Alberta dog owner, SPCA question whether new federal puppy import rules go far enough

Click to play video: 'New federal import rules for puppies come too late for Calgary family'
New federal import rules for puppies come too late for Calgary family
WATCH: A Calgary family, along with the Alberta SPCA, welcomes new rules for the importation of puppies from other countries but also questions if they’re enough. Tomasia DaSilva reports. – May 17, 2021

New regulations for importing young puppies into Canada from other countries are being welcomed but also questioned whether they are enough.

The new rules introduced by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency took effect on May 15 and include ensuring that any imported dogs under eight months were born in a kennel and certified by an official veterinarian of the country of origin.

Calgary dog owner Ashley Anderson told Global News she wished the rules had been in place in 2018 when she got her French bulldog Howard on Kijiji.

“I was so distracted by how amazingly cute this dog was that I never thought to ask any more questions,” she added. “I was told that he was microchipped. I was told that he was cleared by the vet.”

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Ashley Anderson’s dog. Ctsy: Ashley Anderson

But Anderson said just days after getting him home, Howard became very sick.

“He was positive for two separate parasites, and he was very, very sick. We almost lost him.”

Anderson said she tried repeatedly to track down the seller with no response. She eventually got a hold of her and found out Howard was not locally bred. Instead, his passport said he had been imported from Ukraine.

Anderson said over the years, Howard’s health has deteriorated, requiring numerous tests, treatment and even surgery.

“Howard is no longer able to walk. He is no longer able to pee and poop,” she said.

Howard after one of his surgeries. Ctsy: Ashley Anderson

Howard’s health problems have taken a huge toll on the family, emotionally and financially.

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According to the family, his overall treatment has tallied about $50,000, and pet insurance has not covered it all, so they’ve started a GoFundMe page for his medical costs.

The controversial practice of allowing imported pups into Canada isn’t new.

In June 2020, dozens of sick and dead animals landed at Toronto’s airport. The CFIA launched an investigation and subsequently cancelled some import permits.

Officials told Global News these new changes should help.

“It’s anticipated that the changes to the requirements for commercial dogs under eight months of age for breeding and resale (including adoption) end uses will improve compliance,” the CFIA said.

“The CFIA will review the outcomes from the updated requirement to inform any other potential changes as necessary.”

The Alberta SPCA welcomed the changes.

“We think the rules are a step in the right direction,” Dan Kobe said.

The SPCA said it has received complaints about importers and other breeders, adding there are many reputable breeders that offer “health guarantees.”

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As for the non-reputable ones, ultimately, there is little the SPCA as an organization can do.

Kobe added it’s important consumers ask the right questions and diligently check out any animal before they buy it.

“The issue remains that the puppies are being brought in because people are willing to buy them, and as long as people are willing to buy them, this will continue,” Kobe said.

“If you bought the animal on the side of the road or in a parking lot and you haven’t seen where the animal was actually raised, suddenly it becomes more difficult to track down that person and make them accountable.”

Global News was able to track down the person who sold Howard. We have decided not to identify her due to her family receiving several serious threats.

She told Global News she was the middleman and had no idea if Howard was healthy or not. She has now refunded the Andersons for the cost of the puppy and has been helping out with some other costs.

Ashley Anderson’s dog and child. Ctsy: Ashley Anderson
Ashley Anderson’s dog and child. Ctsy: Ashley Anderson

Anderson said she doesn’t regret getting the precious pup but does regret how she got him. She also takes complete ownership of the mistakes she has made.

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“I’m taking that blame 100 per cent,” she said.

But Anderson said she would never give him up now.

“Who knows where this dog would have ended up if he had ended up with someone else. They probably would have put him down.”

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