Position Statement - Rabies Program
The intent of this document is to clarify the Canadian Food Inspection Agency's (CFIA) legal position and policy pertaining to rabies and the management of the disease in animals.
The extent and limitations of the CFIA's involvement in the rabies control program are mandated and regulated by parts of the Health of Animals Act, Health of Animals Regulations, Reportable Diseases Regulations and Rabies Indemnification Regulations.
The main objective of the program is to prevent the transmission of rabies from domestic animals to humans. The CFIA meets this objective by carrying out the activities described in the Disease Control Manual, Section 14, Rabies.
Health of Animals Act
Rabies is a reportable disease under the Health of Animals Act and Regulations. The Health of Animals Act pertains to "diseases and toxic substances that may affect animals or that may be transmitted by animals to persons, and respecting the protection of animals". It gives the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food the authority and legal mandate to safeguard the health of Canadian animals and intervene where a disease may be transmitted by animals to persons. As such, any form of rabies including rabies in wildlife, falls within the mandate of CFIA.
Section 22 of the Act gives the Minister the authority to determine that a place is "infected" and to take actions to contain, control and prevent the spread of a disease or toxic substance. For these purposes it is necessary to deliver a notice to the owner or occupant of the place. Any time rabies is known or suspected of being on a premises, CFIA veterinary inspectors declare the place to be infected and restrict the movement of animals from the premises until a veterinary inspector is satisfied that the disease is not present on the premises. Neither of these conditions may be satisfied with respect to wildlife who by definition are not owned and cannot be restricted in movement.
Under Section 64 (f) of the Act, the Minister may make regulations "for controlling or eradicating, or preventing the spread of, vectors, diseases and toxic substances and for quarantining, segregating, treating or disposing of, or for dealing generally with, animals or things that (i) are, or are suspected of being, affected or contaminated by a disease or toxic substance, (ii) have been in contact with or in close proximity to animals or things that were, or are suspected of having been, affected or contaminated by a disease or toxic substance at the time of contact or close proximity, or (iii) are, or are suspected of being, vectors, the causative agents of disease or toxic substances". Although this section have been implemented in controlling rabies in all domesticated animals, it has not been used to control or eradicate rabies in wildlife.
In Canada, control of wildlife populations falls under the authority of various federal and provincial bodies. Most provincial governments have legislation with responsibility for managing their wildlife populations. Parks Canada have been empowered to manage the wildlife within the boundaries of federally controlled parkland.
Reportable Disease Regulations
Rabies is prescribed as a "reportable" disease under the Reportable Disease Regulations.
A veterinary inspector under the Health of Animals Act must be notified by veterinarians who suspect that an animal is affected with rabies and by other persons of the presence or any fact indicating the presence of rabies. (Section 5)
Health of Animals Regulations
Part IX of the Regulations is entitled the "Eradication of Diseases". The diseases specifically mentioned are those diseases that the Minister has developed policy for the purpose of eradicating them e.g. tuberculosis and brucellosis. Section 80 of the Regulations allows the Minister to designate the movement of animals or things when a control area has been declared under subsection 27(1) of the Act. Section 90 of the Regulations deals with the eradication of Diseases Specified by the Minister. It states "The Minister may order the owner or the person having the possession, care or control in an eradication area of any poultry, ruminant or equine or porcine animal to segregate the animal and to have the animal inspected in such manner and for such communicable disease as the Minister may specify." The regulation is specific to domesticated animals only.
Rabies, which is caused by various strains of the rabies virus, is a serious disease of humans and animals, the disease is considered endemic in the Canadian wildlife population. The government measures allowed by a Ministerial Declaration under Section 27 of the Act are not applicable to control the movement of wild animals.
Rabies Indemnification Regulations
These regulations were created pursuant to an Appropriation Act. Under federal/provincial agreements with Ontario, Quebec and Manitoba the Minister is allowed to provide financial assistance to owners of certain domestic animal species that died as a result of rabies. In these provinces the CFIA pays an indemnity for livestock which have been confirmed either by laboratory evidence or by veterinary diagnosis as having rabies. The Federal share of the indemnity is 40% of the animal's total market value to a maximum of $400 for cattle, $200 for horses and $80 for sheep, swine and goats.
Disease Control Manual of Procedures
The CFIA has established policy in Section 14 of the Disease Control Manual of Procedures that states when and how its inspectors will deal with animals that are affected by or suspected of being affected with rabies. That manual outlines actions to be taken by CFIA inspectors when domesticated animals are exposed to, or suspected of being exposed to, a rabid animal regardless of whether it is a domesticated or wild animal.
The rabies control program is aimed at the reduction or elimination of disease in domestic animals and investigating all human or domestic animal exposures to rabies, suspect or confirmed, domestic or wild animal. The main elements of the CFIA's rabies control include the following:
- Investigation of all rabies suspect cases in domestic animals. CFIA veterinarians conduct field investigations when domestic animals are reported to have symptoms of rabies. Each positive diagnosis, with known human exposure, is reported to the public health authorities.
- Quarantine of all domestic animals suspected of being exposed to a confirmed or suspected rabid domestic or wild animal. CFIA veterinarians quarantine any domestic animal that is known or is suspected to have had contact with a rabid animal.
- Investigating situations in which a biting domestic animal (dog, cat or ferret) dies, has a change in health status or develops abnormal behaviour while under a public health imposed 10 day observation period.
- Collection of samples for rabies diagnosis from rabies suspect animals, domestic or wild. The animal must be made available for testing. CFIA inspectors collect specimens from any diseased animal in contact with humans or domestic animals when the possibility of rabies exists. In remote areas, where the CFIA is not present, special arrangements have been made with the local authorities to collect the sample from the rabies suspect animals which came into contact with humans or domestic animals. The collected samples are sent to the nearest CFIA office capable of submitting the specimens to a federal laboratory for testing. Alternatively in some isolated regions individuals certified for Transportation of Dangerous Goods (TDG) such as Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) officers, Provincial Wildlife Departments or private veterinarians can submit rabies suspect specimens directly to the appropriate federal laboratories.
CFIA's indirect involvement in the rabies Control Program
The Animal Import Section of the Health of Animals Regulations, requires proof of rabies vaccination for all dogs, cats and ferrets over 3 months of age entering Canada. CFIA veterinarians can help to determine and provide certification when required to meet the rabies requirements of importing countries.
CFIA laboratories conduct rabies research, including variant typing, however rabies variant typing is not imperative for the current rabies control program.
The CFIA maintains a rabies website which contains annual reports on the positive rabies in Canada listed by species and province. The web site also provides comprehensive information on the disease and CFIA rabies control program.
The CFIA publishes Rabies Pamphlets which are made available to the pet owners or livestock producers through the CFIA District Offices.
Financial contributions have been made to the wild life baiting project and the development of new vaccines.
The Canadian Centre for Veterinary Biologics is responsible for licensing rabies vaccines.
Subject to the availability of resources, the disease control program participates in the rabies surveillance program by submitting and laboratory processing specimens from animals not known to have rabies or to have been exposed to rabies.
Rabies in the Wild Animal Population
CFIA's position in respect to rabies in wild animals is that the expenditure of resources to accomplish the eradication of rabies by detection and destruction of rabid wild animals would, under the present circumstances, be unattainable and unjustifiable. Rabies is endemic and uncontrolled in the wildlife populations in Canada and countries outside of Canada. CFIA is prepared to act cooperatively with other federal, provincial and state jurisdictions to provide assistance in working towards an environment where wildlife rabies is managed with the best methods available to mitigate the risk of exposure of the domestic and human populations.
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