British officials seize rescue dogs from Ukraine over rabies fears

NEWS AND COMMENT-UK: In essence this is about the British government being very, very cautious about rescued dogs from Ukraine bringing into the country diseases, particularly rabies. However, it appears to be a mix-up and what they’ve done has caused great distress.

A group of rescue dogs from Ukraine arrived in the UK on March 20, 2022 according to the BBC. The rescue operation from Ukraine to the UK was organised by a British charity run by Elina Olifaruk, a Ukrainian originally from Lviv, who runs Paw Help Rescue and Adopt UK. Their purpose is to rescue dogs that are in great need of being rescued in Ukraine and rehoming them in the UK. An excellent idea. And I’m sure that many Brits would like to adopt these dogs so they can contribute.

Rescue dogs from Ukraine have to go into quarantine for 4 months
Rescue dogs from Ukraine have to go into quarantine for 4 months. Photos: Paw Help Rescue and Adopt UK.

The BBC reports that these charities, in order to comply with UK pet passport and vaccination rules, ensured that the dogs were placed in a three-month quarantine in Ukraine before being exported from that country. They were there until the end of 2021.

At the end of that period blood tests were taken in Germany because the facilities were not available in a laboratory in Ukraine because of the conflict.

According to the charities, this put these dogs in a position whereby they could be legally be brought to the UK. They cleared the border checks in the UK and were rehomed in the country.

Subsequently, British government officials challenged the legitimacy of the blood tests which I presume confirm that the dog had received the requisite vaccinations and had not been exposed to rabies.

Because of this they seized the dogs and took them away from their new owners in various parts of the country and they’ve been placed in quarantine again. This has upset the new owners on two counts: (1) they’ve at least temporarily lost their dogs which has caused great upset and (2) they will have to pay £3,000 for a fresh four-month stay in quarantine. The four-month quarantine period relates to dogs that have received no rabies vaccination.

In many of the homes there are young children who are questioning why their dog has been taken away. As a consequence, the owners are distraught for their children and for the loss of that dog.

Owners are calling for the quarantine period to be reduced to 21 days. This is the time it would take for new, domestic blood tests to come back to confirm that the dogs are free of rabies and have been vaccinated.

Elina is trying to raise £30,000 to help pay for the costs of quarantining the dogs. If the owners don’t pay £3,000 contribution, they been told that they might lose their dogs.

There is a big, background issue, namely that this unfortunate incident undermines the process of rescuing dogs from the Ukraine as the charity is now unable to bring over other dogs because they can’t complete the necessary tests and paperwork, they say.

In a further confusion, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has introduced a streamlined system for refugees from Ukraine to allow them to bring their companion animals with them to the UK which does not require them to pay for quarantine.

The UK Chief Veterinary Officer, Christine Middlemiss said: “Checks have confirmed that these animals did not receive the required blood tests to ensure they were healthy to enter the UK. We are taking quick action to limit the risk of disease spreading by quarantining all animals involved in this case until further notice.”

Her statement seems to clash directly with the statement of Elina who runs the charities which successfully imported the dogs in the first place. The picture is unclear and confused in my opinion.

You are probably aware that the UK has been free of rabies for many decades. Clearly the authorities in the country are very sensitive towards the introduction of rabies from other countries including Ukraine where it is very much present. I can understand the caution but Defra appear to be acting unfairly towards these charities and the new owners.

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