Monday, October 7, 2013

A Clarification on Import Regulations

A short while ago, there was a rush of excitement in the rescue world when someone noticed this statement come across the Automated Import Reference System (AIRS), an electronic system for distributing information as quickly as possible regarding importing to and exporting from Canada. 
"Please note that the importation of rescued dogs will 
no longer be permitted after November 1, 2013."
As I indicated in the post below, this information was false.  

Today I was contacted by another person from rescue and asked if I would clarify this point as some key rescuers in Canada are apparently still under the impression the borders are about to be closed. I intended to clarify the regulations in the final post on the importation series, but personal  matters have kept me from completing that series just yet, so in the interest of debunking the myth that the borders are to close, I'll quickly sum the importation regulations and changes here.   

Further inquiry, including information from  CFIA (the branch of government responsible of import and export of animals) and updates on both AIRS and CFIA sites,  reveal the following points:

1.  The term 'rescued dogs' as used in the existing (pre Nov 1, 2013) importation regulations is VERY SPECIFIC and refers ONLY to stray dogs picked up in the aftermath of a natural disaster and being transported to animal welfare organizations.  It has NEVER referred to dogs being brought to Canada after a life as a stray on the streets of Thailand, or as an owner surrender in a high kill facility in California, or found on the beaches of Mexico, or any other variation of dogs that those of us working with rescues and shelters in Canada might otherwise consider 'rescued dogs'.  

2.  All other dogs coming to Canadian shelters or rescues in the past, at present, and post Nov 1, 2013, are/were supposed to be governed by the regulations for "Commercial - for resale" dogs.    The term 'resale' specifically includes those for adoption.   

3.  As of November 1, 2013, the ONLY change is that 'rescued dogs under the age of 8 months' (that is, puppies found in the aftermath of natural disasters) will no longer be allowed into Canada.  Puppies from other sources, as well as dogs over the age of 8 months from both natural disasters and from other sources, will still be allowed into Canada under the Commercial- for resale category.  The 'end use' of 'rescued dogs [as defined by CFIA - those from natural disaster areas] destined for animal welfare organizations' will cease to exist. 

It appears that the reason for this change may be due to the confusion the term 'rescued dogs' caused among importers, exporters and border security personnel.  

So, what are the implications of this?  

In the past and until Nov 1, 2013, stray dogs under 8 months coming from a natural disaster area and headed for an animal welfare organization required an import permit and a veterinary certificate of health, including a rabies certificate for dogs over three months of age (unless coming from an area recognized as rabies-free).  Dogs over the age of 8 months coming from a natural disaster area required only a rabies certificate (unless coming from an area recognized as rabies free, in which case nothing was required).  No permits, no health check.

After November 1st:

Dogs under 8 months of age coming to rescues and shelters in Canada will come in under the Commercial - for resale category and will require:
  • an import permit, 
  • a health certificate, 
  • a microchip, 
  • a rabies certificate (unless from a rabies free country or under three months), 
  • must be vaccinated for distemper, hepatitis, parvo virus, and para-influenza
  • be at least 8 weeks of age
  • must have been born in a licensed kennel   
More importantly:

These dogs, AND ALL THOSE IN THE KENNELS FROM WHICH THEY ARE BEING IMPORTED, must be "certified as healthy and free of all clinical evidence of contagious or infectious disease and, as far as can be determined, exposure thereto."  There can have been no cases of distemper, hepatitis, parvo, or parainfluence in the kennel of origin for 90 days preceding shipment.  

Puppies picked up as strays in the aftermath of a natural disaster will no longer be permitted, nor will puppies in shelters who were not born in a licensed kennel.  There are some other criteria, but these are the main ones.   

Dogs over 8 months of age:

After November 1st, all dogs over 8 months of age coming to rescues and shelters in Canada, including those picked up as strays in the aftermath of natural disasters,  will come in under Commercial - for resale category and will require only a rabies certificate.  There is NO import permit, NO health certificate, NO 'clean kennel' requirements, NO requirements for other vaccinations.  That means there is no change for these dogs.  

And there is not, and never has been, a quarantine period. 

There are other rules for domestic dogs and puppies not bound for resale/adoption, such as a single dog/puppy being shipped by a breeder in another country to a buyer in Canada who has already paid the breeder and will be keeping the dog as a domestic pet, or those purchased in the other country and being brought back by their new owner for their own home. 

It behooves anyone importing dogs of any age, from any source, for any reason, to read ALL the categories and criteria regardless of what the shelter or the individual shipping the dogs to you may say.  You are the one held accountable at the border.  

Better yet, don't import at all.  

Note:  The writer of this blog takes no responsibility for the accuracy or completeness of this information. There is a combined total of 37 pages of regulations on the importation of dogs when one accesses the AIRS and CFIA sites, and the regulations can change at any time. The above is my synopsis of the key points relevant to rescue organizations at the time of writing.  It is up to any person or organization planning to import dogs to Canada to do their own homework and read all the regulations found on this site:
There will be one more post on the importation of dogs,  addressing the health concerns being raised by veterinarians in Canada, and the ethics of rescue.  Due to personal matters here, I am not sure when that post will be ready.  

Edited to add:  I am turning off 'comments' for this post as already I'm getting backlash for posting this clarification.   A reader in Maple Ridge/Mission area (IP rudely objected because of the caveat that I am not responsible for the accuracy of the information.   WTF?  That's pretty standard practice when providing an interpretation of regulations!   Good Grief!  And yes, I DO know who you are!