How Did We Get To Where We Are Now … A Bumpy Ride!
From GBR’s President’s Point of View
It’s been several years since GBR has published a newsletter, and I’m ecstatic that we now have a volunteer, Vanessa Loverti, who has raised her hand and volunteered to take on the task of putting out a newsletter every couple of months. Vanessa suggested for the first newsletter that I write about how GBR became involved in taking dogs from China.
We had been rescuing dogs from Taiwan for many years, so GBR bringing in international dogs isn’t exactly news; however, when faced with getting dogs from China, we had no idea how challenging it was going to be or the road down which it was going to take us.
What started as just an afterthought one evening (“I wonder what I would get if I Googled “dog rescue in China”) has led GBR and its volunteers on many trips to China, exposed most of us to a completely different and, at times, puzzling culture, and has resulted in the rescuing of 339 golden retrievers.
For about a decade, the number of local rescue goldens has been dropping so dramatically that several golden retriever rescues across the United States have closed their doors. Staying focused on their rescue missions, many other rescues, GBR included, decided to begin rescuing goldens from other countries. Three years ago, the hot spot to get international goldens was Turkey. I looked into Turkey goldens for GBR but couldn’t find an economical, safe way to get goldens from Turkey to the East Coast , and then to Oregon. One evening in early February, 2016, on a whim, I sent an email to a China-based rescue group, “Together for Animals in China.” At the time, the organization was run by three ladies: Lucy, who ran the USA branch; Grace, who ran the European branch; and Liu Yanli “Xiaoli,” who was the Beijing presence.
After meeting in San Francisco to hammer out the details, TAC and GBR agreed on a trial of one dog to come as soon as a flight escort could be located, which happened in early March, 2016. Our first China golden rescue happened to be Ryan, a young male golden who was instantly snapped up by his foster mom. Ryan was followed not long after by our first alphabet dogs: Amy #2669 and Abby #2670.
In the beginning it was difficult to convince rescuers in China to release their dogs to us through TAC. A group who rescues only one breed was unusual for China and caused some suspicion. Why only golden retrievers? What are they doing with the dogs in America? Initially, the rescuers in China were concerned we were using the goldens for medical experiments or selling them to slaughterhouses for profit. Slowly over time, we began to get more and more goldens and now, three years and 339 goldens later, we cannot keep up with the China rescuers wanting us to take their goldens. Over these past three years, we have stayed with the naming convention of following the alphabet, with a brief stopover into flower names, until now we are almost finished with the letter “Y.”
For about the first one-and-half years, the process of bringing the dogs over as escorts’ excess baggage was pretty routine: dogs checked in at Beijing or Shanghai airports, arrived in Seattle or Vancouver, B.C., and were finally turned over to GBR volunteers once they cleared Customs. This same process was happening all over the USA by many other rescues, not just goldens. Now in the USA rescuing international dogs is changing rapidly. A bit over a year ago, we discovered that Congress had passed a law requiring all rescue groups bringing dogs into the USA, which were then adopted to a second party, to obtain a USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) permit. Getting the permit, though not difficult, requires several hours of collecting medical records, recreating them in English (USDA will only accept medical records in 100% English) and submitting them to the USDA using their APHIS system. We also discovered that most of the States require international dogs coming from countries with screw worm to be examined for screw worm no more than fives days prior to flying. Certification is required to show no screw worm; a rabies vaccination certificate is also required.
International Dog Rescue In Jeaopardy
Then three preventable situations happened over the past 12 months that have put international rescuing in jeopardy: the first occurred when a rescue organization brought in three dogs on three separate flights from Egypt that tested positive for rabies even though the rescue had been provided with rabies certificates, which proved to be false. Now the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has banned the import of dogs from Egypt.
Secondly, an individual brought a personal rescue into Vancouver from South Korea that proved to be infected with a new strain of distemper.
The third incident occurred when a large group of dogs brought over from South Korea with three of the dogs testing positive for Brucellosis. Brucellosis is a disease that is already present in America and is normally found in puppy mills and associated with breeding dogs; unfortunately, it is not only contagious to other dogs but to humans as well. Reputable breeders are very careful to test their breeding dogs to avoid having it spread to the puppies and other dogs. There is no cure for Brucellosis, and infected breeder dogs are normally euthanized. Although antibiotics can help contain it. Affected dogs, if not euthanized, must be kept quarantined from all other dogs for life. Because of these occurrences, the CDC, Customs Boarder Patrol (CBP) and the USDA have placed China, South Korea and Turkey on a watch list.
International Canine Rescue Association
In an attempt to standardize immunizations, medical treatment and care of dogs in other countries prior to coming to the United States, GBR along with several other golden retriever rescues have formed International Canine Rescue Association (ICRA). Once fully organized, members of ICRA will establish the types of acceptable vaccines (for example Vanguard Plus 5- CVL and Rabisin Rabies), testing required prior to flying, and guidelines for general care of the dogs. All dogs will have been vaccinated at least 30 days prior to flying and quarantined during that 30-day waiting period, and tested for distemper, parvo and Brucellosis. Once the dogs have arrived in the U.S., ICRA members will test the dogs again for Brucellosis, provide distemper/parvo boosters and bordetella vaccinations, and do worming in addition to whatever special care each dog may need. Additionally, all foreign rescuers and/or facilities will need to be inspected and certified by ICRA before ICRA members will accept dogs from them. Presently only golden retriever rescues are members, but we plan to open all other dog rescues.
Now we come to the final challenge with which we’ve been confronted. Due to the number of rescue dogs entering the USA and to the Egypt rabies dogs that arrived in JFK, CBP has begun in the larger cities (Atlanta, New York City, Boston, Los Angeles, and San Francisco) to seize dogs and demand that the American rescuers work with Brokers when bringing dogs into the country as baggage. CBP contends that the dogs are brought in for resell (adoption fees are considered reselling) which makes them commercial items, and thus they should enter the country as cargo, not baggage. The average airline fee per dog flying to Seattle as baggage is between $500 and $700. If that same dog were to travel as cargo to Seattle, the cost would be $4,300 – which is too rich for most dog rescues. For now, CBP has allowed rescues to continue flying dogs as baggage but we must use a Broker to have the dogs cleared through Customs. This is an added expense of around $500 per flight.
As if all of the above isn’t enough, It is getting harder and harder for rescuers in China to find safe haven for the dogs they do rescue. Shelters, or bases, that have been legitimate in the past often are decreed unlawful by the Chinese government, and the rescuers are usually only given three days to move the dogs before the shelter is torn down. Police and other officials are roaming the streets in certain areas of Beijing and other cities seizing dogs and either sending them to slaughterhouses or euthanizing them. Although individual Chinese people are concerned about animal rights and rescue, the government is not. Until the government steps up, the terrible cruelty to animals in China will continue. GBR is under no illusion that the partnership they have with Chinese rescuers is helping to change the minds of the people or the government. All we can do is take comfort in that we have made a difference in the lives of the 339 goldens we have rescued so far and the lives we will affect in the future.
Your donations to GBR has helped us to continue to rescue not only international goldens but also to continue to rescue the local ones who need our help as well, and we cannot say, “Thank you!” enough!!!