The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has released new rules for importation of dogs less than 8 months of age for commercial purposes into Canada. The issues around canine importation have been increasingly prominent in recent years, and came to the forefront following an importation debacle in June 2020 that led to the deaths of dozens of dogs imported as part of a shipment from Ukraine last year.

The new rules are a good step. They don’t fix all the issues, they don’t address all imported dogs, and don’t seem to beef up penalties, but they should result in some improvements and hopefully a greater ability to get data about at least some of the dogs being brought into Canada every year.  The rules (for now) only apply to dogs under 8 months of age being imported for “commercial” purposes, including breeding, showing and most importantly sale/adoption. Although this is just a subset of all imported dogs, it’s a big one, as it includes commercially imported puppies like the shipment from the Ukraine last year.

Here is a summary of the main changes (you can also check out the “then and now” table from the CFIA for a side-by-side comparison with the old rules):

No more unlimited “multiple entry” import permits.

  • Previously, you could get a permit for multiple batches of dogs of undetermined sizes over a period of time. Now, you can only get single entry permits for a specific number of dogs.

Stricter rabies vaccination requirements.

  • Dogs must be vaccinated at least 28 days before shipping (previously there was no waiting period between vaccinating and importing a dog).
  • Since rabies vaccine can’t be given until 12 weeks of age according to label instructions, dogs will now have to be at least 4 months old before being shipped (although it doesn’t solve the problem of importers lying about the age of the dogs in a shipment…)

Mandatory treatment for internal and external parasites before departure.

  • That’s a good general practice for a number of reasons, so it’s great that it is now a requirement. Among other things, it helps reduce the risk of importing parasites along with the dogs, including foreign ticks or tickborne diseases. I haven’t seen the specific details yet, but the drugs used and timing of treatment relative to shipping will impact how useful this is.

Provisions for quarantine when needed.

  • We don’t have federal quarantine facilities and there was no provision for this before. Now, importers have to have an arrangement with a facility to quarantine imported dogs, if needed.
  • When quarantine will be required isn’t clearly defined, but if an issue is identified at arrival, it provides a mechanism to get the dogs quarantined and treated if necessary (at the importer’s expense) while the issues are assessed and resolved.
  • Notably, this only applies to dogs imported by air.

More organization required prior to arrival of the dogs.

  • Rather than just showing up at the border unannounced, shipments must be scheduled in advance to ensure adequate staff are available for inspecting the dogs on arrival.

Clearer rules around the kennel of origin.

  • The kennel where the dogs came from must be certified by an official vet of that country, indicating the kennel meets certain criteria specified by the CFIA.
  • This new rule still has a lot of potential loopholes and potential for corruption (e.g. if the dogs are transferred to a temporary facility before shipment, does that then become the kennel of origin?).  At least it’s an improvement on the previous rule and a step in the right direction.

Overall, I’d say the new rules are a good start, but let’s hope they don’t stop there. These changes won’t fix all the problems, but they should help.

The biggest issue that remains: Canadian consumers.

There would be no mass importation of poorly raised puppy mill dogs if people weren’t willing to put on blinders, avoid asking questions and pay thousands of dollars for a dog from a questionable source.