Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Is importing rescue dogs to Nova Scotia good or bad?

There is probably no other hot button topic in the world of dog rescue than the issue of whether or not it's okay to import dogs from areas of the world where dogs aren't treated as well as we treat them here.

In order to bring a dog into Canada currently - all you need is a rabies certificate - they do not need to be quarantined, they do not need a health certificate, basically they don't need anything - if they are younger than 8 months old there are a couple more things they need - but older than 8 months old if they have a rabies certificate - they can pretty much just walk in.

They are visually looked at by Border Services Personnel - so if they look visually ill they can be turned back at the border - but if they look healthy - they will be allowed in.

Thousands and thousands and thousands of dogs are imported into Canada via rescue organizations all across Canada every year - they come from all around the world - the United States, Iran, Cuba, Mexico, Korea, China - anywhere that there are excess dogs - we take them.

There is a belief that we don't have an overpopulation of dogs in Canada - and especially in Nova Scotia.  Because we are a no-kill province - the people who have started up rescues here tell people that we are actually short of dogs.

That is of course untrue.  But I'll get to that later.

Dogs being imported is happening all across Canada - it isn't unique to Nova Scotia - and some would say it's a problem all across the country, not just here - but I'm just going to talk about here.

Importing dogs on a large scale is really a recent phenonemon - probably the last five years, other than greyhound rescue which has been going on for a lot longer and I'm not going to talk about that because that's a different thing - they are excluded from this discussion.

There are two ways that dogs find their way into Canada - people go away on vacation, see a dog on the streets, fall in love and bring them home or see a dog at a rescue and adopt them and find a way to bring them home.  They aren't really a problem because their numbers aren't huge.

What is becoming a problem is rescues that have started that are large scale and are dedicated to importing dogs - they bring in at least 30 dogs at a time from away and don't seem to adequately prepare for the numbers of dogs they're bringing in.

One rescue in particular - a rescue in New Brunswick that brings their dogs in from Georgia - has at least 50% of their dogs infected with heartworm when they arrive, and the treatment that they give them is called the "slow kill" method so they still have the heartworm in their bodies for months after they arrive. They swear up and down that heartworm is not contagious because our weather is too cold - but heartworm is endemic in Maine - and I think you'll agree that Maine's weather isn't too much different than ours - so how can our weather be too cold?

And veterinarians disagree with their assertion that heartworm is not contagious - so I am going to believe a veterinarian over someone who runs a dog rescue.

And that is one of the big problems with importing dogs - the diseases that they bring with them that we don't have here - heartworm, rabies, Anaplasmosis, babesiosis and Ehrlichia - all diseases that are not native to us that have been seen by veterinarians in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia because of imported dogs - well we haven't had a case of rabies in dogs yet - but it'll probably be coming.

Another problem is that - almost all of the dogs coming from the United States are being pulled from euthanization lists - and we generally don't know why they were put on those lists.  And then they aren't properly behaviourally screened before they are put in vans and brought to our area.

So unfortunately we have had some cases of aggressive dogs that have been dogs who were imported from the southern United States.  And it doesn't matter what the breed of the dog is - it is my belief that any dog over a certain weight can do damage - it doesn't matter if it's a golden retriever, a husky, a german shepherd or a bulldog - if they have had life experiences that make them fearful and want to lash out - they are going to hurt you.

Hearts of the North Rescue in New Brunswick at the beginning of this year - was in the news because they had imported so many aggressive dogs that they said they were going to pause their adoptions - but they never slowed down - not even for one day.  They have such a strong belief in their mission - that they just couldn't do it.  And they have brought up more than 1,000 - maybe more dogs from the South.

Another problem with importing dogs is that it doesn't help the area where the dogs come from - if you take 100 dogs from a euthanization list in a kill shelter - another 100 dogs will fill that list the next day.  There is an overpopulation problem in the US - and we here in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick are not going to solve that problem that is for sure.  Only the people in that area are going to solve the problem - with spaying and neutering, licencing of animals, closing down of puppy mills and backyard breeders and things like that - shipping excess animals to places like here is not going to solve their problem.

There are 30 million people in all of Canada and 30 million people in the state of California - do you think that Canada is going to solve California's overpopulation's problem?   There are 28 million people in Texas and 900,000 people in Nova Scotia - do you think Nova Scotia is going to solve Texas's overpopulation problem?  I don't think so, as much as we might want to.

The people who are running these rescue's that have sprouted up who are importing dogs may think they have the best interest's of the dogs in mind - but a lot of them just seem to be in over their head.  They are bringing in 30 dogs at a time - and as the dogs arrive - they post to Facebook begging for food and collars and leashes - you'd think that they'd ask for that food 2 weeks before the dogs arrived - not as they arrive.

And when you look on Google - there is 4,043 kms between Harvey Texas and Halifax Nova Scotia - this picture shows how 26 dogs were transported between these 2 cities - how this van made it over the border I have no idea.  And how they all arrived healthy is another question.

Another thing that no one wants to talk about, is money.  Some rescues are making a lot of money off  of importing dogs.  Most of these dogs are being spayed and neutered and vaccinated at their place of origin, and then transported here for free - and then the rescue here is charging a minimum of a $400 adoption fee - and asking the public for donations of food, leashes and everything else that they need and doing constant go-fundme's asking for donations to their email addresses - and they aren't CRA registered, so none of their donations can be tracked.  There is a term for this, and it's called "retail rescue" and it has reared it's ugly head in Nova Scotia and has to be acknowledged.

So the last thing is - what does this mean for dogs in Nova Scotia who need to be rescued?

It means they have to go on waiting lists because there are no spaces for them.  There are now a lot more dogs in Nova Scotia than there were before - not every time that an imported dogs gets rescued does it stay in its original home so sometimes it needs to be rescued a second time - and sometimes that dog ends up at an SPCA or a pound and not back at the rescue who imported it - and there have been a few times that the dogs has become ill and the importer rescue couldn't handle it and signed it over to a local rescue who took on the onerable financial task of getting the dog healthy before adopting it out.  This has happened.

As well - imported dogs are very sexy and have sad back stories so people tend to want to donate money to them - making for less money donated to local rescues - and there is also less money to go around to much needed local rescue dogs - so local rescues suffer.

So after all this - what can we do about it?

The Canadian Medical Veterinary Association has a Position Statement on the Importation of Dogs that is a very good read - it's at

It says in part:

"There is limited regulatory control of importation of dogs into Canada. Animal health-related requirements are currently limited to a veterinary certificate of health and/or a rabies vaccination certificate depending on the age of the dog and whether the importation is classified as personal or commercial (10). Beyond this, no particular disease risks associated with the country of origin are considered when deciding whether or not a dog is eligible to enter Canada. In addition, in some source countries it may not be possible to confirm if the required certificates were in fact issued by a licensed veterinarian."
Changes need to happen regarding importation to dogs - behavioural screening needs to be done at their point of origin, their health must be cleared, quarantines must be carried out at their point of origin - we have to think about the dogs that are here first before we try to save the dogs that are everywhere in the world.  We can save them - but not at the cost of our own.

We have the biggest hearts in the world, there is no doubt about that, but sometimes we also need to think with our heads too.

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