In the US, for instance, many are unaware that their country is becoming a hub for exporting rescue dogs, noted AKC Government Relations via AKC (American Kennel Club), a recognized and trusted expert in providing information related to dog health, breed, and training. Americans adopt animals through rescues as well as a “ready-made market.” According to AKC, the rules regarding the importation of dogs can be easily disregarded, enabling exporters to send sick animals to the US.
Moreover, imported rescue dogs are not tracked upon arrival in the US or after they are in rescue channels. Founder and national director of the National Animal Interest Alliance, Patti Strand noted that nearly one million rescue dogs are imported each year from regions not known for having top-grade canine health and standards. These included canines from several states in the Middle East, Turkey, China, and South Korea.
In Europe, rescuing and importing dogs from abroad is also becoming a prevalent trend, with many of them living on the streets and in unregulated breeding houses, and are being bred for consumption. Cases like these prompt charities and independent groups to rescue dogs and put them up for adoption in a more animal-friendly country.
Survey On Importing Rescue Dogs Into the UK
Charlotte Norman, Jenny Stavisky, and Carri Westgarth of BMJ Journals Vet Record, BVA’s leading veterinary journal, said that 3,080 out of 3,826 questionnaires were completed and eligible for the analysis, with 67.3% having at least one other dog, 36.8% having cats, and 17.6% owning no other animals. The dogs imported were predominantly cross-breeds (65%), but some of the canines were known crosses (17%) or pure breeds (16%). Out of 81 breeds, the most common breeds were Pointers (22%) and Podencos (10%).
Among 44 countries, the dogs were mainly imported from Romania (34%), Cyprus (22%), and Spain (19%). The dogs were put up for adoption because they were found on the street (61%), rescued from animal cruelty (10%), given to a shelter by their previous owners (8%), or born in a dog shelter (4%). Only 1% of dogs were from the dog meat trade. Regarding the adoption process, 89% of dogs were reportedly imported under the EU Pet Travel Scheme while 37% were reportedly imported under the Balai Directive (1%).
Only 8% of respondents did not know how their dog was imported. 92% of the respondents adopted through an organization, with 40% of these were based abroad and exported dogs to the UK. 36% were UK organizations that only rehomed imported dogs whereas 24% were UK organizations that rehomed both imported dogs and UK dogs. Overseas-based organizations were more likely than those based in the UK to export to the UK through the correct law (67% versus 18%, respectively).
The most important reasons for adoption were perceptions of increased suffering in dogs from overseas compared to the UK (39%), as well as the risk of the dog getting killed (38%). 65% found the adoption process from abroad extremely easy, while very few found it extremely difficult (0.5%).
85% of dogs were up to date with UK vaccines (i.e. had been vaccinated within the last year) whereas 7% were not. 0.3% did not know, 3% answered “not applicable,” and 2.3% answered “other.” Of those who answered “other,” the respondents said their dogs were undergoing titer testing (40%) and their dogs were not updated with their Leptospirosis vaccines only (38%). 7% were omitted for health reasons, 6% said they believed vaccines to be unnecessary, and 4% had fallen behind. A similar proportion of respondents (4%) said they were using homeopathic/natural remedies.
93.4% believed that their dogs received a full veterinary health check prior to importation. The respondents also believed that the dogs received worming treatments (94.8%), flea treatments (91.4%), a blood test to confirm rabies-free status (86.8%), and tick treatments (84%). 20% of participants said their dog was imported to the UK with known health conditions. When asked to specify, 19% cited traumatic injury as the most common complication. Of dogs afflicted with health issues (20%), 9.1% had Leishmaniasis, one of the most common imported health conditions.
What Should I Know When Adopting A Rescue Dog From Overseas?
1. Illegal Importation
There are many reputable charities and groups that perform high caliber rescue work, but some dogs are sold or imported through illegal means. For example, false documentation can contribute to subsequent quarantine. Purchasing illegal dogs will encourage this practice and as much as possible, pets should only be bought from reputable sources.
2. Imported Disease
Rehoming a rescue dog from abroad will put your pet (and you) at risk of contracting imported disease, said the European Scientific Counsel Companion Animal Parasites (ESCCAP), an independent, not-for-profit organization. For instance, European legislation offers preventive treatments against rabies, and the tapeworm Echinococcus multilocularis in some European countries.
In northern Europe, there are many parasites not present in the region. Imported canines could harbor these parasites. If introduced, the parasites could cause health complications in humans and pets. Hence, it is important for imported dogs to undergo a full health check with a veterinary surgeon. Additionally, imported rescue dogs should be blood tested for exotic diseases, before and shortly after importation. The tests should be performed again after six to 12 months.
On the other hand, Greg Allen of the National Public Radio (NPR), an American non-profit media organization reported that rescue groups are finding rescue dogs to transport in the South and in other countries where rabies is endemic among canines such as Taiwan, Mexico, and India.
Strand narrated, "We've had a dog with rabies come in from Iraq. One came in from India, [another from] Thailand. We've had a dog from Puerto Rico that wound up in a shelter in Massachusetts with rabies."
3. Exotic Ticks
Dogs from overseas may be infested with ticks like Rhipicephalus sanguineus. They may spread to homes and carry pathogens. Canines should be checked for ticks upon arrival and while precautions can be done to reduce the risk of infestation, there is no guarantee that all ticks will be eliminated. In this case, you must exercise vigilance.
4. Poor Socialization
Many of the imported rescue dogs have been living as strays or caged in kennels. Therefore, they may be poorly socialized and get easily frightened around humans. At first, this can trigger nervous aggression, separation anxiety, and behavioral issues such as fleeing from the owner when unleashed. Animal behaviorists can help your dog transition to a household environment. However, this can take time and flexibility. If you have a busy household or have children, a rescue dog may not be suitable for being a household pet.
The risk of imported diseases and rabies (especially when the canines originate from countries where rabies is endemic) are valid concerns when choosing to rehome a rescue dog. Rescue dogs may also be illegally imported, further encouraging the practice of false documentation. As an owner, please consider adopting or purchasing a dog from a reputable charity or pet store.