CVMA-ACMV

Importation of Dogs into Canada - Position Statement

March 16, 2017

Position

The CVMA will support the importation of dogs into Canada only after effective controls are in place that mitigate the risk to Canadians and resident animal populations from infectious disease. Furthermore, the CVMA needs to observe policies put in place that protect the welfare of the imported animal(s). The CVMA encourages the federal government to play a leadership role in the development of effective policies, legislation, regulation, and risk management strategies at the national level. In addition, the CVMA encourages development and implementation of educational initiatives by stakeholder organizations to inform their members about animal health, public health, animal welfare risks, and the associated mitigation strategies pertaining to the importation to and transboundary movement of dogs within Canada. 

Summary

  • The importation of dogs into Canada as well as the transboundary movement of dogs within Canada can threaten the health of the public as well as resident animal populations.
  • The importation of dogs into Canada as well as the transboundary movement of dogs within Canada may have animal welfare implications.
  • Although effective controls and risk management strategies do exist in other countries, there is limited regulatory control of importation of dogs into Canada.
  • The CVMA supports and encourages the development and enforcement of Canadian dog importation regulations and guidelines, while acknowledging that limits on federal regulatory authority do exist.
  • The CVMA recognizes that education is a key element in the effective management of disease risk from importation of dogs and from the transboundary movement of dogs within Canada.

Background

  1. Dogs are imported into Canada for many reasons:  as personal pets accompanied by owners, for commercial purposes (e.g., breeding animals), for financial gain by people selling the animals, or by animal welfare organizations (e.g., shelters, rescue organizations) which are generally motivated by a desire to improve the lives of the affected animals. The latter organizations may import dogs following natural disasters (e.g., hurricanes, earthquakes) because they are stray or unwanted animals in their country of origin, for cultural reasons (e.g., dogs removed from the meat trade), or simply because demand for dogs as pets outstrips supply in a particular area (1-3).
  1. The CVMA recognizes that the importation of dogs can present hazards to public health and resident animal populations due to the concomitant movement of diseases originating in foreign countries that may, or may not, already occur endemically in Canada. In addition, there may be animal welfare issues arising from movement of animals with questionable health status during their transport to Canada.
  1. Controls and risk management strategies for dogs must be designed to mitigate the risk of entry of animals infected with pathogens of concern (e.g., viruses such as canine distemper, canine parvovirus, rabies, canine influenza; bacteria such as Brucella canis, parasites such as Echinoccocus, Leishmania, heartworm) since these agents can pose a significant risk to animal and public health (4-9).
  1. While importation is the focus of this position statement, the CVMA recognizes that the transboundary (e.g., interprovincial, interregional) movement of dogs within Canada is closely linked to, and often follows, importation. This may present similar risks with respect to the health of the public and reginal (within Canada) animal populations, and welfare of animals during transportation.
  1. With regard to importation of dogs, effective controls and risk management strategies could include formal risk assessments based on country of origin, pre-screening of dogs for a range of diseases, screening tests for pathogens upon arrival, preventive use of parasiticide therapy, quarantine, vaccination, pre-departure veterinary examination, and health certification.
  1. At the present time, 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.
  1. Current requirements vary greatly between personal and commercial importation of dogs. Personal importation has few requirements (primarily rabies vaccination), whereas commercial importations have more stringent requirements including vaccinations, health checks, permanent identification, and the need for import permits (10).
  1. In some cases, dogs have arrived in Canada as “owner accompanied” animals ostensibly so that the stricter rules pertaining to commercial imports can be circumvented (11). There is little information available regarding how frequently this might occur.
  1. Animals infected with disease-causing agents may not be demonstrating clinical signs of illness. Certificates of health issued by foreign veterinary authorities, therefore, may not be true indicators of the infection status for many disease-causing agents presented by an imported dog.
  1. The CVMA supports and encourages the development and enforcement of Canadian dog importation regulations and guidelines wherever possible (e.g., in the case of a federally regulated disease such as rabies), that would require appropriate risk-based health screening, preventive medicine requirements, and health certification to mitigate the risk to animal and public health.
  1. The CVMA acknowledges that current import guidelines established by the World Trade Organization (WTO) (12) state that a country cannot impose restrictions for diseases that exist within its borders and for which no programs are in place to control or eliminate the disease.
  1. The CVMA recognizes that education is a key element in the effective management of disease risk from importation of dogs and from the transboundary movement of dogs within Canada. This could include the development and dissemination of guidelines (on matters such as high-risk areas, vaccination protocols, parasiticide treatments, testing regimes, etc.) as information for domestic importers, foreign exporters, owners, veterinarians, shelters, rescue organizations, and others. 

References

  1. Mission creep: Dog rescues and animal shelters risk public health and safety. Available from: http://www.naiaonline.org/articles/article/Mission-creep-Dog-rescues-and-animal-shelters-risk-public-health-and-safety#sthash.81fmfMmU.OsfHVsNo.dpbs Last accessed May 6, 2016.
  2. About Soi Dog Foundation. Available from: http://www.soidog.org/en/about-soi-dog/ Last accessed February 21, 2017.
  3. How Canada became a haven for the world’s unwanted dogs. Thousands of international strays are finding a new home in Canada. Available from: http://www.macleans.ca/news/canada/give-us-your-mangy-masses/ Last accessed May 5, 2016.
  4. Day MJ, Breitschwerdt E, Cleaveland S, et al. Surveillance of zoonotic infectious diseases transmitted by small companion animals. Emerg Infect Dis. December 2012. Available from: http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/18/12/12-0664_article Last accessed August 31, 2015.
  5. Importation of Pets: Archive. Available from: http://www.wormsandgermsblog.com/tags/importation/ Last accessed May 5, 2016.
  6. McQuiston et al. Importation of dogs into the United States: Risks of rabies and other zoonotic diseases. Zoonoses and Public Health 2008;55:421-426.
  7. Sinclair JR, Washburn F, Fox S, Lankau EW. Dogs entering the United States from rabies-endemic countries, 2001-2012. Zoonoses and Public Health 2015;62:393-400.
  8. Fooks and Johnson, 2014. Jet set pets: Examining the zoonosis risk in animal import and travel across the European Union. Veterinary Medicine: research and reports volume 2015;6:17-25. Available from: https://www.dovepress.com/jet-set-pets-examining-the-zoonosis-risk-in-animal-import-and-travel-a-peer-reviewed-article-VMRR Last accessed May 5, 2016.
  9. Castrodale et al. Rabies in a puppy iImported from India to the USA, March 2007. Zoonoses and Public Health 2008;55:427-430.
  10. Canadian Food Inspection Agency Requirements for Importing or Travelling with Domestic Dogs. Available from: http://www.inspection.gc.ca/animals/terrestrial-animals/imports/policies/live-animals/pets/dogs/eng/1331876172009/1331876307796 Last accessed January 28, 2015.
  11. Canadian Border Control Turns Away Dogs Imported into Toronto. Available from: http://www.torontopetdaily.com/2015/07/canada-customs-turns-away-dogs-imported.html Last accessed May 5, 2016.
  12. WTO Agreement on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures. Available from: https://www.wto.org/english/docs_e/legal_e/ursum_e.htm#bAgreement Last accessed February 21, 2017.

(Adopted November 2016)