Estonia to abolish pet exemption for Ukrainian refugees

Dogs. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Estonia will soon abolish an exceptional rule allowing Ukrainian refugees to easily cross the border with their pets without showing documents or vaccination certificates.

The European Commission-recommended rule has been in place since February 25, the day after Russia launched its full-scale invasion, and allows Ukrainians to enter Estonia with animals without the standard EU documents.

But it has now requested member states drop the rule by June 15.

"We took a very big risk. The whole European Union took a risk," Hendrik Kuusk, the ministry's deputy secretary general, said at the time.

"We couldn't be quite sure whether the rabies vaccination certificates that the animals were carrying were valid. Estonia and most EU Member States are rabies-free, but Ukraine is definitely not," added Kuusk.

Rabies is fatal to both animals and humans. People arriving with pets had to notify the Agriculture and Food Board and the agency organized chipping and quarantining within three weeks. No cases of rabies were detected.

By mid-May, 1,865 pets from Ukraine had been registered in Estonia but the numbers have fallen sharply this year as the flow of refugees has dropped off. 

"For example, no animals crossed the border in May itself, four in April and 21 in March. While a hundred animals used to cross the border every week, this number has fallen significantly," said Kuusk, adding the declining number is the main reason to end the exception.

The European Commission recommends that member states abolish the rule by the end of the week at the latest.

"The decision is up to the director-general of the Agriculture and Food Authority. I think he has made that decision today, and it will certainly come into force within a week," said Kuusk.

Ukrainians will still be allowed to bring their pets to Estonia but owners will need to show the animal has been chipped and provide vaccination certificates.

"The Ukrainian veterinary services themselves have informed us that they are able to carry out all the necessary examinations and guarantee that the pets have been vaccinated and meet the requirements for entry into the EU. This already implies a movement under normal circumstances," said Kuusk.


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Editor: Merili Nael, Helen Wright

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