Animal rescue

Animal rescue groups call for end to international ban on rescue dogs

Animal rescue organizations are battling a looming deadline that will prevent rescue dogs from entering Canada. The policy will prohibit the importation of commercial dogs deemed to pose a high risk of rabies transmission into the country.

Animal rescue and advocacy groups have been racing to bring as many dogs as possible to Ontario before a nationwide ban takes effect at the end of the month.

On September 28, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) will implement a national ban on the importation of dogs from more than 100 countries, including Ukraine and Afghanistan.

The ban means commercial dogs for resale, adoption, fostering or breeding will be banned from entering the country.

In June, the The Government of Canada issued a statement stating that “all shipments of commercial dogs, regardless of age, from countries at high risk of canine rabies will be prohibited”.

“In 2021, dogs were imported into Canada with this disease. Following these events, the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) and provincial public health authorities asked the CFIA to take action to address the risks associated with imported dogs.

The agency’s concerns stem from the 99% death rate for humans and dogs if they contract rabies. This is 100% preventable with proper animal vaccination, according to the government statement.

Animal justice has started a petition urging the government to “back off” and allow adoptable dogs to come to Canada.

The Canadian animal welfare group argues the policy would be devastating for dogs in war-torn countries.

“Everyone can agree that we don’t want canine rabies to enter the country to protect both dogs and humans. It’s just a question of how to achieve this goal without condemning thousands of dogs to die on the streets or to be euthanized in shelters”, explains Camille Labchuk, executive director of Animal Justice.

Labchuk alleges the CFIA failed to consult with Canadian dog rescue agencies when implementing the ban. However, Labchuk believes there are solutions to this problem.

“The other incredibly powerful tool we have is blood antibody testing. Dogs can be tested to make sure they are developing antibodies against the rabies vaccine and with this test in hand there is almost certain that dogs will not carry rabies,” she says.

Shelby Tilley is the founder of Bark At The Moon, a volunteer non-profit animal welfare organization that welcomes dogs in need from across the province and abroad.

“We worked hard this summer to get dogs that previously came from the Dominican Republic,” says Tilley. “But there are a lot of dogs who won’t get the second chance they deserve in Canada.”

Tilley adds that just because the ban comes into effect at the end of the month doesn’t mean his job is done.

“Our help will not stop when the ban comes into force. We will shift focus and start working on funding spaying and sterilization initiatives and helping raise awareness in other ways,” she says.

— With files from Katherine DeClerq of CTV News Toronto