Following the recent debacle with a large group of imported dogs from Ukraine in early June, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has cancelled import permits for all commercial puppies under 8 months of age from Ukraine. It will not issue any new permits “until the CFIA is satisfied that import conditions and international transport standards are in place and that animals will travel safely in the future.”

Import permits are required for importation of commercial shipments of dogs less than 8 months of age. They are not required if the dogs are over 8 months of age, or if they are personal pets.  This creates some big loopholes in the system, since it’s easy for people to claim that puppies are older than they actually are, and for people to import batches of dogs that are for sale or adoption (making them commercial dogs) but claiming they are personal pets. It also allows importation of pregnant dogs without a permit, which has been seen in the US as well where people have imported heavily pregnant dogs as a means of bypassing puppy importation restrictions.

The impact of the CFIA restrictions will be hard to measure, because there are various ways people could potentially try to get around them. There are some important questions that would help us gauge the impact, but unfortunately they are virtually impossible to answer right now because of the lack of data collection about personal pet importations, and lack of import permit requirements for dogs over 8 months of age:

  • Will there now be an upswing in “personal” dog imports from the Ukraine?
  • Will we see importation of heavily pregnant dogs as a way to get puppies in the country?
  • Will we see lots of dogs that are stated as being 8 months old when they’re really much younger? (How do you prove a puppy’s age when they don’t have anything like a birth certificate?)
  • Will the total number of dogs being imported from Ukraine actually change? (e.g. if there are fewer puppies imported, will more “older” dogs be imported?)
  • Will we see Ukrainian dogs coming in via neighbouring countries or other transit countries, instead of directly from the Ukraine?

Hopefully it’s a useful step, and it’s great to see some action taken in an area that’s not received much regulatory attention in Canada in the past, but I see lots of potential ways people might get around the restriction. Time will tell, but increased interest and awareness of canine importation issues is certainly a good thing.

Click here to download a pdf of this canine importation infographic from the CFIA.