Ukrainian plane landed in Canada with 38 dead puppies and hundreds of other dogs

The Ukrainian International Airlines plane arrived in Toronto after a typical 10-hour flight. It was a typical commercial plane, but airport workers discovered a shocking scene on board.

Inside were 500 caged puppies, according to Canadian authorities. Many were dehydrated, weak and vomiting. Thirty-eight of them were dead in their crates.

The horrific discovery on June 13 triggered an investigation by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. And this highlighted a growth international dog market that advocates and lawmakers say requires more restrictions – not only for the sake of imported dogs, but also to protect the health of people and animals in North America.

“The number of dogs imported into the United States has skyrocketed in recent years, and we review less than 1 percent of them,” said Rep. Ralph Abraham (R-La.), a veterinarian who co-sponsored a bipartisan investigation last month. invoice called the Healthy Dog Importation Act, said in an email. “We must do more to protect these animals and those already in the country. »

Much is still unknown about the Ukrainian flight, including whether Canadian authorities knew so many puppies were headed to Toronto. The government, which says it applies “rigorous standards” for animal imports, has released little information, citing the ongoing investigation. International Airlines of Ukraine said in a statement On Friday, he regretted the “tragic loss of animal life” and worked with local authorities to make “all necessary changes to prevent such a situation from happening again.”

Animal rights activists said flying 500 dogs on a single plane was unusual, if not unprecedented. Dogs need water and other care when caged on the tarmac and during flights, said Rebecca Aldworth, executive director of Humane Society International in Canada.

“You rely on the airport and airline staff to take care of it,” she said. “If these animals were transported in such large numbers, it would be physically impossible to provide this kind of care. »

The puppies transported from Ukraine were French bulldogs, according to several Canadian news reports. Dogs are one of many brachycephalic, or snub-nosed, breeds so vulnerable to respiratory problems that some American airlines refuse to transport them.

Despite their health problemsFrench bulldogs are among the most sought-after breeds in North America, ranking fourth in the American Kennel Club rankings. most recent list popular pure breeds and fifth in the Canadian Kennel Club rankings list. Their popularity means that “Frenchies” command premium prices. On the sales site Puppy spot, French bulldog puppies cost between $4,500 and $8,000. A non-profit rescue in the United States has offered dogs adoption fees up to $1,850, according to a Washington Post investigation.

Potential profits tempt sellers and brokers to skimp on animal welfare, animal advocates and government officials say. The National Post reported that temperatures approached 90 degrees when the puppies were loaded onto the plane in Ukraine and that some of the puppies’ cages were shrink-wrapped, which could cause suffocation.

It’s unclear how many French bulldogs, or dogs in general, are imported into Canada each year, Aldworth said. In the United States, more than a million dogs are imported each year, according to a study. 2019 report of the Ministry of Agriculture. The vast majority are believed to be pets traveling with their owners, the report says; the USDA has only issued about 2,900 permits for dogs intended for resale to consumers. Some observers question this conclusion, including the American Kennel Club, which says he believes many are “actually intended to be transferred”.

Because a growing number of large American dog breeders are closing their doors and smaller-scale hobby breeders are retiring, some of “our breeding has been outsourced to other countries,” Patti Strand said. , founder of the Oregon-based National Animal Interest Alliance, which advocates for breeders and other animal businesses.

Some shipments involved well over 40 dogs, often puppies too young to fly legally, according to a 2019 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. blog post which described surveillance of illegal puppy imports at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport. Importers seek to circumvent regulations by claiming the dogs are older or “rescues” not intended for resale, because “the potential profit is exponential,” the message states. French and English bulldogs are particularly common, it is said.

In a 2019 report Regarding puppy trafficking, British charity Dogs Trust said many dogs come from Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Hungary, Serbia, Romania and Bulgaria and are transported to other European countries without appropriate breaks, food or water. In her 2018 book “Designer Dogs,” Madeline Bernstein, president of the animal welfare group spcaLA, described a shipment of French bulldogs landing in Los Angeles from Ukraine. The animals were “minors, not vaccinated against rabies and in urgent need of care. The documents did not match the puppies in the container,” she wrote.

Such incidents demonstrate a widespread problem, advocates say.

“Pet importation laws have not kept pace with globalization anywhere in North America,” Strand said.

The USDA requires that dogs entering the United States for resale be at least 6 months old and vaccinated against rabies and other diseases.

But these criteria are not always met. In 2019, the CDC announcement a temporary ban on dogs from Egypt following the importation of three rabid dogs, including one brought by a Kansas City area rescue group. And minimum age requirements can eat away at a puppy’s most valuable weeks for marketing and sale, Aldworth said.

“It is only effective to give the rabies vaccine to puppies 3 months of age or older, so…this puppy should be 4 months old when transported,” she said. “That’s when you start seeing false documentation, saying the animal is older than it actually is.”

Humane Society International has called for a ban into Canada on the importation of all commercially bred dogs for resale. This approach would not stop international bailout imports, which the group sometimes arranges, Aldworth said.

“Governments and NGOs are working to eliminate puppy mills here in Canada,” she said. “There is no reason to allow the importation of dogs from similar establishments elsewhere.”

In the United States, Abraham’s legislation would target both commercial and rescue importers, with a focus on stopping disease regardless of who brings the dogs. It would require importers to submit dog vaccination records and allow U.S. customs officials to “more closely vet importers from countries known to harbor traffickers,” he said.

“Incidents like these are not only inhumane, but also pose a serious risk to public health,” Abraham said of the Toronto-bound flight.

The bill is supported by the American Veterinary Medical Association, the American Kennel Club and the Strand Group. She said a key goal was to ensure a U.S. agency took the lead in overseeing dog imports and tracking their movements once they arrived.

“I think this legislation is going to lead to a public debate,” Strand said. “Once the public becomes aware of what is happening regularly, everyone will demand change.”

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