Rescue dogs last flight lands in Toronto before import ban

The last flight of internationally rescued Golden Retrievers landed at Toronto Pearson International Airport on Tuesday ahead of a new policy that will ban the import of dogs from more than 100 countries at the end of the month.

At Pearson, feelings soared when the dogs first met their new owners.

“We’ve had two previous rescues and it’s a wonderful life for them and a wonderful life for us,” said Lou Vanderploge who has been among more than 40 families adopting dogs.

Golden Retrievers have been rescued from shelters in Cairo, Egypt and brought to Canada by the non-profit organization Golden Rescue.

The group has rescued more than 1,700 dogs from abroad, but this is their last international rescue amid the new policy put in place by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).

“It would have been nice if CFIA had gone in and looked at our policies and procedures,” said Dr. Scott Bainbridge, a veterinarian and member of the Golden Rescue board. “After bringing in more than 1,700 dogs, we’ve never brought in a rabid dog.”

The agency says that from September 28, World Rabies Day, entry to commercial dogs from countries deemed to be at risk of contracting rabies in dogs will be banned.

Commercial Dogs Act (CFIA) defines “commercial dogs” as those used for resale, adoption, fostering, breeding, exhibition or display, research and other purposes.

Egypt and Turkey are on the list of two countries that import Golden Rescue dogs for adoption.

Since learning of the ban in June, the group has scrambled to bring 130 rescues to Canada.

Dr Bainbridge said: “There are thousands of dogs in the shelter system – it’s a matter of life or death – the conditions and healthcare are not great.”

The agency says the ban is necessary to reduce the risk of canine rabies entering Canada, which it says poses a serious health risk to Canadians and their pets, and once humans develop symptoms, the disease is always fatal.

According to CFIA, two dogs from Iran who were infected with the disease were imported into Canada. Canada currently has no confirmed cases of rabies in dogs.

“Importing a dog with rabies may result in transmission of infection to humans, pets, and wildlife,” the agency said in a public notice published in June.

“We are deeply saddened by the CFIA’s decision, and we are deeply disappointed that CFIA did not reach out to the rescue community prior to the decision to impose a ban,” said Golden Rescue’s Chairman, Fiev Tam.

“Had they done that, we would have been able to ease their concerns regarding the possible import of rabies into Canada.”

Animal advocates and rescue groups are calling for exemptions or modifications to the new measure so that they can continue rescue efforts while at the same time keeping public animals and pets safe.

“We are strict with the vaccine protocol, we actually do rabies titers before they come in to show if they have been exposed to rabies, they will be protected,” Dr. Bainbridge said.

When asked about potential exemptions, a CFIA spokesperson said, “The CFIA has developed an approach that is appropriate and proportionate to the current public health risks to animals and people, and takes into account aspects such as the CFIA’s regulatory framework and infrastructure, including quarantine facilities at points of entry.”

Unless there are exceptions, Golden Rescue says it will focus its efforts in Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia.

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