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Tuesday, May 24, 2022
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Ukrainians who give up their adopted home in Spain because they cannot support their pets

Tatyana Belash lived in Kharkov with her daughter and husband. In January, he adopted a six-month-old dog who went from living in a spacious home in Ukraine’s second-largest city to living in a bomb shelter in just a few weeks. Tatiana and her 16-year-old daughter fled to Spain to settle in Valencia. There, as recommended by volunteers and compatriots, they went to the Red Cross in search of a home. They gave them a place in one of the hotels owned by the NGO, but their dog could not stay with them.

Before the start of the Russian invasion and the arrival of thousands of Ukrainian refugees in Spain, the state reception system did not allow the entry of families of asylum seekers along with their pets. Although there were almost no cases of applying for international protection accompanied by animals, as a rule, when this happened, potential refugees had to leave them if they wanted to qualify for a bed in government centers.

Faced with the arrival of hundreds of people from Ukraine along with their pets, which has hitherto been unprecedented on such a scale, the Government has decided to make an exception that only applies to people displaced by the Russian invasion. Three reference centers for Ukrainians with the possibility of admission (Madrid, Malaga and Alicante) welcome pets and even provide services of veterinary staff, reports the Ministry of Inclusion. But apart from these emergency reception points, adapting the reception system to include animals within a few months is not an easy task for the authorities and the NGOs in charge of running the network, according to the Secretary of State for Migration and various organizations. involved in the process.

While hundreds of Ukrainians are already welcome in Spain accompanied by their pets and have not experienced any problems, an indefinite number of them, such as Tatiana, Natalia, Anna or Anna, are facing difficulties that have pushed them to think about giving up your seat or leaving. animal in the shelter.

Many images are circulating online that highlight the behavior of Ukrainians who, like Tatiana, did not want to leave their animals. For this reason, the European Union has also decided to make exceptions to its rules to facilitate the free movement of pets within community boundaries. In Spain, the ministries of social rights and agriculture have developed a new protocol that relaxes the requirements normally imposed on the importation of animals. According to the general director of the animal rights organization Sergio Garcia, 1,200 Ukrainian families arrived in Spain with their pets and are registered in various autonomous communities.

With the changes noted by the government, some NGOs such as the Red Cross, Accem or CEAR are trying to find affordable places for pets. “We are adapting to seeing animals as just another member of the family,” explains a Red Cross spokesperson. But this is not always possible.

“It belongs to the family”

When Tatyana found out that her dog could not get into the hotel offered to her, she decided to refuse this accommodation (and therefore enter the security system) and looked for an alternative through a network of volunteers. “She is our family, and she survived this nightmare with us. I can’t leave her,” he says, referring to his pet. They have taken refuge in the house of a woman with whom they can stay until the summer.

“Until then, I have to learn Spanish, find a job, and be able to pay my rent,” lamented Tatiana, who made it clear that she wasn’t going to settle for any option involving parting with her puppy. Both the ministry and the Red Cross claim that cases like Tatiana’s are “a minority,” but acknowledge the logistical barriers associated with accommodating people with pets. However, the Spanish Commission for Aid to Refugees (CEAR) admits they have already had “many” cases where they have given up their place because they couldn’t stay with their animals.

logistical difficulties

“The government has never allowed pets to enter the foster system, even when it was necessary for therapeutic reasons. We didn’t have many cases, but I remember some where we did reports on psychosocial issues and were denied. But exceptions have been made for Ukrainians. There is discriminatory treatment due to the fact that many arrived in private vehicles without information about the origin … And we already find them here,” explains Aliva Diez, CEAR State Reception Coordinator.

But in terms of logistics, the organization has barely found places that accept pets. Because some vacancies were largely agreed before this exemption was announced, the organization is facing hurdles. “There are hotels available that don’t have problems, but many other resources don’t allow it. There are places that we closed without discussing the possibility of accepting pets. So it’s a very difficult puzzle. The person arrives with their pet and it just has to coincide with the fact that the place accepts animals. It’s really difficult.” The consequence of this, according to a CEAR member, is that the organization “barely” accepts “people with pets” as its occupancy rate is at its limit.


Apart from providing places in hotels where animals live, or monitoring the allergies of other asylum seekers, another major hurdle is related to rabies. In Ukraine, this is an endemic disease, and in Spain it has been practically eradicated. For this reason, the approved protocol for the reception of animals in this country states that it must be verified that the animal is properly vaccinated and must be quarantined for thirty days, either at its owner or in a specialized center.

This protocol, which delegates the determination of its application to the autonomous communities, poses a problem due to the large number of animals arriving, as many centers do not have enough space for them to enforce these restrictions.

No one told Tatiana that her dog should be quarantined. As the Red Cross acknowledges, “only pet owners who are actually in the protection system” are informed and accompanied in the procedure to be followed, so those who remain outside the state network are not informed of the protocol. Faced with this situation, professional associations of veterinarians, such as the association in Alicante, have said that the government does not offer “final solutions for the accommodation of Ukrainian dogs that have been refused hotels.”

Natalia Pavlishina was also unable to access the site in Seville because, she said, she was accompanied by a dog and was not informed about the rabies control protocol. “Nobody explained to us that we couldn’t bring animals, and I was never offered an alternative,” he recalls. However, the Ministry of Migration, the Red Cross, Accem and CEAR assure that options are “always” explained in case the animal cannot be accepted. “Shelters are being offered or volunteer veterinarians are being contacted,” the ministry said.

“No one is going to stay on the street. And not an animal. No way,” the Red Cross added. But not a single Ukrainian family contacted about the story remembers being told what options they had besides keeping their animals. “If I had known that I would have these problems and so little help, I would have gone to another country,” says Hanna Azaroskaya, who arrived in Murcia with her young son, where she was offered to stay in a shelter, sharing a room with six other people .

Shortly thereafter, his mother arrived, accompanied by a cat; the bed was waiting for her, but not for the cat. “We cried a lot,” explains Hanna, who understands that animals are not allowed in common areas but complains that no one told her about it before and that she was not helped to find an alternative place for a cat. Finally, volunteer networks found a home for the cat: “We are going to visit him, but he is not the same. It is very difficult for my son: he fled from the war, and when he thought that the horror had passed, he was separated from the cat. It’s not fair”.

Exception Uncertainty

Anna Golobutskaya shares a small hotel room in Barcelona with her 16-year-old daughter, two dogs and a cat. She is one of the Ukrainian refugees who managed to get into the protection system with their pets. There was no other way for her to save herself from the war except with her animals, despite the additional problems during the trip. When she arrived in Spain, the Red Cross told her that there was no problem and that they would find a home for them, but now Anna is afraid that this security could disappear at any moment.

Their concerns arose from the fact that, a month and a half after the reception, they had to leave the hotel where they were staying, because with the onset of the high season, the tourists returned and the Red Cross had to find another place to stay. seekers. And not all hotels accept animals. “It’s difficult because hotels set limits, this is temporary assistance, and each has its own characteristics and specifics,” explains a representative of a humanitarian agency in Catalonia. For this reason, they cannot guarantee all families, such as Anna’s family, that their pets will also share their next destination.

The Red Cross volunteers handed Anna a document called a “commitment to participate” that explained the conditions associated with her transfer to another reception room. One of his points startled Anna. “You will not be able to enter any System funded reception facility with animals, the person requesting entry is responsible for finding an alternative location for the animal,” the letter, stamped by the Ministry and Cruz Red, said. . “It made my blood run cold. I will never sign anything that makes me leave part of my family,” he says.

The government and NGOs explain that this letter simply lays out the current general rules, but they always make sure that Ukrainians understand that they are provided with alternatives and that they will try their best to keep the animals with the family. Anna also denies receiving such clarifications. He flatly refused to sign the document. “If you don’t sign, you exit the program,” explains a Red Cross spokesperson.

Anna is not sure that she will find a home to share with her pets. “They are also refugees from the war. How do I tell my daughter that after what we’ve been through, she’s going to have to go through another trauma? That’s why, within a few weeks, she began to turn to volunteer networks for help and packed her bags in case she was told she had to go, even though she still had nowhere to go. Despite the fact that the Red Cross assured her that they are not going to kick her out of the hotel and are looking for a way out of her situation, Anna still does not want to sign the letter. And he knows what it means, but he doesn’t care. “If there is even the slightest chance that something will go wrong, I would rather abandon the shelter than leave my dogs.”

“I have lost everything, I cannot risk losing my pets. Maybe there are those who think that giving a dog to a shelter is nonsense, but let there be war, then we’ll talk, ”says Anna.


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