20 May 2016

Importing Dogs Into Canada - Too Risky or the Right Thing to do?

(Andi, Little Mutts Rescue Society)
Dog rescue has long been promoted as one of the most responsible forms of dog ownership: providing the forever home for an unwanted canine that is part of the aftermath of a natural disaster; coming from an abusive or neglectful environment; or, most commonly, is a result of pet overpopulation.

For some, rescue efforts should be concentrated on the home front and until there is no need for humane societies to assist local pet populations there is no reason to be importing dogs from outside Canada – namely parts of the southern U.S. and Mexico.

For others, a life is a life and dogs that are part of the unintended consequences of natural disasters or living in states of neglect or poverty need assistance and borders should not matter.

This debate has been playing out across the country amongst rescue groups, humane societies, veterinarians and pet stores for several years, leaving many potential pet owners confused about ‘how to do the right thing’ when getting a dog.

Amy Gowertz is the founder/director of Little Mutts Rescue Society based in Calgary, Alberta, a non-profit society with an average intake of 5-15 dogs monthly; they only rescue small breed dogs (under 30 pounds) mostly from Mexico and the U.S.

According to Gowertz, organizations such as hers are not in competition with local shelters; rather, they fill a growing gap for people seeking small breeds as rescue pets, as the majority of shelter dogs in Canada have an intake of larger breeds.

“People get frustrated, as they feel they are always missing out on the smaller dogs in the local humane societies, and so they end up buying dogs from local pet stores that (often) get their dogs from puppy mills or backyard breeders,” explained Gowertz, whose own first two rescues came from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Last year Kathy Powelson, the founder of the Paws For Hope Animal Foundation, called for government regulation of animal adoption groups that are bringing dogs into B.C. from U.S. animal shelters, citing behaviour concerns.

“We are having large and unstable dogs being brought over the border and placed with families with no temperament testing being done or any attempt to match the dog with its adoptive family,” Powelson told the Vancouver Sun.

Associate Veterinary Clinics vet, Dr. Drew Van Niekerk, said the primary concern regarding foreign dog rescue among vets is infectious disease – citing heartworm (found in every province in Canada except Alberta and Saskatchewan) as an example.

“When you are free of an infectious disease in an area (region), once you have it, it’s very, very hard to get rid of it,” Van Niekerk said, noting that heartworm was said to have spread in Kelowna, B.C. from a bloodhound breeder bringing animals from the south to his property with a high mosquito population; once the heartworm circulates back and forth from the animals to the mosquitos it creates an environment for the heartworm to survive and thrive.

Cold prairie nights have staved off heartworm in Alberta and Saskatchewan so far, but that could change if more carriers are brought in.

That doesn’t mean it’s wrong to adopt foreign dogs, only that we have to be diligent about it,” said Van Niekerk, stressing that animals are mainly screened for apparent diseases, such as rabies, at the border and not things like intestinal and skin parasites or blood-borne diseases.

He also noted that people need to do their research on which rescue shelter they adopt through – some that market themselves as no-kill shelters really means ‘limited entry’ as euthanasia is normally only a necessary means to an end. “This whole battle of who cares more is ridiculous – we are all in it to help animals.”

Sage Pullen-McIntosh is the spokesperson for the Calgary Humane Society (CHS). While the CHS sees very few foreign dogs brought into their shelter – it does happen. And for them, the concern is always the unknown.

Owner surrenders assist CHS staff to understand as much as possible about the animal’s health, behaviour and assess what resources would be needed to rehome the animal. When a dog is brought in as a surrender and its roots go back across borders, the clarity of history becomes poorer and there is always a risk these animals could be carrying pathogens or parasites that could pose health risks to other dogs.

For Gowertz, the overpopulation in shelters south of the border means that many of those dogs will inevitably wind up euthanized and for her, those dogs are worth fighting for.

In the meantime, the number of rescue organizations and number of animals imported from other countries into Canada continues to grow.

The best advice for the consumer looking for a new pet?

Research and understand the risks. Ensure the organization you are adopting from has done adequate health and behaviour assessments on the dog and is focused on matching you with the right dog for your family.

By Lindsay Seewalt
Lindsay is an experienced journalist and mother of three whose heart and home is always open to a four-legged friend. With her Corgi, Angie, as household editor-in-chief, Lindsay gives back to the animal planet through the written word on anything and all ado about pets. She is passionate about topics regarding animal welfare and responsible pet ownership, which she aims to instill in both her readers and children to be compassionate animal lovers who are conscious and considerate that furry friends around the globe deserve a voice.

No comments:

Post a Comment