A man has traveled 2,000 miles and over 60 hours to rescue dogs from Ukraine – only to be told bureaucracy is preventing him from bringing them back to Ireland.
Andy Cullen, 45, has been rescuing huskies for eight years and traveled to the war-torn country to help. But, eight days into his journey, he says he was told government rules in Ireland prevented him from bringing mutts home.
Andy, from Dublin, says officials called and said he would not be allowed back with the dogs for fear of rabies. Today (18/3) he and his teammate Darran Bracken, 40, return to Kyiv from a small refugee camp in Przemysl, Poland, to pick up 19 other dogs from a shelter.
They say they have already rescued 46 dogs, who have crossed the border – but cannot bring back to Ireland. As Andy explained: “Nobody told us that it was forbidden to bring dogs home before leaving Ireland – we had no time to wait. We felt an urgent call to go and help as many dogs as possible there.”
Darran said they started their journey east 10 days ago with the sole intention of “rescuing as many dogs as possible”. However, he says the couple feel “bitterly disappointed” and “disappointed” by their government’s refusal to allow rescue dogs to return to Ireland.
Andy and Darren traveled to Warsaw to unite with colleagues from Swedish dog rescue centres, then drove two vans full of dog supplies to the Polish border, where they finally entered Ukraine on March 12 . Andy, a father of five and owner of nine dogs, has been rescuing dogs from Lviv and kyiv since his arrival.
He even spent a day waiting seven hours to cross the Polish border with Ukraine, and stayed in various refugee camps based in Warsaw and Przemysl. He is currently residing in a refugee camp in Przemysl, a small village, where he is waiting to pick up 19 other kyiv rescue dogs – who he has been told have ‘nowhere to go and no one else to help them “.
It was not until March 16 – eight days into their journey from Dublin – that Andy says he received two calls from the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine. Andy said: “Usually you can bring dogs back to Ireland with no problem, but the government is cracking down hard on rabies – although there have been no cases of the disease since 2009.
“Under normal circumstances, dogs must reside at a rescue center for four months before they can be rehomed, as they must undergo blood tests and various vaccinations to classify them as free. But the Irish government refuses to allow dogs from Ukraine in the country, so we take dogs to Polish rescue centers, but currently you are only allowed to bring 15 dogs from Ukraine to Poland, you can go in and out as many times as you want , but 15 is the maximum for each visit.
“The Irish Government are not budging – I tried to reason with them and asked if I would leave the dogs in Poland for four months and then come back to collect them, but they refused. I even suggested that I buy the dogs, get them passports and the right papers to declare them legally mine – but they still said no because they know where the dogs are from.
“The fact that Ireland won’t let us bring the dogs back is a real disappointment. It didn’t spoil the trip but it is really upsetting – everyone at home wants to help people and dogs in Ukraine. “
Andy’s rescue centre, Husky Rescue Ireland, is currently home to 33 abandoned akitas and huskies, which the charity is seeking to rehome to Ireland. He said: “We are always happy to do this job, but my own country prevents me from bringing dogs home.
“When you do this for the people of Ireland to show that we care and you have all that Irish support behind you – and then your own government lets you down.”
Ireland currently allows refugee families with pets to enter the country under certain circumstances, but the import of animals is strictly controlled. Andy and his team are hoping to get back to Ireland no later than Tuesday but are “apprehensive” about the timings and “crossing their fingers for the Ukrainian dogs”.
He said: “So all the dogs that we rescue will go to Polish rescue centres, where they will be quarantined for four months, and then they will rehom the dogs, either to Poland or to Sweden. We move around all the time. time from place to place currently and I don’t know where we are going to stay till night.
“I never thought what would happen when I see the people here. When you see adults and children, it really hits how comfortable we are. They have nothing left and that is heartbreaking.”
The Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine has been approached for comment.
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