Rescues Unite: charities to challenge ban on import of rescue dogs

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A group of rescue charities joined together to apply for a judicial review on the Government’s decision to suspend the import of dogs from Romania, Ukraine, Belarus, and Poland – including that of rescue dogs who have been waiting to join their new families in the UK.

The first suspension was announced on 7 April 2022; this was then extended to 9 July, and now until 3 September. Charities on the ground, many of which are registered in the UK, have since said that the situation has since become unteneable, as being unable to send dogs on to their new homes in the UK means they are unable to free up space for more dogs in need, and have to turn them away. The situation is not sparing the pets left behind by Ukrainian refugees. 

The Government explained, “This decision has been taken because of the serious health risk to humans and animals in Great Britain from commercial cats, dogs and ferrets from Belarus, Poland, Romania or Ukraine that do not comply with UK health and documentation requirements. These countries are at high-risk of rabies.”

Rescues Unite, a group of UK Rescues comprising registered charities and not for profit animal rescues, was formed to apply for a judicial review against the decision.

“The suspension is disproportionate based on official figures released by the affected countries,” said Jason Yorke, trustee of A Better Life Dog Rescue. “DEFRA have performed a knee-jerk reaction to a situation that was totally controllable if they had listened to the rescuers that have vast experience in rescue from those countries. The only way forward is a Judicial Review to look into the actions of the suspension and its fairness.”

Hayley Ashford, founder of Final Stop Rescue, added, “Rescues Unite believe that the ruling is unjust and the length of the suspension is not proportionate to the risk mentioned in the suspension. The way the extensions have been announced have in our opinion been very underhand with all extensions being given after 5pm the day before the day the ban was due to be lifted, when DEFRA is closed and with less than 24 hours’ notice.”

ban on the import of dogs from some countries extended

While one of the Government’s arguments for the ban is the need to reserve quarantine space for the pets coming in with Ukrainian refugees, Rescues Unite argue that rescue dogs coming to the UK to join their new families with all paperwork in place will not need to take up any quarantine space.

Roz Dilly, trustee of Bid to Save a Stray, added, “UK adopters waiting for their dogs to arrive are being denied the right to bring their dogs home whilst unscrupulous rescuers are bringing dogs in under the pet passport scheme, which is illegal and means DEFRA have no control over these dogs entering – even though these are the same dogs that would have entered with full disclosure and traceability had commercial transport been used.”

Jason Yorke concluded, “Rescues Unite all calling for an immediate review and lifting of the current suspension for reputable rescues, and for DEFRA to ensure our borders are safe with more stringent checks and better control and harsher punishment for non compliant rescues and transporters.”

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