The Dutch Food and Consumer Safety Authority (NVWA) is being brought to justice by dog owner Elena. Tomorrow, it will consider whether nine rescued war dogs from Ukraine have been properly confiscated.
NVWA confiscated the pets to prevent another outbreak of rabies. But the owners say they followed the rules for importing pets from abroad.
Gea Huiskes sits with her hands in her hair. She has no idea how her Rottweiler puppy Mees is doing. She adopted the animal in late March after it was rescued from the war in Ukraine by a hobby breeder.
In the 4 weeks he spent with Huiskes’ family, he changed from a traumatized puppy to a happy dog.
But suddenly NVWA stood at the door with the announcement that the dog was to be quarantined due to strict rules to prevent an outbreak of rabies in the Netherlands.
Mees was seized by NVWA and placed in a secret, unknown place. “I thought, what is this? I’m an honored citizen. I’ve never done anything that can not stand the light of day. I want to save a dog from hell with the goodness of my heart, and then you get this And I do not understand Why .
‘He asked me to save the puppies’
The puppy that Gea got was taken by hobby breeder Elena Kruglak. She comes from Ukraine, and when the war broke out, she wanted to mean something, not only to her countrymen, but also to the animals.
She heard an emergency call from a Rottweiler breeder near Kiev. “He was drafted into the Army for military service. He asked me, asked me to help his dogs. The puppies were born just before the war. He was unable to take care of them.”
Elena did not hesitate for a moment, got into the car and picked up the puppies and two adult dogs. However, she called the vet before departure to ask what rules she should abide by. She also looked at NVWA’s website: “It was very unclear. I made a printout of all the information on their website. I acted on that information.”
According to Elena, the puppies were still too young for a rabies vaccination when they left. Therefore, all puppies were vaccinated when they returned home and were quarantined for one month. Then she found new homes for all the puppies.
3000 euros per dog
But NVWA also showed up at Elena’s in late April to pick up the two adult dogs and one of the puppies she had adopted herself. They were to be quarantined for at least 3 months and the receiving costs were for Elena herself.
These can go up to 3000 euros per dog. She finds this incomprehensible: “It was a very bad situation. They just came in unannounced. They did not even ring the bell, just went into the house.”
Other rules apply to animals coming to the Netherlands due to the war in Ukraine. The European Union has decided to be flexible with the rules for pets that have fled with their owner.
They are advised to vaccinate pets in the Netherlands against rabies as soon as possible. The animal must then be quarantined in the home for a month. This is followed by a blood test to determine if the vaccination works and the animal is allowed to walk freely again.
But as soon as the dog or cat comes from Ukraine without an owner and with, for example, a foundation, the normal quarantine rules apply. This means, among other things, that the animals must be chipped and vaccinated, must have a health certificate and a European animal passport.
If all these conditions are not met, NVWA puts them in official quarantine. It can last up to 6 months. “Unreasonable,” Elena thinks. “I want equal rights for war animals.”
“We do all this out of necessity,” NVWA wrote in a written response. “This is in the interest of Dutch public health and for refugees from Ukraine who came here with their own pets.”
“With this, we take a considered / calculated health risk from European agreements and from a social point of view. Most (animal welfare) organizations know this and understand.”
Rabies or rabies
Rabies is a deadly infectious disease that occurs in dogs and cats, among others. The virus is in the saliva and spreads through the body after biting or scratching through the nerves and is also life threatening to humans. When the virus reaches the brain, the behavior changes. It also owes its name to the disease; rabies. Without timely treatment, rabies is usually fatal.
Rabies does not occur in the Netherlands, but it still occurs in Eastern Europe. According to research from Utrecht University, most cases of rabies in Europe are in Ukraine. Infections occur all over the country. The number of cases in cats is even higher than in dogs. “Despite the mandatory rabies vaccination in Ukraine, the vaccination rate for dogs in cities is estimated to be lower than 50 percent and even lower for dogs from more rural areas,” according to Utrecht University.
Two thousand animals
According to estimates by NVWA, about 2,000 pets have come along with refugees from Ukraine. Five pets were to be officially quarantined by NVWA because home quarantine was not an option for these refugees. 44 dogs and cats were collected from foundations and merchants, which were retrieved from the war zone without the owner.
“They are cared for in institutions comparable to an animal pension. They receive the best care and attention from experienced caregivers. Where necessary, socialization is put as much as possible within the quarantine requirements,” writes NVWA.
Karen Soeters from the animal welfare organization Animals Today believes that the rules have not been properly communicated by NVWA. She thinks it’s sad that benefactors who have taken dogs in from Ukraine out of the goodness of their hearts are now facing the cost of shelter, which could amount to tens of thousands of euros.
In addition, according to Soeters, the dogs also get sick in a kennel. She calls it ‘owner bullying’, at the expense of animals.
“We do not have to save all dogs from Ukraine, that is not what we are there for, but then you have to put the right information on the website,” says Soeters.
“They never did. I get this kind of stupid information all the time. It has to be responded to in a good way.” She welcomes the lawsuit that Elena Kruglak has filed against NVWA.
“Just look at the big brown eyes”
It takes another 2 months before Gea gets her dog Mees back. “I can not explain to you how it feels. I do not sleep at night. I just see the big brown eyes.” She understands well that some people think: ‘it’s just a dog you get back in 3 months’.
“It’s allowed,” Gea says. “But if you’re a real dog lover, you know these months are crucial to parenting.” In any case, she continues to wait for the puppy: “It’s not Mees I gave up. But we must raise him and give him everything he missed.”