A Nova Scotia woman is sharing her experience with adopting a dog from the United States in hopes that it will spark further conversations around health issues the dogs may arrive with.
“Nobody approached me and said, ‘Look, there could be a chance that Hope (her rescue dog) has heartworm,” Sharon Oakley said, the woman who adopted Hope, a rescue dog, from Texas.
The rescue coordinators behind Hope arriving in Canada disagree with Oakley’s statement. They say Hope was very ill when they first came across her in Texas and that there was a high probability that she wouldn’t regain enough health to ever be adopted out.
They say Oakely was aware of the health challenges Hope faced and that she was eventually cleared by a veterinarian in Texas prior to her being imported into Canada.
“We have to have a health certificate for every single dog within 72 hours of arrival time,” Jeanine Christian said, a dog rescuer out of Texas.
According to the Canada Border Services Agency website, dogs aren’t allowed to be commercially imported into Canada if they appear sick, or have a disease that can be spread to others.
Oakley says Hope was acting very lethargic shortly after her arrival. Concerned, she brought her into her local veterinarian for an assessment.
Oakley says her veterinarian completed bloodwork and an X-ray and told her that Hope had heartworms that were advanced to a stage where they were reproducing and causing the dog to have a heart murmur.
Oakely says Hope arrived with paperwork that stated Hope tested negative for heartworm as of March 2019. She arrived in Canada in October 2020.
Oakley says she doesn’t understand how Hope could have been legitimately cleared to be imported into Canada if she had advanced heartworm disease.
The rescue agency says 40 to 70 dogs are transported at a time and that sometimes their information gets disorganized at the border.
“The border patrol goes through the paperwork, sometimes the paperwork gets mixed up with other dogs,” said Holly Lyons with Dog and Cat Adoptables in Atlantic Canada.
For their part, Lyons and Christian say as soon as Oakely contacted them about Hope’s condition, they offered financial support and asked for her veterinarian to contact them so that they could be informed of the necessary treatment and any other requirements.
They say those requests weren’t fulfilled and that even though dogs are adopted into Canada with veterinarian certificates through their adoptive agencies, there are always risks of their health deteriorating.
“They are always adopted as a medical case saying that there could be, down the road, health issues that we are not aware of at the time of adoption because of the state that they came in,” Lyons said.
Oakley says she has spent thousands of dollars paying for the advanced treatment her veterinarian has recommended. Oakley says she was told by her vet that heartworms are spread to other dogs by mosquitoes. This has left her very concerned about bringing Hope outside during warmer weather.
Overall, Oakley says she isn’t seeking financial compensation. She just wants people and agencies adopting dogs from Texas to thoroughly discuss the risks associated with heartworm prior to dogs being transported to Canada.
Oakley’s veterinarian clinic declined an interview request but shared a statement.
“These animals may arrive with health problems or parasitic infections requiring treatment that can sometimes be costly or even lifelong,” said Dr. Lisa Welland, a veterinarian and owner of Chester Basin Animal Hospital.
Welland recommends that people speak with their veterinarian before adopting animals out of country, or province, to better understand all of the risks that may be involved.
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