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Import policies: terrestrial animals

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Import policies

The Health of Animals Act and Regulations provide the legislative and regulatory authority for the Animal Health Import Program, which includes live animals, animal products and by-products, semen and embryos. Current legislation contains separate requirements for the United States and countries other than the United States. Policies are developed to interpret and explain the regulations. Import requirements, with risk-mitigating conditions based on these policies, are developed and entered into the Agency's Automated Import Reference System (AIRS).

Major policy changes require scientific risk analysis and generally include consultation with Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) staff, affected industry sectors and trading partners. While a zero-risk approach is no longer possible for most diseases, the goal is to ensure that any risk incurred is as low as possible.

Policy development is expected to be in compliance with international standards such as those of the World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH; founded as Office International des Épizooties (OIE)), which is an animal health standard setting organization. Where policies exceed the WOAH standard, scientific justification must be provided.

Where human health concerns exist and a Health Canada policy is developed, the CFIA implements the policy on behalf of Health Canada.

In addition, equivalency agreements exist with many countries and these must be considered and respected when policy is developed.

Finally, all policies must respect the conditions of the World Trade Organization and the negotiated Sanitary and Phytosanitary agreements.

General guidelines

Apart from the Health of Animals Act and Regulations which provide our regulatory framework, numerous factors are considered in establishing import policies and requirements:

  1. country of origin: CFIA's assessment of a country's animal health status for diseases of concern. It includes taking into account, for example, epidemiology of specific diseases, surveillance methods, and knowledge of the country's veterinary infrastructure and competency;
  2. end use of the commodity;
  3. WOAH standards, guidelines and recommendations. WOAH disease information and animal health status declared at the WOAH by the various countries;
  4. a risk analysis may be required which would include hazard identification, release assessment, exposure assessment, consequence assessment, risk estimation, risk management and risk communication;
  5. consultation with CFIA staff, other government departments and trading partners;
  6. our international obligations under the Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures of the World Trade Organization;
  7. treatment or processing of a product in order to prevent the introduction into Canada of diseases of concern to which the species that produced this animal product is susceptible and which can be transmitted by it;
  8. other CFIA or government department requirements may also apply, i.e. Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) permits for endangered species and the environmental assessments that are required by Environment Canada (but performed on their behalf by CFIA staff) for all non-traditional livestock species. All Canadian Border Services Agency requirements must also be met prior to entry.
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