Hobby breeder Elena Krohlak (52 years old) from Slotdorp loves animals. “Cats, dogs, chickens, and hamsters: I love them all.” She has a special place in her heart for Rottweilers, “the cutest dogs on the planet.”
Born in Kyiv, Krohlak has been in contact every day since the war with friends, family and acquaintances in Ukraine. “To check if everyone is still alive.”
That’s how I heard Alexander’s story from a Rottweiler breeder. Because of his military service, he cannot take care of his dogs. Ask for help from Kroehlak. She did not hesitate for a moment and left for Ukraine with her husband on March 26 to pick up dogs. They came back with eight Rottweilers and two mother dogs.
Before leaving, she called her vet to ask her about the rules she had to comply with. “The vet did not know, so I went to investigate myself. I saw that the pets from Ukraine were allowed to go to Holland because of the war, but they had to be vaccinated here.”
In the Netherlands, Krohlak brought a Rottweiler to the vet. She vaccinated them against rabies, asked for a titer (a blood test that could prove vaccination) and kept the animals in home quarantine. One of the puppies fell ill and died. I tried to put the rest – after the quarantine period – with new owners. Bitches and one puppy stayed with Krohlak. She gave the money from the proceeds to Alexander, because “in Ukraine hardly anyone has money anymore.”
Kroehlak was happy that the Rottweilers had a new home in Holland, but that joy turned out to be short-lived. More than a month after arriving, an inspector from the Dutch Consumer Product and Food Safety Authority (NVWA) showed up in Kroehlak and the new dog owners. The Rottweilers were taken and placed in quarantine at an unknown location for at least three months. The costs for this – which can be up to 3,000 euros per animal – are on the person who has housed the dogs.
Kroehlak is not the only one to whom this has happened. Natalie Kling of the Dutch Stray Animals Association (SAAN) received reports from the Dutch that collected Ukrainian animals, but they were later captured by the NVWA. “I estimate it to be 55 to 60 animals,” Kling says. You hear horrific stories. “Some people are facing bankruptcy because of the costs of quarantine.”
Strict rules usually apply to a person who wants to travel to an EU member state with an animal from a non-EU country, such as Ukraine. The animal must have a microchip in the country of origin, be vaccinated against rabies, have undergone titer determination, have a health certificate and be at least seven months old. Since 1 November 2021, an EU pet passport application must also be submitted for imported dogs.
At the end of February, the European Union decided to be flexible with the rules for importing animals from Ukraine due to the war. Refugees and expats fleeing Ukraine with their pets do not have to comply with strict rules. Their animal must be vaccinated against rabies, registered with the vet, and kept in home quarantine until the titer test result.
But this does not apply to stray agencies, institutions and individuals who collect animals from Ukraine. And not for Krohlak either. “Ridiculous. You can’t leave animals to their own devices in a time of war, right?”
drowning in information
Anyone looking for information on bringing animals in from abroad is “drenched in quantity,” says SAAN’s Natalie Kling. “There are usually many rules, but the exceptions for pets from Ukraine made the information more ambiguous.”
According to Kling, the information from NVWA, in letter and on the website, also contains errors. On March 23, SAAN received a letter from the NVWA about receiving pets from Ukraine and Russia. The waiting time after the blood test was not indicated, the new legislation on passport requirements was not taken into account, and no distinction was made between Russia and Ukraine. ”
The NVWA website states, “It is gratifying to see how organizations and individuals come together to provide a safe home for pets from Ukraine or to provide emergency aid such as food.” This is misleading, says Kling. “It is confusing to read then that it is only about refugees traveling with their pets.”
Klinge has submitted several complaints to NVWA. Email exchange between Klinge and NVWA completed Norwegian Refugee Council realized. In the email, an NVWA employee stated that “changes have always been made” and that a number of points “may have been clarified further by now, such as the rabies vaccination”. The spokesperson told the NRC that “correct and complete information about importing pets from other countries has always been available on the site,” that “the rules have been clearly communicated” and that “NVWA provides further clarification when necessary, such as now with the war.”
The NVWA says that simply collecting animals from Ukraine is not wise. “Rabies is a deadly disease for humans and animals, and we don’t want to take it to the Netherlands.” It is exceptional that refugees and expats are allowed to bring their pets. “The EU has given leniency because we don’t want to separate refugees from their pets.”
Karen Sweeters of House of Animals is concerned about the welfare of the animals that have been confined. Animals should not be victims of this. The quarantine period is certainly too long for puppies.” She finds it unfair to allow refugees and expats to bring in pets without adhering to strict rabies rules. “In both cases it is about animals unsafe because of the war.”
Elena Krohlak is awake now. She is not allowed to go to the rottweilers and she does not know how they do. She hopes that NVWA will soon provide clarification regarding their well-being. “They are like our children. We take care of them as best we can.”