Stranded: toll of the Covid-19 pandemic on international rescues

international rescue dogs are stranded by covid-19 pandemic

The crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic has spared no one, and rescue charities find themselves struggling as everything comes to a standstill – including donations and fundraising events that are, in many cases, their lifeblood.

Rescues big and small are feeling the pinch; the RSPCA has launched a special appeal to “keep its rescue teams out on the frontline” during this crisis; Friends of Animals Wales, who rescued UK’s ‘first dog’ Dylin and looks after puppy farming survivors, is currently raising funds online to keep rescuing dogs.

International rescues are under intense pressure, too, as the current lockdown is keeping the dogs in their care from travelling. Chiara Carella, Italian coordinator for rescue charity Settusfree – which rescues and rehomes setters throughout Europe, entirely ran by volunteers – says that the pandemic has left their dogs stranded abroad, and the situation looks bleak.

Chiara says, “Dogs cannot travel, much like people, and this has halted adoptions. I had two dogs in Italy, ready to come into the country in March. But the person meant to transport them did not come after being told he might not be able to come back in the UK if he did, due to Covid-19.

“Now the dogs are stuck in Italy, and they’re not the only ones. We have dogs blocked all over – Spain, Greece, Italy, Turkey and Serbia – about 40 Setters we can do nothing for. Some are reserved with families waiting for them, others are looking for homes, but all are hopelessly stuck. They are such loyal, loving dogs despite the abuse many of them suffered – it’s heart-breaking.”

The volunteers at Settusfree cannot do much at home, either: as the current emergency makes it impossible to carry out home checks, no dogs can be reserved at this time. Not that they have been getting much interest in adoptions ever since the pandemic hit, Chiara says.

If anyone still wishes to "sponsor a dog" Bobos, Sun and Marley still have their paws tightly crossed

Posted by Settusfree – Settees for Setters on Wednesday, 1 April 2020

“This situation is unprecedented, so there is confusion over the amount of time it would take a dog to arrive and, as a consequence, we are not getting interest in adoptions,” she explains.

“Fundraising activities are pretty much in lockdown as well. People do support single appeals, but in general donations are way down. We understand it is a difficult moment, of course, with many people off work and so much uncertainty due to the pandemic.

“Still, we do need money so that shelters keep looking after our dogs abroad. The situation in these countries is getting worse and worse, too, as they are also grappling with Covid-19. Plus, as long as we’re unable to free up rescue space, more and more dogs will remain in the streets, vulnerable to poisoning.”

Chiara adds, “Sadly, we have seen a rise in case of poisoning in Greece and Italy; with hardly any people around due to the lockdown, it is easier for sick individuals to drop poison without being spotted – and a lack of free space in rescues means more dogs in the streets.”

Even if the crisis were to end in a relatively short time, the small charity would be left with a huge backlog to go through – particularly with dogs in Serbia and Turkey, whose paperwork for transport in the UK requires more time due to extra mandatory testing. Still, Chiara says, the positive thing about adoptions in the UK is that people are committed.

“When Brits choose a dog to rehome, they don’t give up easily and are willing to wait however long it takes,” she says. “We are trying to raise funds to help the rescues looking after our dogs through this, until travel is possible again and our dogs can be adopted.”

You can donate to Settusfree through their website, via paypal to, or via bank transfer to Nat West account Settusfree, Sort Code 52-30-18, Account Number 41683439.

Images by Settusfree


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