I am writing in response to the July 14th article, “Foreign rescue dogs, ‘don’t come here beautiful” and I hope that my letter will help to shed some light on the consequences of importing dogs from outside of BC.
Rarely do we see news articles that highlight our local rescue groups who are working so hard to save animals right here in our own back yard. Perhaps because there is nothing particularly sexy or sensational about a senior dog dumped at the shelter because his family can’t be bothered to care for his arthritic bones any more. Perhaps because we have such a large feral and free roaming cat problem, that if one of those cats has ears so infected they are falling off, it’s not worth the time to report.
Those who support import rescue argue that animals in the US and internationally are in much more dire situations than the homeless animals here. They make reference to the overcrowded shelters in LA and New York and their 72 hour kill lists. And as in this recent article, they described starving, abused and neglected street dogs. All of these heart breaking situations are true, however, I challenge everyone to take a look in our backyard and tell me that we do not have a crisis.
It may seem that our shelter system is not in crisis and because we don’t have the infamous “kill list” of animals that “will be destroyed” within 24 hours if they are not pulled, that animals are not being killed. Much of our crisis, however, exists hundreds of miles away from our metropolitan areas, in isolated, often forgotten communities. We don’t have a “kill list” because there are no shelters and the closest SPCA is an 8 hour drive away (weather permitting).
Many communities do not have the capacity to respond to animal welfare issues and do not have access to veterinary services. Without the support of groups with more capacity and resources, the animals in these community suffer and die on a daily basis. For example, there is an isolated community whose response to their stray dog problem is to place a bounty on dogs head. Communities members will find a stray dog, take it out of town, shoot it, cut off its tail and bring the tail into town for $30. Is this not akin to a kill list? Does this not indicate we are in crisis?
As there is no criteria for rescue organizations to follow to do this live saving work and there is no set specifications and requirements rescues must follow in rescuing, rehabilitating and rehoming an animal, there is no guarantee that these animals that are imported will be provided with the medical and rehabilitative help they may require. There is also no guarantee that they will be placed in an appropriate home and there is no guarantee that this new family will be provided with the appropriate support. Consequently, it is not uncommon for dogs brought in from outside of BC to end up in our shelter system or end up on craigslist, “free to a good home”.
In a system that does not receive any funding support from our provincial government, we are already broken, already in crisis, just trying to help the thousands of animals surrendered, dumped, neglected and abused across our province. Bringing in more animals is like adding fuel to an already out of control fire.
Finally, importing does not solve the issues that have led to such a crisis in first place. Until sustainable solutions are created IN the country of origin, the problem will continue to exist. The most effective and humane thing people can do to support these animals, is to support the local organizations that are doing the work.