Animal rescue groups upset with federal decision to ban dogs from countries at risk of canine rabies

Spokespeople for animal rescue and rights groups say they are upset with a Canadian Food Inspection Agency decision to ban the entry of “commercial dogs” into Canada from countries at risk of dog rabies.

Jeffrey Beri, founder of No Dogs Left Behind, a dog rescue group, said the decision is terrible news. He said his group has saved 300 dogs from Afghanistan and East Asia since the start of the year.

“It’s a devastating blow to rescue and it literally shuts the doors on survivors that were destined for slaughter,” Beri said on Sunday.

“These guys came from wet markets. We saved them from recklessly being slaughtered.”

In a June 28 notice to industry, the federal agency announced that dogs from a list of about 100 countries will be banned from entering Canada as of Sept. 28.

The agency says Canada does not have any active cases of “dog rabies,” which it says is a strain different than the rabies typically found in wildlife, such as skunks, foxes, raccoons and bats. But it says dogs were imported into Canada with the disease last year.

‘Public health risk’

As a result, it says the Public Health Agency of Canada and provincial public health authorities have asked it to take action.

“Importing commercial dogs from these countries poses a serious public health risk to Canadians,” the agency said.

Rabies is more than 99 per cent fatal for humans and dogs once they start to show symptoms, but it’s nearly 100 per cent preventable with proper vaccination of animals, according to the agency.

“The importation of even one rabid dog could result in transmission to humans, pets, and wildlife. If a person is exposed, they need to undergo serious medical treatment,” the agency said.

Karen Beck, a volunteer with No Dogs Left Behind, said she is concerned about the dogs that will not be rescued.

“If we can’t save them, what will happen to them?”

Camille Labchuk, executive director of Animal Justice, said the federal agency failed to consult with animal welfare agencies before making its decision and that it could have taken other steps to protect public health. Animal Justice describes itself as Canada’s only national animal law non-profit organization.

“We can do vaccinations that are 100 per cent effective. We can do tests for canine rabies.”

Jeffrey Beri, founder of No Dogs Left Behind, says the decision is terrible news. He said his group has saved 300 dogs from Afghanistan and East Asia since the start of the year. (CBC)

In a news release, Animal Justice added: “Countless Canadian dog rescue organizations work in those countries to rescue thousands of dogs, organizing veterinary care, air transport to Canada, foster homes, and adoption opportunities.

“Dog rescue organizations weren’t consulted on the abrupt policy shift, and many fear it will force them to shut down, robbing countless dogs for a second chance at life,” it continues.

“The list of countries affected by the ban are those the CFIA considers to be high risk for dog rabies, which is preventable with appropriate vaccinations, and can also be addressed through testing, quarantine, and other measures.”

The organization said the new policy has no exemptions for rescues operating in war-torn countries, such as Ukraine and Afghanistan.

“Many Canadians are eager to adopt dogs, but this blanket ban will condemn thousands of dogs to languish in the streets, or be killed in overcrowded shelters instead of finding loving homes in Canada,” Labchuk added.

“And with far fewer rescued dogs available for adoption in Canada, our puppy mill problem will get worse — backyard breeders will pump out as many puppies as possible for profit, born into filthy, cramped cages.”

The organization said it has launched a petition to ask the agency to reconsider its decision. It has already collected more than 10,000 signatures.

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