Ukrainian author praises Britain for rescuing 3,000 pets fleeing Putin’s war

ukrainian author praises britain for rescuing 3,000 pets fleeing putin’s war

Andrey Kurkov, the bestselling author of 'Death and the Penguin' says: 'A pet is a member of the family in Ukraine, and you don't leave members of your family behind.' - JUSSI NUKARI/SHUTTERSTOCK

Ukraine’s most famous novelist has praised Britain for giving refuge to almost 3,000 pets fleeing Putin’s invasion, including rats, chinchillas, hamsters and an African pygmy hedgehog,

Most of the saved animals were cats and dogs but there was also a solitary turtle, a lone cockatiel and three common degus, a kind of Chilean rodent.

Andrey Kurkov is the author of the best-selling book “Death and the Penguin,” a bleak satire about a man in Kyiv with a pet king penguin called Misha. Last year, he won a National Book Critics Circle Award in the US for “Grey Bees”, his novel about a beekeeper in the wartorn Donbas.

“Ukraine is definitely one of the countries where people are not detachable from their pets. At the beginning of the war, organisers were not allowing people to take their pets to evacuation buses and trains. So lots of people stayed on, they couldn’t leave their pets behind,” Mr Kurkov told The Telegraph.

“There was one very old woman from Donbas who agreed to be evacuated from under shelling only with her rooster. Nobody complained and she got to Western Ukraine where she and her rooster are living now.”

He added, “For Ukrainians, it is extremely important that the UK allows refugees to bring their pets.

“It means these people are much more stable psychologically. Because a pet is a member of the family in Ukraine, and you don’t leave members of your family behind.”

Bring your pet scheme

The Government set up a scheme to help Ukrainian refugees bringing their pets with them to the UK in March 2022, shortly after the war began.

2,899 pets benefited from the animal scheme at a total cost to the public purse of £1,571,895.21, according to data obtained by The Telegraph.

“As a nation of animal lovers, we know the important role pets can play in our daily lives,” a Defra spokesman said.

“That is why using an emergency licence, people fleeing Ukraine were able to bring their pets to the UK with any quarantine and vaccination costs met by the UK Government to ensure families could stay together.”

The UK issued a total of 257,600 visas to Ukrainians as part of its support to refugees from the war. The visa scheme closed in February, two years after the invasion.

The Ukrainian pet scheme paid for the vaccination, microchipping and quarantine costs for the animals and was designed to keep Britain free from rabies, which is found in Ukraine

Ј28,418.81 was spent on vaccination, ВЈ1,189.47 on microchips and ВЈ1,542,286.93 on African quarantine costs, according to the data from a Freedom of Information request.

Fundamental pet health preparations

“The UK has been rabies-free for 100 years and these important pet health preparations were fundamental in protecting our biosecurity and public health when allowing rescue animals to enter from an unlisted country,” the spokesperson said.

Not all pets require vaccination, quarantine and microchipping, with dogs, cats and ferrets facing different requirements than other pets.

More dogs than any other type of pet were brought to Britain with 1,503 canines benefitting from the scheme. 1,300 cats and two ferrets also made the journey from Ukraine.

A single gerbil, 18 hamsters, nine chinchillas, seven birds, 15 guinea pigs, 17 rats, 17 rabbits and four animals listed as species “unknown” also escaped Putin’s illegal war.

The figures only apply to Britain and not Northern Ireland, where almost £140,000 was spent on relocating 35 Ukrainian pets.

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