Roxy vs Australian Quarantine.

Recently you all would have seen/heard the drama that was DeppDog Gate, well this was a very personal and emotional time for me. In 2012, after 2 years living in Canada with Mel & my assistance Dog Roxy, it was time for us to return home as our visas were due to expire, and I had landed a job in Brisbane. As we made our preparations it started to become apparent that we were going to have major issues bringing Roxy back into Australia.

Unfortunately Canada is a rabies carrying country, with many of their wild and feral animals carrying the disease. Australia’s biosecurity and quarantine regulations are extremely strict (and quite rightly so, we have seen the effects of letting in alien species to ruin our environment and agriculture …. cough cough Cane Toad, cough cough Rabbit ….) and bringing any animal into Australia after it has spent a period of time in a country such as Canada requires stringent planning and preparation.

Even though Roxy had, in the lead up to our departure and during our entire stay in Canada, all of her required vaccinations and pills etc, Roxy was not able to re-enter Australia without serving a 180 day quarantine period. This would be served in either a kennel facility in NSW or I could leave her with a host carer in Canada while the 180 day period was over and her blood tests came back clear of any nasties.

So as you could imagine, Roxy being a very important aspect to my independence through her physical assistance she provides as well as the emotional companionship, it was extremely difficult and heart wrenching to believe that internationally accredited, healthy and well trained service animals would not be fast tracked through such an ordeal and not cause an inconvenience to handler and dog. But unfortunately through all my efforts though legal and media resources I was not able to change any current rules or regulations to get my special pup through customs.

For the benefit of Roxy and consistency of work upkeep and having people around, a lovely group of people from Canada Guide Dogs in Toronto looked after her for the 180 day period. It was the best scenario for her with the wonderful Emily Collins & Caleb Gilgan spoiling her rotten, but more importantly, keeping her work skills up while away from me.

On the other side of the globe, I instantly became less independent. I received my first Assistance Dog 3 months after I completed rehabilitation after my accident 16 years ago. So up until this point, I had only spent a short amount of time as a disabled person without the 24 hour by my side physical assistance of a specially trained dog. This was a nightmare both physically and mentally. I missed all of the day-to-day tasks she helped me with & I missed her companionship. It was the toughest 6 months. It was also extremely hard on my family & friends. They all had to up their efforts to assist me. Financially it cost me too. I had to acquire more support worker hours and I estimated this to be roughly $15,000 over the 6 months to be with me more throughout the day to fill the void left by not having Roxy. That’s nearly 2/3 of the cost to train an Assistance Dog that will work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for 10 years or so!

Well, suffice to say the 6 month reunion with my Roxy was epic. I very tired but excited Roxy arrived in a animal crate, was given a 5 minute look over by a certified Government vet and handed back over to me. She had to spend 10 days doing in-home quarantine. I wasn’t able to take her out in the public and I was told that Quarantine officials would make a random visit to check this was being adhered to (no such visit occurred).

This whole process is extremely exhausting, costly and inefficient and needs change. Once again though, I completely support the effort we must all make to keep our eco-environment safe a free of any disease that could harm our country. But not at the expense of ones independence.

See Roxy’s homecoming here: YouTube