Majority of Dogs in Reykjavík Unregistered

iceland dogs

Animal Services of Reykjavík report of the estimated 10,000 dogs in the city, only 2,500 owners pay the legal registration fee.

In a statement to RÚV, Þorkell Hreiðarsson, director of Animal Services, said: “We lowered the fee by about half two years ago, when Animal Services of Reykjavík City was founded.” Because animal services in Reykjavík are entirely funded by animal registration fees, Þorkell claims the unwillingness to pay is particularly problematic.

In total, Animal Services is funded with some 30 million ISK [$214,000; €200,000]. Services provided include running a kennel for stray dogs and responding to residential noise complaints.

“Ideally, the more people who pay the fees, the more these same fees will decrease,” Þorkell continued.

Registration fees for dogs in Iceland total ISK 15,700 [$112; €105] at the time of writing. Þorkell also believes that many dog owners in Reykjavík may avoid paying their registration fee because the process was once complicated and involved unnecessary paperwork. Now, according to Þorkell, dogs can be registered at the online portal, where Icelandic residents already take care of many bureaucratic tasks. Hopefully, the new convenience will encourage more and more dog owners to pay into the system.

Dog owners in Reykjavík who attend behaviour classes with their animal are also eligible to receive a discount on their registration.

There are, of course, those who simply don’t want to pay. Regarding this unwillingness, Þorkell points out the unfairness of the situation. Because animal services in the city are intended for the entire community, those who pay are, in effect, subsidising the unwilling.

Buster Takes Over from Tindur

iceland police

A new drug dog, Buster, will begin his duties in the Westfjords police force. The dog he will be replacing, named Tindur, will be retiring next year.

Steinar Gunnarsson, a police officer in the Westfjords, was responsible for training Buster and handing him over to his new supervisors.

Pictured are Tindur and Buster with their supervisors, Þór Guðmundsson and Marín Elvarsdóttir.

According to the announcement, Tindur has served with Westfjords police for many years, but is now in his senior years.

In the announcement on Facebook, Westfjords police stated: “We expect a lot from Buster and believe that he will be just as good as Tindur.”

Bacterial Infection Brucella Canis Suspected in Dogs in Iceland

The Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority (MAST) has reason to suspect that a bacterial disease called Brucella canis has been found in dogs in Iceland. RÚV reports that Bruncella canis can—in very rare instances—be transmitted from dogs to humans, with young children, pregnant, and immunocompromised people at the greatest risk of serious infection. This is the first time that Brucella canis has been detected in Iceland.

MAST veterinarian Vigdís Tryggvadóttir was quick to clarify that as yet, it is not certain that Bruncella canis actually is in Iceland, although there is a very high likeliness of this. “We have a strong suspicion, but it’s still only a suspicion,” she said. “We’ve sent samples abroad for confirmation, and hopefully, it won’t be [Brucella canis]. But [results] could take up to two weeks.”

In the meantime, MAST has enacted some protocols to curb the spread of infection. Relevant parties have been told to quarantine animals suspected of being infected with Brucella canis and a mating ban has been instated where appropriate. The agency is also collecting samples and information to trace possible spread and is urging dog breeders to observe the strictest level of infection prevention while assisting with whelping. Breeders are also encouraged to contact their veterinarian if a dog miscarries late in gestation or gives birth to stillborn puppies or puppies that die shortly after birth.

Dog breeders and vets at highest risk of exposure, minimal risk for others

Brucella canis is a zoonotic bacterial disease, which means it can be passed from animals to people. In a recent announcement, MAST said its most prominent symptoms in female dogs are miscarriages late in gestation, as well as puppies that are stillborn or die soon after birth; for male dogs, swollen testicles. The most common mode of transmission between dogs is mating.

It is rare for people to become infected with Brucella canis, but the biggest risk of infection is via fluids and tissue when helping an infected dog give birth. This puts dog breeders and veterinarians at the highest risk of infection, says Vigdís, while nearly everyone else has almost no risk of exposure.

In the very unlikely case of infection, symptoms of Brucella canis within people include fever, chills, malaise, loss of appetite, bone and/or muscle pain, and swollen lymph nodes. Symptoms may appear within several days or as much as a month after infection. The disease is not generally transmittable between people.

First time suspected in Iceland

This is the first time that Brucella canis has been suspected of being in Iceland, but it is a very common disease in nearby nations. “Brucella canis is endemic in many countries in Europe and also Asia and further afield,” said Vigdís. “It’s never been diagnosed here and it’s rare in some other European countries. We’ve never had it here and want, of course, to keep it outside our borders.”

Vigdís concluded by saying that even if a case of Brucella canis is confirmed in Iceland, that doesn’t mean an epidemic is breaking out.

Vet Authority to Staffordshire Bull Terrier: Stay! (Away from Iceland)

The Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority (MAST) has rejected a would-be pet owner’s application to import an American Staffordshire Terrier to Iceland, RÚV reports. The Ministry of Industries and Innovation confirmed MAST’s decision, on the grounds that it is difficult to distinguish the breed from Staffordshire Bull Terriers and Pit Bulls, both of which are banned in Iceland. But the party who applied to import the animal said that the ‘AmStaff’ has nothing in common with the two banned breeds except common ancestors.

MAST rejected the application earlier this year. The decision was appealed in February, and the ministry agreed that MAST’s grounds for refusal were insufficient. MAST re-reviewed the case and came to the same conclusion in March.

The applicant said that the animal in question is a mix of Staffordshire Terrier, Boxer, and German Shepard. They also noted that similar import exceptions had been made. For instance, MAST allowed an English Bull Terrier to be imported to Iceland. But MAST held firm, saying it rejected two similar import applications in the last four years.

See Also: Shorter Quarantine Period for Dogs and Cats

Iceland has very strict protocols for the importation of domestic animals. Per the MAST website, “[i]mporters must apply for an import permit to MAST and the pets must fulfill health requirements (vaccinations and testing) in addition to staying in quarantine for 2 weeks upon arrival.” Protocols have loosened somewhat; the quarantine period used to be four weeks, but this was changed in March 2020.

Police Hope to Train Corona Dogs in Iceland

The Chief of Police in Northwest Iceland hopes to bring specially trained COVID sniffer dogs to the country, RÚV reports. Police in Iceland have been in regular contact with organizations in the UK that train dogs and are investigating whether they can be trained to sniff out the coronavirus on individuals. Preliminary findings show that the dogs are able to detect positive COVID-19 samples with about 90% accuracy and only this week, so-called ‘corona dogs’ started working as part of a pilot project at the Helsinki airport.

Per The New York Times, COVID test-by-dog seems far less uncomfortable than the nose swab method: travellers in Helsinki, for instance, are having their sweat tested. First, they wipe their necks, then drop the sample into a container, and pass it to a corona dog’s handler, who allows the dog to sniff it alongside other containers with different scents. The dogs are able to detect coronavirus-positive samples in roughly ten seconds; the whole process takes less than a minute. According to Finnish researchers, the dogs have also been successful detecting the virus in asymptomatic carriers.

“The British have experience training malaria dogs”

Police in Northwest Iceland oversees the training and assessment of all police dogs in the country. Chief of Police Stefán Vagn Stefánsson says that he’s been closely monitoring the progress of tests with COVID sniffer dogs abroad, and most particularly those taking place in the UK, as the British began training corona dogs quite early.

“The British have experience training malaria dogs in The Gambia in 2016, which yielded good results,” he noted. “They’ve put us in touch with the scientific institutes that are leading this work in the UK [the London School and Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Bernham University] and we’ve been able to follow along with their research.”

Once the British dogs have achieved a high enough success rate, Stefán hopes to be able to start a similar project in Iceland.

Two dogs, one hour, 500 samples

“We’ve got all the knowledge we need here to train these dogs,” he said. “We’ve located dogs abroad that have yet to be fully trained and can be brought to the country. It would probably be about a two-month process for the dogs to be able to sniff and detect skin swabs.”

In the British studies, the corona dogs are able to smell up to 250 samples an hour, which means, Stefán pointed out, that two dogs could sniff up to 500 samples an hour. “And, of course, to maximize accuracy,” he continued, “you could have two dogs smell the same samples.”

While Stefán is undoubtedly excited about the project’s potential and its applications in Iceland, he emphasized that it will be important to see how the pilot projects in Finland, Britain, and Germany progress. “And then, of course, it will be up to people other than us to make a decision about whether this becomes a reality here.”

Art Exhibition Celebrates the Icelandic Sheepdog

Dog trainer and art teacher Sóldís Einarsdóttir is paying tribute to the Icelandic sheepdog in a new exhibition at the Ábæjarsafn Open Air Museum, RÚV reports.

“Above all, the Icelandic sheepdog is just a lot of fun,” Sóldís told RÚV. “They’re incredibly vivacious, they smile at you, and they always want to play.”

The exhibition consists of Sóldís’ oil paintings of sheepdogs in different environments. Her own dog modelled for several of the works.

Screenshot RÚV

“I’m a big dog person,” she continued. “We celebrated the Day of the Icelandic Sheepdog last year on July 18. And I thought that we needed some pictures of Icelandic sheepdogs.”

Screenshot RÚV

The experience has been an enjoyable one for Sóldís, who says that she had such a good time painting Icelandic sheepdogs that she plans to start painting other dog breeds and other animals as well in the future.

The exhibition will be on display at Ábæjarsafn through Monday, August 31.

Mall’s New Dog-Friendly Sundays Set Tails Wagging

Sundays at Kringlan shopping mall in Reykjavík just got a lot more pupular, Vísir reports. As of last week, the shopping mall is permitting local pet owners to bring their furry buddies on their Sunday shopping expeditions, provided they follow a few simple rules.

Kringlan, Facebook.

There are no specific size restrictions on the dogs that are allowed in the mall, but owners must be able to hold them on the escalators and/or pick them up if a situation requires. Dogs will not be allowed in either of the mall’s grocery stores and nor will they be permitted in salons or medical centres. Other shops may choose not to allow dogs and pet owners are asked to respect any requests not to bring their dog inside.

Kringlan, Facebook.

Soffía Kristín Kwaszenko brought her shih tzu Mangó with her last Sunday to celebrate the new rules and said that she hopes in the future, the mall will move to allow dogs every day. Mangó hasn’t been in such situations before, but the friendly fluffer just needs a bit of “environmental training,” Soffía said, and he did a great job on his first retail outing.

Some dog days opponents have worried about potential messes, but Soffía is confident that owners will be responsible and train their animals well. Moreover, Kringlan has received permission to allow dogs on the premises from the Ministry for the Environment and the city’s health authorities and assures guests that the new rules will be regularly reviewed to make sure that all visitors are having a pawsitive experience.

Shorter Quarantine Period for Dogs and Cats

Starting March 1, the quarantine period for dogs and cats imported to Iceland will be two weeks, as opposed to the previously required four weeks. The Icelandic Kennel Club (HRFÍ), which has long challenged Icelandic quarantine laws – calling them “outdated” and asserting that they have “no objective or scientific basis” – announced the change in quarantine provisions on its website.

Risk Assessment

In April 2019, at the urging of HRFÍ, a risk-assessment survey was conducted on behalf of the Minister of Agriculture to determine the safety of shorter quarantine times. The investigation concluded that no quarantine was required for dogs and cats imported from Northern Europe and the UK, from where most animals imported to Iceland arrive. According to the survey, disease control in these places is sufficient, making the risk of contamination negligible. The assessment also found that animals from other countries could safely be quarantined for two weeks, instead of the currently required four. The results were then turned over to the Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority (MAST) for further consideration.

Comments from HRFÍ

Finally, last week, chair of HRFÍ Herdís Hallmarsdóttir and alternate chair Guðbjörg Guðmundsóttir attended a meeting with ministers, a lawyer, and a veterinarian to discuss the survey’s results. Following the meeting, HRFÍ was invited to comment on a draft of new quarantine regulations and on new provisions for pet isolation centres. Some of HRFÍ’s comments were taken into account, while others were not.

HRFÍ says the shorter quarantine time is a “major step forward,” noting, among other things, that it will be, “much less stressful for animals to undergo two weeks of isolation than four.”

Fighting for Further Changes

While celebrating the new regulations, however, HRFÍ asserts that there are “still issues that … need to be examined in more detail.” The organisation underscored the risk assessment’s findings that quarantine wasn’t necessary at all for animals coming from regions such as Northern Europe, stating that in cases where quarantine was considered necessary, Icelandic authorities should look for guidance to Australia and New Zealand (where 10 days is the maximum quarantine period for pets). Lastly, HRFÍ says it is “incomprehensible” that owners are not allowed to visit their pets during the quarantine period. HRFI will continue to work for further changes to pet quarantine law.

A New Leash On Life

Icelandic sheepdog

I’m on my way to meet a national pageant winner, who after a thorough examination by a qualified judge was selected as the most beautiful in all the land. The pageant winner is perhaps not quite what you would expect, however.
Firstly, he’s male. Secondly, he’s three years old. Thirdly, he’s covered in a thick coat of luxurious fur.
His name is Einir, and he’s an Icelandic sheepdog.

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ICE-SAR Rescues Dog at Þingvellir

Two search and rescue teams were called out on Friday regarding a dog that fell into a fissure in a summer home community in the Þingvellir National Park, RÚV reports.

The dog fell five to six metres [16 – 19 ft] into a fissure that was well-hidden by scrub brush. As such, its owners were able to hear it, but were not able to see it. Ten ICE-SAR members went to the scene. Rescuers had to repel into the fissure to reach the animal and then secure a harness around it in order to lift it to the surface.

The dog was unharmed when it was returned to its owners.