Ukrainian refugees: UK set to waive red tape for pets

Ukrainian refugees who carried their pets as they fled their homes will be allowed to bring the animals into the UK without paperwork or facing vaccine and quarantine bills, The Independent has learned.

The government is preparing to announce emergency measures to make it easier for the victims of war to keep their cats and dogs with them rather than abandoning them in countries en route to the UK, such as Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Germany.

With more than 2.5 million Ukrainians having been forced to leave the country, sources say ministers will waive the strict rule that requires owners to have a pet passport or health certificate to bring in their pets.

It’s thought the government is also set to announce it will cover the cost of vaccines including for rabies.

In addition, quarantine costs will be free – and officials are considering setting up a new system of home quarantine if demand exceeds places in UK quarantine facilities.

Ukrainian dogs and cats that have already been vaccinated should not need to be quarantined.

British animal-protection activists have been lobbying the government to relax entry restrictions on pets belonging to those fleeing war.

And the government move is understood to be considered a trade-off for the government’s dropping the flagship Animals Abroad Bill, which would have banned imports of real fur, body parts from trophy-hunting, foie gras, shark fins and live exports of livestock, as well as adverts for elephant rides.

Under the UK’s rules, owners may to enter or return to Britain with a pet cat, dog or ferret only if the animal has been microchipped, has a pet passport or health certificate and has been vaccinated against rabies.

Normally, animals from Ukraine would also need a blood test for rabies at least three months before travelling.

But it’s understood these requirements will all be waived.

The government is preparing to unveil a system of paying British people £350 a month for hosting refugees from Ukraine.

And officials are working with vets and quarantine facilities to look at ways to support incoming pet owners.

Last week lobbyists wrote to animal-welfare minister Zac Goldsmith and environment secretary George Eustice, calling for an emergency pet passport scheme and offering help in setting up cat and dog health check systems.

They warned that forcing people already devastated by war to potentially leave their beloved animals to die would deepen their trauma.

Dominic Dyer in his letter: “If UK policy remains that no companion animals can enter the UK with refugees, we could see tens of thousands of dogs and cats having to be euthanized in Poland, Hungary and Romania in the weeks ahead.

“Each of these animal deaths would bring further misery to the women and children who have escaped war and would make Britain’s immigration policy look extremely cruel in comparison to other EU member states.”

The International Fund for Animal Welfare has estimated up to half of Ukrainian families fleeing are pet owners.

If the rules on microchipping and paperwork are not followed, any pet would normally be put in quarantine for up to four months, under the UK’s strict measures to keep the country rabies-free.

A government spokesperson said: “We recognize the difficult and distressing situation that Ukrainian nationals currently face, and the UK government is working at pace to support them.

“We have strong biosecurity measures in place to protect the public and other animals from diseases which can be brought to the UK by animals from overseas.

“The government is looking at options to provide support to Ukrainian nationals who are entering the UK with their pets.”

Mimi Bekhechi, vice-president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta), welcomed the decision, saying its workers in Poland and Ukraine had “seen first-hand the dangerous lengths that people are going to to bring their animals with them when fleeing”.

She said: “It’s only right that the UK be a place of safe harbor for them.

“We hope the quarantine periods for animals can be shortened and that quarantined animals will be allowed regular visits from their human family members.”

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