Relaxation of rules taking animals from Ukraine into adjacent and EU countries (March 2022)

There is no need for refugees to abandon their companion animals when leaving Ukraine. We know that many Ukrainian women are fleeing with their companion animals and their children. They make their way to adjacent countries like Poland, Hungary, Romania and Moldova. They struggle to get to these borders often carrying a cat or dog in their arms rather than in a carrier. Ukraine does not allow men to leave the country as they have to fight the Russians.

Under normal circumstances regulations would be in force at the border to ensure that pets are vaccinated against diseases such as rabies and micro-chipped and in order to comply with that country’s regulations.

PETA have provided an excellent page on how these bordering countries have facilitated entry of companion animals. The general gist is that Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia (they don’t mention Moldova) have relaxed entry requirements in order to avoid refugees abandoning their pets at the border.

PETA Germany at Ukraine Border Feb 2022
PETA Germany at Ukraine Border Feb 2022. The relaxation of border control rules regarding companion animals is to avoid what we see in this photograph with PETA apparently rescuing a cat. The photograph is by PETA.
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Refugees should be reassured that they will be able to get their companion animals through the border with themselves. For example, PETA’s latest information from Poland is that the government is allowing companion animals to enter the country without vaccinations, a microchip or tattoo ID or a blood test. However, once they have entered Poland, they must complete traditional paperwork for the animals.

If refugees are travelling onwards to another EU country, they must leave their animals behind in quarantine at the shelter near the border for three weeks. Funding for this is provided by the Polish government which will vaccinate the animals against rabies. The documentation is available on the Polish General Veterinary Inspectorate’s website.

As mentioned, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia are allowing animals in and once into the country the owners complete paperwork and comply with the regulations at that time. This precludes the need to abandon pets at the border.

Many refugees are travelling onwards to other EU countries which creates a potential complication in getting their companion animals into those countries. With respect to the transportation of companion animals, the EU is governed by the pet passport scheme which facilitates inter-country travel but the rules regarding animals coming in from a non-EU country are normally quite strict. That’s why Poland has relaxed these rules.

We are told that the European Commission directed EU member states to cut red tape for Ukrainian citizens arriving into the EU with companion animals. Accordingly, they suspended the requirement for a permit under Regulation (EU) 576/2013 until further notice according to the PETA report.

However, once the refugees are into those countries that have to contact the local veterinary authority to confirm the health status of the companion animal and complete the necessary tests and paperwork post-facto i.e. retroactively.

This makes a lot of sense although it clearly presents a small risk to those countries of the possibility of rabies being introduced. But the overarching objective is to avoid refugees been forced to abandon their animals at these borders and/or forcing refugees to make impossible decisions about either abandoning their animal or not travelling through to their EU country of destination.

Cat in bunker sheltering from the shelling above in Ukraine during Putin's invasion
Cat in bunker sheltering from the shelling above in Ukraine during Putin’s invasion. Photo: Reddit.

The UK

The UK appears to be behind EU countries in this regard. The UK is no longer in the EU. The latest report about five hours ago is that the government is in discussions with vets and quarantine facilities to allow refugees to come into the country with their pets without the usual paperwork and checks.

A lot of pressure has been placed upon the UK government to relax entry restrictions on pets for refugees fleeing the war.

Normally animals will have to be micro-chipped and have a pet passport or health certificate and a rabies vaccination. There are quite strict rules.

However, under the circumstances it is entirely unreasonable to expect Ukrainian refugees to comply with these regulations. And it appears that the Ukrainian standards regarding micro-chipping and vaccinations might be a little lower than in EU countries.

For instance, CDC in America state that rabid dogs are commonly found in Ukraine. On the UK government website, they state that Ukraine is a high-risk level in respect of rabies. Rabies was eradicated from the UK many years ago. Clearly therefore, this is a very real concern. However, the symptoms of rabies are very apparent and I would have thought that they would have been present well before the animals get to the UK.

PETA have stated that “many vulnerable animals are therefore being left behind without their guardians”. They are referring to the rabies antibody test through blood analysis which takes days or even weeks which is preventing refugees entering the UK with their animals. They urge the government to relax the rules and refugees to stay with their animals.

Dominic Dyer, an animal advocate who worked with Mr Farthing in getting animals out of Afghanistan when the Taliban took over, said that: “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 euthanised in Poland, Hungary and Romania in the weeks ahead.”

However, it seems that at this present moment the UK government is working out a method to allow companion animals into the country so that refugees’ travel into the UK is not impeded and that they’re not forced to make an impossible decision to stay where they are or leave their pets behind.

Refugees should be reassured that a solution will be found for those who wish to travel to the UK. The UK is generous in terms of animal welfare.

Below are some more articles on Ukraine.

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