It is our common duty to improve the conditions of homeless dogs. Helping animals on site is the most effective, safe and risk-free way to help.
The adoption of stray dogs from abroad to Finland is perfectly legal, as long as their import is conducted in compliance with the instructions of the Finnish Food Authority. Unfortunately, the import is not free of risks even then.
Help us help - do not import dogs illegally
Travelling is fun and it is everyone's responsibility to help animals. If you come across a dog in need of help while travelling abroad, consider a moment before you bring it home with you. A small, adorable animal can bring along a deadly disease.
The animal health situation in Finland is good at the moment, which means owning a pet is safe. Dogs can socialize with each other in dog parks and play with children without fear of someone becoming seriously ill as a consequence.
Many diseases that pose a threat to the health of animals and humans but are not found in Finland are fairly common immediately beyond the Finnish borders. The most dangerous of them are the deadly disease rabies and echinococcus.
For example in Russia several hundreds of rabies cases are reported every year. An animal may carry rabies and not display any of the symptoms for a long time. An asymptomatic animal can readily spread the disease, so anyone who has been in contact with it must be treated. 45 to 70 people are annually treated for suspected rabies exposure in Finland. The amount has increased considerably since 2007. The persons treated were in most cases exposed to rabies when travelling abroad or through the bite of an animal illegally imported to Finland.
After the symptoms have appeared, the disease invariably leads to death in both humans and animals. Rabies kills around 100,000 people worldwide every year.
As for echinococcus, the disease does not cause any symptoms in the dog at all. An asymptomatic dog can still spread the disease to other dogs or humans.
Even vaccination is not always enough
In the autumn of 2013, rabies was confirmed in two dogs imported from Bulgaria to Holland via a rescue organisation. Later on the laboratory test results were found to be false. The dogs did not have rabies.
The European Commission is presently considering the imposition of supplementary conditions for the import of dogs from high-risk countries such as Romania.
Imported dogs may also carry other diseases
The examination of all animal diseases is not required in connection with import. Examples of such infectious diseases carried to Finland with rescued dogs include canine distemper, parvovirus diarrhoea, leishmaniasis, Brucella canis, heartworm disease, ehrlichiosis, leptospirosis, listeriosis, yersinosis, babesiosis, coccidia and giardia infections, campylobacter, salmonella and tuberculosis. Some of these diseases are transmissible to humans as well.
The consequences of an illegal import
To protect the health of humans and other animals, requirements have been set for the import of dogs. Only by following these requirements can one ensure that the dog does not bring along a "deadly souvenir".
If the requirements set for the import of dogs have not been followed, the import is considered illegal. An illegal import is a crime. The illegally imported animal will either be returned to its country of origin, put down or placed in a quarantine at the importer's expense. None of these options are good for the dog's wellbeing, which is why taking care of safety is important already when planning an import.
Sometimes the illegal import of a dog is only exposed when the dog is, for example, taken to a veterinarian. Even a veterinarian cannot fix the neglected import requirements after the import. To protect other dogs and humans, it is the veterinarian's duty to stop a potential disease from spreading. Because an illegally imported dog poses a serious health risk to both the dog's owners and other dogs, putting the animal down is often the only option.
Putting down a dog is unfortunately often the sad end of a "rescue story". Putting down the animal is regrettable not only for the animal's owner but the veterinarian as well. The responsibility of the importer is great to guarantee the safety of the imported animal, Finnish dogs that play with the imported animal and humans. The importer has to make sure that the animal and its travel documents fulfill the requirements set by law. The importer is always responsible for all of the expenses caused by the import. Therefore help us help by following the import requirements.
How can you help?
- Disseminate information about the issue.
- Talk with those who are thinking of getting a dog. Tell them about the import regulations and alternative domestic ways to help dogs.
- If you are thinking of buying a pet in Finland, check the origin of the animal.
- If you are thinking of buying an imported animal, make sure that it has been imported legally, and in accordance with Finnish Food Authority’s instructions.
- It is not advisable to buy animals whose origin is unclear.
- If you suspect an illegal import, report the case to your municipal or provincial veterinarian.
- From the point of view of animal protection, it is better to help animals in their own home countries.