A B.C. dog rescue organization is calling for the reversal of a newly imposed ban on imported dogs from over 100 countries.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is implementing a ban of commercial dogs from countries considered high-risk for canine-variant rabies.
The list includes more than 100 countries across Asia, Africa, Caribbean and Europe.
According to the CFIA, “importing commercial dogs from these countries poses a serious public health risk to Canadians.”
The agency added that its new measure “will help reduce the risk from imported commercial dogs from countries at high-risk for dog rabies.”
CFIA says commercial dogs can include, but are not limited to dogs for resale, adoption, fostering, breeding, show or exhibition, research, and other purposes.
Dr. Marco Veenis, director of the Society of B.C. Veterinarians, said veterinarians across the country are backing the ban.
He said the science show canine-variant rabies causes a huge public health risk as the disease is fatal.
“Once you start showing symptoms there is no treatment,” Veenis added. “If you are exposed to rabies, they can give you post-exposure treatment before you start showing symptoms that will prevent rabies in most cases, but that’s not a pleasant treatment.”
The society, as well as the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association, has been lobbying for more strict rules for import dogs since 2017. Veenis said this is because the disease can spread rapidly and is hard to contain.
“If you have an infected animal, they can spread the disease before showing major symptoms. So there is a good chance it flies under the radar.” he said. “By the time you realize that the dog is really sick, and it’s been to daycare for instance with a lot of other puppies, you will have a hard time tracing all the contacts.”
The CFIA said there are currently no active cases of canine-variant rabies in Canada, but the ban was implemented after two infected dogs were imported in 2021.
But Lisa McGalliar, founder of rescue Furever Freed, believes two infections is not a big enough problem to impose an import ban.
“We rescue [more than] 600 dogs a year from many of these [banned] countries and we’ve never had any issues,” McGalliar said. “If you do things the right way this won’t happen and this ban is absolutely ridiculous.”
Furever Freed is a Langley-based organization that has been importing dogs from around the country for adoption since about 2009.
McGalliar said her organization rescues a lot of dogs from slaughter trucks, dog meat farms and abusive situations, and not being able to resue them any longer will be fatal for some.
“Due to this ban a lot of dogs are going to die,” McGalliar said.
She said there are other options, other than a ban, that the CFIA could look into including mandatory titer testing and quarantine periods for incoming dogs.
“I just think that the CFIA just wanted to do the easiest solution,” McGalliar added.
The canine import ban comes into effect on Sept. 28, coinciding with World Rabies Day.
Before that deadline, Furever Freed is trying to bring as many dogs from some of the banned countries to Canada as it can.
“There’s going to be 30 to 35 dogs [coming from Chine] on September 7, and then September 19 we are going to try and get another 10 out,” McGalliar explained. “This will be their last chance to get out.”
A number of recue organizations across the province have also shared an online petition asking for the reversal of the ban.