Animal rescue groups are outraged by the federal decision to ban dogs from countries at high risk of rabies in dogs

Spokespeople for rescue and animal rights groups say they are upset by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s decision to ban entry into Canada of “commercial dogs” from countries at high risk of canine rabies.

Jeffrey Berry, founder of No Dogs Left Behind, a dog rescue group, said the decision is shocking news. He said his group has rescued 300 dogs from Afghanistan and East Asia since the beginning of the year.

“It’s a devastating blow to the rescue and it literally shuts the doors in the face of survivors who are destined to be slaughtered,” Perry said on Sunday.

“These men came from wet markets. We saved them from reckless slaughter.”

In a June 28 notice to industry, the federal agency announced that dogs from a list of about 100 countries will be banned from entering Canada from September 28.

The agency says Canada has no active cases of “canine rabies,” which it says is a different strain than the rabies commonly found in wildlife, such as skunks, foxes, raccoons and bats. But she says the dogs were imported into Canada with the disease last year.

Public health risks

As a result, Public Health Canada and regional public health authorities say they have been asked to take action.

“Importing commercial dogs from these countries poses a serious public health risk to Canadians,” the agency said.

Rabies is more than 99 percent fatal to humans and dogs once symptoms start to appear, but it is nearly 100 percent preventable with proper vaccination of animals, according to the agency.

“Importing a dog with rabies can lead to transmission of infection to humans, pets and wildlife. If someone is exposed, they need to undergo serious medical treatment,” the agency said.

Karen Beck, a volunteer with No Dogs Left Behind, said she’s worried about the dogs that won’t be rescued.

“If we can’t save them, what will happen to them?”

Camille Labchuk, executive director of animal justice, said the federal agency failed to consult with animal welfare agencies before making its decision, and that it could have taken other steps to protect public health. Animal Justice describes itself as the only national non-profit animal law organization in Canada.

“We can do vaccines that are 100 percent effective. We can do tests for rabies in dogs.”

Jeffrey Perry, founder of No Dogs Left Behind, says the decision is shocking news. He said his group has rescued 300 dogs from Afghanistan and East Asia since the beginning of the year. (CBC)

In a press release, Animal Justice added: “Countless Canadian dog rescue organizations are working in those countries to rescue thousands of dogs, regulating veterinary care, air transportation to Canada, foster homes, and adoption opportunities.

“Dog rescue organizations have not been consulted about the sudden shift in policy, and many fear it will force them to close, stealing countless dogs from a second chance at life,” he continues.

“The list of countries affected by bans are those deemed by the CFIA to be a high risk of rabies in dogs, which can be prevented with appropriate vaccinations, and can also be treated through testing, quarantine and other measures.”

The organization said the new policy made no exceptions for rescue operations operating in war-torn countries, such as Ukraine and Afghanistan.

“Many Canadians are eager to adopt dogs, but this blanket ban will condemn thousands of dogs to being slaughtered in the streets, or killed in overcrowded shelters rather than finding loving homes in Canada,” Labchuk added.

“With far fewer rescued dogs available for adoption in Canada, our puppy mill problem will only get worse — backyard breeders will pump out as many puppies as possible for profit, who are born in filthy, cramped cages.”

The organization said it launched a petition asking the agency to reconsider its decision. It has already collected more than 10,000 signatures.

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