A new rule that comes into effect on September 28 prohibits the importation of dogs from more than 100 countries considered to be at high risk for canine-variant rabies.
A British Columbia dog rescue organization says a federal ban on dogs imported from about 100 countries will negatively impact dogs around the world.
The new restriction, implemented by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, takes effect on September 28 — World Rabies Day — and prohibits the entry of commercial dogs from countries deemed to be at high risk of rabies canine variant.
In its announcement, the agency noted that rabies is more than 99% fatal to humans and dogs once they start showing symptoms. “The importation of a single rabid dog could lead to its transmission to humans, pets and wildlife. If a person is exposed, they should undergo serious medical treatment.”
The agency said there are no active cases of canine rabies in Canada, but the ban was initiated because two infected dogs were imported into the country in 2021.
The decision was endorsed by the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association, which has been pushing for tougher dog import laws since at least 2017.
“We always knew this was a real risk and a real danger, but when these cases were discovered, it became a real and present danger,” said veterinarian Dr Louis Kwantes, chairman. from the Association. “If the canine variant starts circulating within a canine population, it could be devastating.
“If there were to be an outbreak there is no doubt that extreme measures would be taken to try to prevent it and that would include euthanizing a number of dogs.”
Kwantes said rabies has a long incubation period and the only method to definitively test for it in dogs is to perform a brain biopsy, which would require euthanizing the animal.
“There is no guaranteed test for rabies that can be done on a live animal,” he said. “Given the long incubation period, the only other way to significantly reduce the risk would be to take titles and also quarantine for six months. Cost-wise, this becomes prohibitive.
A titer is a test that detects previous infections and antibodies in the blood.
Jill O’Connell of Cordova Bay, whose mixed-breed dog George was imported from Harbin, China, in March, says two cases of rabies aren’t a strong enough case to ban dogs from more than 100 countries. She said that before being rescued, George was raised for the food trade in China. But no Chinese rescue dogs will find homes in Canada after Sept. 28.
“I really believe in giving those dogs that are abused or bred for the wrong reasons, [in] giving them another chance,” she said.
George was brought to Canada by Furever Freed, an international dog rescue organization based in Langley that brings dozens of dogs to Vancouver Island every year. On Saturday, the organization will transport seven dogs to new homes across the island.
“We can’t even track the people on the island who are adopting from us,” said founder Lisa McGaillard.
The organization is working with partner rescue centers around the world, including two – one in Afghanistan and another in China – that will be affected by the ban.
McGaillard said his team was importing 33 dogs from China on Sept. 7 in a bid to get as many dogs out as possible before the ban takes effect.
“There are a lot of dogs that are going to die because of this,” she said. “It’s really devastating.”
Instead of a ban, McGaillard suggested mandatory title testing and quarantine periods for incoming dogs.
“We just don’t understand why Canada is going ahead with this,” she said. “They don’t have to do a complete ban. There are other ways to improve the health of our dogs and our people here.
The dog rescue group has launched a petition, but McGaillard said that on September 28, Furever Freed will have to stop bringing dogs from banned countries and may increase admission of those not on the list, such as the Mexico.
“It’s heartbreaking when you’re a rescue [organization] and you have to keep the dogs away and say no.
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