Ukrainian refugees fleeing the outbreak of war in their country are bringing their beloved pets with them, as neighbouring nations Romania, Poland and Hungary relax restrictions on the cross-border movement of animals.
According to the animal rights organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), peacetime restrictions for bringing pets across borders require that cats and dogs be vaccinated and microchipped and have a negative blood test for rabies.
However, a rabies antibody test by blood analysis alone can take days or even weeks.
Three Eastern European nations receiving the bulk of fleeing Ukrainians – Romania, Poland and Hungary – are making exceptions for pets being ferried to safety alongside their owners.
In Romania, the chief veterinary authority in Bucharest has introduced an emergency exemption, suspending vaccination, microchipping and documentation requirements – asking instead that owners fill out a single form for their fluffy friends.
However, a limit of five pets per person is in place in Romania, and PETA Germany says it has received reports of pet owners being denied entry with their canine and feline companions, despite official statements.
Polish and Hungarian authorities have followed suit in liberalising rules governing the entry of pets into their countries, temporarily scrapping stringent vaccination, microchipping and documentation requirements and replacing them with a single ‘transition form’ to be filled out by entrants.
Abdullah Elkobbi, 21, from Morocco, had been studying medicine at a university in Ukraine, although has been forced to join the thousands of Ukrainians fleeing the nation as the Kremlin invasion of Ukraine heats up.
The 21-year-old future doctor was accompanied by his two cats, Stella and Santa, as he waited in line to reach the Shehyni border crossing to Poland.
Mr Elkobbi told Reuters: ‘I love this country. I’m so sad that it will be destroyed.’
PETA Germany are coordinating the delivery of 20,000kgs of dog and cat food to Ukraine, as well as blankets, for pet owners and their animal companions still trapped inside the warzone.
The UK branch of PETA penned a letter to George Eustice – the Secretary of State for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs – on February 25, asking that rules be relaxed in the UK for Ukrainian refugees entering with pets.
The letter read: ‘Border countries including Hungary, Poland, and Romania are loosening their restrictions to make the process of admitting companion animals less bureaucratic, and we urge the UK to follow suit.
‘A rabies antibody test by blood analysis, which would be necessary to have these animals cross the borders in line with all legal regulations, can take days or even weeks.
‘Many vulnerable animals are therefore being left behind without their guardians or other caring people, which will lead to terrifying and prolonged deaths.
‘Please stand up for animals in these exceptional circumstances and ensure that they can be brought to safety. They must be offered refuge, too, and are vital in giving comfort to fleeing, traumatised people in these horrible times.
‘The people of the UK would be devastated if forced to abandon their beloved animal family members, and we must ensure Ukrainians do not have to make this devastating choice either.’