Importing dogs from more than 100 countries to be banned in Canada

Animal rights advocates are criticizing a new policy by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) that will ban the import of dogs from more than 100 countries.

The agency announced it will prohibit the entry of commercial dogs from countries it considers at high-risk for canine rabies beginning on Sept. 28, which is World Rabies Day. The agency says the ban is necessary to reduce the risk of dog rabies entering Canada, and defines "commercial dogs" as dogs for resale, adoption, fostering, breeding, show or exhibition, research and other purposes.

"Canada does not currently have any active cases of dog rabies, a strain that is different than the rabies typically found in wildlife...However in 2021, dogs were imported into Canada with this disease," the agency explained in a notice published on June 28. "The importation of even one rabid dog could result in transmission to humans, pets and wildlife."

Countries named by CFIA as high-risk include Ukraine and Afghanistan, which have been heavily impacted by wars; and Philippines and China, where dogs are at risk of being sold into the meat trade.

Animal Justice, a Canadian animal protection group, argues the ban will prevent the rescue of vulnerable dogs in these countries by organizations and individuals in Canada.

“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,” said Camille Labchuk, executive director of Animal Justice, in a media release.

The group has launched a petition calling on CFIA to create an exemption for animal rescues and humanitarian efforts that would allow adoptable animals into Canada. The United States Centers for Disease Control added a similar exemption to its own dog importation policy in June, and now welcomes dogs from high-risk countries as long as they meet certain vaccination and quarantine criteria.

In its petition, Animal Justice alleges CFIA did not consult with Canadian dog rescue agencies before announcing the ban, and says some of these groups are at risk of shutting down if they can no longer facilitate international rescues.

One such group, Save a Friend, works with an organization in Colombia to fund medical care and find homes for dogs saved from the streets and high-kill shelters there. It relies on adoption fees and donations to operate.

“It’s shocking that the CFIA didn’t consult with the dog rescue community before implementing this sweeping ban, which may force many organizations to shut down,” Roxanne Yanofsky, the organization's director, said in a media release. “The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated an already dire situation in Colombia for animals, and if this policy isn’t changed, dogs will suffer and die in even greater numbers.”

CTV News contacted CFIA for comment but had not received a response at the time of publication.