TORONTO—In a surprise move, the Canada Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) announced this week that it would ban dog rescue from some of the most vulnerable countries in the world, where many dogs face challenging lives on the streets or in overcrowded, high-kill shelters.
The new policy prohibits the entry into Canada of “commercial dogs” from more than 100 countries, which includes rescued dogs destined for adoption and fostering. The ban comes into effect on September 28, 2022. 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 of a second chance at life.
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 new policy has no exemptions for rescues operating in war-torn countries like Ukraine and Afghanistan, or for disasters.
The United States Centers for Disease Control announced a similar, yet temporary policy that came into effect in July, 2021 in that country. But in June, 2022 the policy was changed and now dogs can again be imported from high-risk countries, with appropriate vaccinations, testing, and other public health measures.
“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 lawyer Camille Labchuk, executive director of Animal Justice. “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.
“Animal Justice is calling on the CFIA to do what it should have done in the first place, and ensure dog rescue from these countries can continue with the appropriate safeguards. At the very least, there must be exceptions for humanitarian reasons, such as conflict and disasters.”
Save A Friend is a volunteer-run dog rescue that will be affected by the ban. They partner with a Colombian organization to save dogs from the streets and high-kill shelters, and find as many homes as possible for them in Canada. Through adoption fees and donations, they are able to fund hundreds of spay and neuter operations every year in Colombia, helping end the cycle of suffering for homeless companion animals.
“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,” said Roxanne Yanofsky, a director of Save A Friend. “There are ways to keep dogs safe from rabies, including certified vaccination papers, rabies antibody testing, and other measures. 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.”
The list of countries includes China and the Philippines—countries from which dogs are regularly rescued from the dog meat trade, and brought to Canada to find loving homes.
Animal Justice has launched a petition calling on the CFIA to reverse course and allow adoptable dogs to come to Canada.