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Couple’s anguish as Ukrainian rescue puppy is seized and put in quarantine amid rabies risk row

A distraught couple have described their turmoil after the puppy they adopted from war torn Ukraine was suddenly seized after they were warned she was a potential rabies risk.

Amie Kane and Niall McGuckin, of Wakefield, West Yorkshire, were heartbroken by the plight of people in Ukraine and after hearing dogs were being abandoned among the conflict, they decided to rescue a dog from the country.

Paw Help UK, which has links with a charity in Ukraine, helped them find Luna and the couple instantly fell in love after seeing photographs of the dog and went ahead with adopting her.

Luna was brought to the UK along with other Ukrainian dogs in a transporter van and Ms Kane says as soon as they brought her home, Luna settled in immediately and bonded with them.

Amie Kane and Niall McGuckin, of Wakefield, West Yorkshire, are heartbroken after Luna, the rescue dog they adopted from Ukraine was suddenly seized and quarantined due to a potential rabies risk. Amie with Luna (Photo: Amie Kane)

The 24-year-old primary school teacher told i: “We loved Luna instantly. She became our shadow of her and we formed a fantastic bond with her.

Mr McGuckin added: “Luna followed us around everywhere and slept with us in our bed.”

However, just days after Luna joined their home, Mr McGuckin, who works in business development, told how Leeds City Council suddenly turned up at their door saying they had been ordered to seize the animal under orders of the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

“They just turned up at our door and we were served with papers saying Luna was being seized as she was a potential rabies risk,” he said. “It was a huge shock and an hour later, a transporter van came and took her away from her. It was horrible.”

The couple have since discovered they are among 24 families affected by the ordeal after rehoming dogs brought over from Ukraine, only to have them suddenly confiscated.

After investigating the issue, charity Paw Help UK who brought the dogs to the UK discovered they had been scammed and given fraudulent rabies blood test certificates for these dogs.

Amie Kane and Niall McGuckin, of Wakefield, West Yorkshire, are heartbroken after Luna, the rescue dog they adopted from Ukraine was suddenly seized and quarantined due to a potential rabies risk. They are among 24 households who have had their new pet taken away after charity Paw Help UK was scammed with fake blood test certificates (Photo: Amie Kane)

“Dogs who travel over from Ukraine need to have a rabies vaccine and then three weeks later, have a blood test to show the level of antibodies,” explained Ms Kane. “The dog then has to wait three months before coming to the UK.

“Luna had her rabies vaccine in November last year according to her pet passport. She then had the blood test in December.”

As the charity could not use their normal laboratory in Kyiv, they were put in touch with another vet who said they could do the tests abroad with a German laboratory. They paid the recommended vet and received blood test certificates confirming the dogs were all free from rabies.

However, while performing standard checks on the import paperwork, Defra discovered that the laboratory listed as performing the dogs’ blood tests had no record of the animals in their system.

Unfortunately, it means the rescued dogs now have to remain in quarantine kennels for up to four months after spending precious days bonding with their new families.

As well as being heartbroken at being separated from their new pets, the alarmed owners have been told they have to pay all quarantine and vets fees for their new dog – or face having the animal destroyed. This is anticipated to cost at least £3,000 per dog.

“One of the first things we were told as Luna was being taken away was that we were now liable for her costs and that if we didn’t pay them, the dog would be destroyed,” said Mr McGuckin.

Niall McGuckin with Luna at the quarantine kennels in Bracknell. They cannot visit her regularly as it is a four-and-a-half-hour journey from their home de ella (Photo: Amie Kane)

“We will be charged for quarantine costs, vaccinations, blood tests and transportation costs.”

To add to their heartbreak, due to there only being 12 quarantine kennels with limited spaces, Luna is in kennels in Bracknell, near Reading – a journey of four-and-a-half hours from their home.

“It is just such a difficult economic climate and we can’t afford those fees,” said Ms Kane. But Luna being destroyed is unthinkable and we cannot allow that to happen so we have launched a Gofundme fundraiser.

“Paw Help UK have said they will try to raise funds to cover costs for all affected owners – but this will be a six-figure sum so we want to take this pressure off them as they do an amazing job.

“Luna has already had such a difficult start to her life and came from an animal shelter in a war-torn country. She is now isolated and locked away with very little interaction and we can’t visit her regularly because of how far away she is.

Amie Kane and Niall McGuckin, of Wakefield, West Yorkshire, are heartbroken after Luna, the rescue dog they adopted from Ukraine was suddenly seized and quarantined due to a potential rabies risk. They are among 24 households who have had their new pet taken away after charity Paw Help UK was scammed with fake blood test certificates (Photo: Amie Kane)

“She was so happy for the five days she was with us and we were taking her out for walks. Then she was suddenly shoved in a van and put in a cage. It is devastating.

“We just want her home as soon as possible so the effects are not long-lasting and we can rebuild our bond with her.”

Paw Help UK is run by Elina Olifaruk, originally from Lviv, Ukraine, and is partnered with an animal rescue center in Ukraine.

The charity says the dogs had already been quarantined in secure kennels in Ukraine for three months before being transported and had received all their vaccinations and been given a clean bill of health by the Ukrainian vet before making the two-day journey to the UK. Paw Help UK says the problem is “purely one of paperwork” due to being scammed and given fake blood test certificates.

Ms Oliferuk, founder of Paw Help UK, said: “We at Paw Help UK are fully cooperating with the active investigation and the parents of the pets involved.

“Had we known there was an issue with the paperwork, we would have never put these poor dogs and their new owners in this awful position of being separated.

“Paw Help UK is committed to covering the quarantine costs for all these animals and we have started actively fundraising so that we may continue to rescue animals from Ukraine both during and after this awful war.”

Paw Help UK is also campaigning for the Government to shorten the required quarantine period for dogs traveling from Ukraine to 21 days bringing the quarantine period in line with the rest of Europe.

Defra confirmed to i that follow up border checks by the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA), showed a shipment of animals imported by a rescue charity traveled on falsified rabies documentation.

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Christine Middlemiss, UK chief veterinary officer, said: “Checks have confirmed that these animals did not receive the required blood tests to ensure they were healthy to enter the UK.

“We are taking quick action to limit the risk of disease spreading by quarantining all animals involved in this case until further notice.

“We are really grateful for the cooperation of the households involved – this helps protect all our own UK pets. I encourage the public to contact us with any information they may have.”

She added: “Animals without the correct vaccinations and confirmatory tests pose a real disease threat to both our own beloved animals and to people while also impacting the rabies-free status we have held for many years.”

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