Manitoba dog lovers unhappy with new U.S. border crossing regulations

Manitoba canine lovers are unhappy about new rules introduced by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention set to take effect later this summer. 

Under the new requirements announced by the CDC, dogs entering the U.S. must be older than six months, have a microchip and must have a form certifying rabies vaccination signed by a veterinarian within 30 days of travel time. The requirements — which go into effect Aug. 1 — would mean Canadian dogs who visit the U.S. on a regular basis will essentially need a new, signed form every month.

Canada is on the list of countries the CDC considers to be “rabies-free or low risk.” 

“From the U.S. CDC perspective, there’s some rationale behind it, specifically, dog rabies is considered eradicated in the U.S. and they like to keep it that way,” said Winnipeg veterinarian Philipp Schott. “But even relatively safe countries like Canada are being kind of swept up in these new regulations.” 

The CDC announced the rules in an effort to prevent and deter the importation of dogs carrying rabies. They also saw a 52 per cent increase in the number of dogs that were ineligible for admission into the U.S. due to falsified or fraudulent documentation, according to a summary of the new rules put out by the American Kennel Club. 

Schott expects both general practitioners and federal veterinarians to be busier because of the paperwork requirement under the new rules. 

“These forms then need to be certified, signed off by a federal vet, by a CFIA vet, Canadian Food Inspection Agency, and they are short staffed and are already under the gun for the amount of work they need to do,” he said. “It will be difficult for people to get appointments during peak travel times to get these documents signed off on.” 

An update on the Government of Canada website also said “information and guidance will be provided as soon as possible” as the CFIA reviews the new guidelines.

Dog owner concerned about new guidelines

Trina Gallop, who owns and breeds dogs and also competes in dog shows, said she’s concerned about the new guidelines and thinks they might discourage other competitors from traveling down south.

Gallop also said the additional steps and money required to get the documents in order may also be a deterrent. 

“It really adds a lot of extra layers to going down to the States, to go to dog shows and to do things like that with our dogs.

“And clearly it’s going to impact a lot of other people too,” she said. “Snowbirds, people that generally just travel with their dogs, they’re going to be required to do all those things as well.” 

A dog on a leash looks up at the hand of its owner.
Doc, a boxer from Calgary, Alta., competes in the working group competition during the Westminster Kennel Club Dog show in New York in 2023. Under new U.S. rules, Canadian dogs will be subject to stricter rules when entering the country. (Mary Altaffer/The Canadian Press)

Erika Anseeuw, a veterinarian at Pembina Animal Veterinary Hospital said showing proof of rabies vaccination at the border and having microchips is a great first step. However, from her own personal experience, the need to actually produce documentation at the border prior to the new CDC rules was loosely enforced. 

“I brought my dog down in the States for some events and they don’t even need to see the paperwork,” she said. “So they’ve gone from very casual to quite extreme.”

Schott also said enforcement historically hasn’t been strict in the U.S. 

“The American officials are quite famous for not even looking at the paperwork for dogs going south,” he said. “It used to be more that you’d get checked on the way back into Canada, but that’s about to change.”

And those changes are causing frustration for decades-long breeder Frieda Krpan who is co-owner of Branko’s Beagles. She said the changes could put her out of business as 85 per cent of her dogs sold go across the border. 

“There’s no need for it,” she said in an interview Wednesday morning on CBC Information Radio. “Moreover, no breeder can keep puppies until they’re six months of age, that’s just too long.” 

Puppy prohibition ‘ridiculous’: breeder

Krpan said her main concern is the welfare of the dogs, adding that puppies need to go to a new owner when they’re around 10 weeks old. 

“I have for instance two litters now of nine puppies each, I cannot keep 18 dogs until they’re six months old, that’s ridiculous and it’s not good for the dogs,” she said. 

Information Radio – MB9:42Why new U.S. border crossing regulations are concerning for Canadian dog breeders

Dog owners who regularly take their furry pals across the border could be facing some stricter rules starting August 1. Host Marcy Markusa speaks with Branko’s Beagles co-owner, Freida Krpan about how the new regulations will impact her business 

Anseeuw also works with breeders and said people in the U.S. want to adopt or bring home a puppy, not a six-month-old dog, and called barring them from going across the border “a big deal.”

“The way the rules are … no puppy, nothing under six months of age can enter the United States, even though Canada is considered a rabies-free zone.”

Meanwhile, Schott said the public should stay informed as the changes come into effect and talk to their veterinarian if they have concerns or questions. 

“People need to find the websites, the CDC website and CFIA website and just keep themselves up to date on what they actually need to do and what their responsibility and obligations as pet owners are if they’re going to travel with their dogs to the U.S,” he said.