he said.
“Nobody wants to stop rescued animals from overseas coming into the country. We want to find a way for them to get into the country safely.”
ANIMAL WELFARE GROUP SUPPORTS BAN
Animal welfare group Paws for Hope also agrees that the new measure will be a step in the right direction.
Kathy Powelson said she had called for more oversight of the industry because there had been some questionable bailout practices.
“If animal rescues were practiced responsibly and all necessary health checks, health protocols and quarantine were completed before the animal entered the country, as well as quarantine on landing in the country before it was put up for adoption or sale, I wouldn’t do it. I don’t think that would be necessary,” she said.
She said since COVID-19 restrictions were eased, animal shelters are full of animals looking for homes and there is no need to adopt from overseas.
She said people can still help animals abroad by supporting local organizations.
“We want spaying and neutering programs. We want mass vaccination and rabies programs in these communities. And we want to work with community members to discuss why there is such massive dog overpopulation or abuse. Just transporting them abroad doesn’t solve the problem — it’s kind of a patch-aid solution,” she said.
The United States Centers for Disease Control issued a similar ban last summer.
Three weeks ago it changed the policy include exceptions and now welcomes dogs from high-risk countries, provided they meet certain vaccination and quarantine criteria.
Camille Labchuk, an attorney and founder of Animal Justice, wants Canada to have similar exemptions for rescue organizations and humanitarian efforts.
“It can be addressed through testing, it can be addressed through quarantines and other measures that I know rescue workers are only too happy to comply with. So what’s confusing is that the CFIA hasn’t done the work to consult with emergency responders and find solutions,” Labchuk said.
She started one Petition in support of thiswhich she believes has already collected more than 12,000 signatures.
Since the measure will only come into force in a few months, she also vowed not to stop fighting for the animals.
“We are working with the dog rescue community and will be actively reaching out to the CFIA to see what can be done to ensure dogs are not paying the price for these efforts,” she said.