Around 20 dogs transported to Estonia from Spain in conditions described as cruel are being returned to the country of origin, in more suitable cages, ETV news show 'Aktuaalne kaamera' (AK) reported Friday night.
Tiina Kuke, animal welfare specialist at the Agriculture and Food Board (PTA), told AK that the welfare of the dogs, who arrived in Estonia a little over a month ago, during the return journey to Spain has been guaranteed.
Kuke said: "The cages for transporting the animals have been rebuilt to make them suitable for dogs and have been inspected by the agency. In addition, all the dogs have been inspected by a licensed vet, to ensure they are ready for the long journey."
Hunting tourism is permitted in Estonia and as a result attracts those interested in the field, particularly from within the EU, but, the PTA says, those involved must be aware of the requirements regarding animal welfare and other aspects.
Kuke added that: "There is a clear need to raise the awareness of both hunters and those transporting hunting dogs from other countries about animal welfare and transport requirements. There is also a need to work more closely with member states to ensure checks in the country of origin."
The Hiiumaa huntsmens' society (Hiiumaa jahimeeste selts) informed ERR in early October that the middle-man in the hunting tourism trip to that island was Samuele De Pizzol, an Italian national long resident in Estonia.
De Pizzol declined to comment when approached by AK for the October 4 segment, ERR reports, while the dogs were kenneled in the meantime in Kärdla, the island's capital.
The hounds had arrived in Estonia in early October, ERR reported at the time (link in Estonian), numbering 22 and confined to cramped, caged conditions. A Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) patrol had apprehended the van, which had two human occupants, both Spanish nationals, along with the animals, at Heltermaa, the port of arrival on Hiiumaa.
The PTA as a result initiated proceedings and forbade the animals' further transport without their permission.
Filmed video of the animals situation (see link) led to public outcry on social media
"There were six cages in the van. The [two] larger cages contained separate dogs and four cages had 20 dogs, five dogs per cage," PPA spokesperson Marko Kallas said at the time, with other experts saying the conditions were far too cramped.
Andres Onemar, board chair of the Hiiumaa huntsmens' society, said the dogs' transportation was not his organization's responsibility.
The PTA said in October that they had no data on past violations of hunting tourism in Estonia.
Editor: Andrew Whyte