After PETA appeal, India eases norms for bringing back pets from Ukraine

The government on Tuesday issued a memorandum promising “a one-time relaxation measure” for bringing back pet dogs and cats along with stranded Indians who are being evacuated from war-hit Ukraine.

The measure by the government followed an appeal from the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India after the non-profit noticed a video on social media on Saturday. In the video, Rishabh Kaushik, a final-year undergrad student of software engineering at the Kharkiv National University of Radio Electronics in Ukraine, complained that he had been trying to contact Indian authorities but they repeatedly asked him for documents in order to bring his pet dog, Malibu.

PETA India wrote to Parshottam Rupala, the minister for fisheries, animal husbandry and dairying. On Tuesday, PETA shared the office memo that includes relaxed pre-import and post-import conditions and direct regional officers of all animal quarantine and certification services (AQCS) to coordinate with the state veterinary authorities concerned to share details of each migrant pet with the Center’s Department of Animal Husbandry and Dairying.

“We are extremely thankful to the Modi government for this compassionate decision to include companion animals in the evacuation process. Separating animal companions from their guardians would have been another tragedy for those desperately fleeing Ukraine, and it would have only resulted in more heartbreak and unnecessarily lost lives,” said PETA India Chief Executive Officer and veterinarian Manilal Valliyate in a press release.

He added that with this decision, India joined a select list of countries — including Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and Lithuania — “that have made entry for animals less bureaucratic, thereby helping families, including people like Rishabh, escape the warzone with their beloved companion animals”.

When asked about how the relaxation has eased conditions, Valliyate told Business Standard that according to the existing law, anyone bringing a companion animal from abroad has to produce proof of continuous stay of two years in that particular country, along with proof of transferring his or her residence to India, which implies an airline ticket. Besides this, one requires an advance customs permission.

Most importantly, the individual has to produce a health certificate from a vet ruling that the animal is free from any contagious diseases, as well as a vaccination certificate that is valid. The vaccination of the animal has to be within 12 months of travel, with the latest round not less than one month prior. Finally, the person has to give a declaration saying that the animal is not being transported for any commercial purposes.

Putting this tedious documentation aside, Valliyate says, what the government has now done is to allow a person to give a declaration claiming possession of the pet for merely one month.

“Ideally, the government still prefers a health certificate and vaccination certificate of the animal. If you are traveling and crossing the border to another friendly country, you can take the animal to a veterinarian and get a certificate.”

The memo gives further relaxation. “For example, if you have a vaccination certificate, upon arrival at a place where you have the quarantine services, the pet will be examined along with the certificate and given a clearance. In case there is no vaccination certificate, the animal will be kept in quarantine for 15 or 30 days, at the end of which the animal will be vaccinated,” Valliyate said.

After the animal is taken home, it has to be taken to a vet and its owner has to submit a certificate to the AQCS. Valliyate pointed out that India is an exception of sorts, as other countries relaxing rules similarly are those bordering Ukraine.

A Facebook page of the alumni association of St Joseph’s Academy, a co-ed school in Dehradun where Kaushik studied, posted his video and has been giving regular updates on his whereabouts. It had posted that Kaushik had refused to leave for Dubai with his family on February 19. His family runs an export business in Ukraine.

When the crisis in Ukraine worsened, Kaushik’s father immediately arranged a visa for his return. But Kaushik was adamant about leaving with his pet.

Praveen Chandhok, who heads the alumni association of the school, said Kaushik caught a train from kyiv on Monday, along with Malibu, to Uzhhorod, a city in western Ukraine along the border with Slovakia and near Hungary. He is expected to reach Hungary on Tuesday and fly with his pet to India soon after.

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