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‘It’s not going to be easy’: Windsor dog owners hopeful for cross-border exemption

Windsor, Ont. residents who want to take their dogs across the border next month remain hopeful the U.S. Centers for Disease Control will make an exemption for Canadians when new rules aimed at controlling the spread of rabies take effect on Aug. 1.

“Definitely on the border cities where we’re across the border all the time, it’s going to be very difficult for people,” said dog owner and snowbird, Beverly Lemberger.

Many said they were caught off guard by the new regulations announced in May, expressing concern over the new rules. This is despite the federal government announcing Wednesday that revisions are being made after a series of meetings with officials in Washington, D.C.

“It’s good to have the controls,” Lemberger said. “It’s good to make sure that the rabies certificates are on and tha they’re microchipped as well. So, I think it’s a good thing as long as they don’t go overboard with it. There’s a balance to everything.”

She continued, “I would imagine it’s going to be difficult for the people who work at the border as well, trying to enforce all these laws and different things.”

Others in Windsor, like Chris Dannunzio, said they plan to arrange meeting with their dog’s veterinarian ahead of future cross-border trips to make sure everything is in order ahead of time.

Dannunzio said, “We’re both very friendly nations with each other, so in all aspects we want to be able to cross over and have them visit us, us visit them with as much ease as possible.”

The new rules require dogs to be at least six months old, have proof of rabies vaccination and be microchipped. Dogs also must have a form signed by a veterinarian and endorsed by an official government veterinarian.

“The changes in the border crossing were kind of impromptu and they kind of came upon us very quickly,” stated Veterinarian Dr. Kate Sweetman at the Downtown Veterinarian Hospital near the Windsor-Detroit tunnel entrance.

“It’s not going to be easy,” Sweetman explained. “It’s not going to be second nature to cross the border anymore. It’s going to take a lot of preparation and unfortunately, extra costs for all dog owners.”

Sweetman told CTV News she understands the caution concerning rabies, but believes the changes will be a major disruption resulting in costs and paperwork for both clients and veterinarians.

“Rabies is a very serious disease,” said Sweetman. “So, I understand why the United States is taking it very seriously, and they are a different country than Canada. But, we are neighboring countries, like sisters in arms, so it would be nice to have exemption.”

Tourism Windsor Essex Pelee Island (TWEPI) officials also voiced concern over the revised CDC regulations and the anticipated impact on travellers on both sides of the border.

“You really have to sort of know before you go,” said CEO Gordon Orr. “You have to do an extra step or two now in planning when you’re traveling with your family dog across to the U.S. So, any time there’s extra work involved, you always are concerned.”

Orr added, “We certainly hope that the federal government will continue like they have been, which is fantastic lobbying against some of these new measures and working on easing some of those restrictions.”

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