Pets stranded overseas as quarantine hits capacity

Getting home during a pandemic is hard enough for humans living abroad, but even more challenging if you have four legs and fur.

Pets have been left stranded overseas after their Australian expat owners were forced to come home because of COVID-19.

The debacle has become even more complicated in recent weeks due to the hard lockdown and inbound flight restrictions in Melbourne, home to the nation’s only pet quarantining hub, the Mickleham Post Entry Quarantine Facility.

Cats and dogs arriving from overseas must undergo a minimum 10-day quarantine period at the facility.

And animal lovers are expected to encounter yet another roadblock next month, with the Mickleham quarantine hub likely to reach capacity by mid-September.

“Due to current operational demands the PEQ facility is close to capacity and has a limited number of places available for dogs and cats over the next two months,” the Department of Agriculture told NCA NewsWire.

“Pet importers and agents are advised to make flight arrangements and PEQ reservations from mid-September onwards as soon as their import permit is approved.”

The department said it has taken necessary steps to ensure the establishment is COVID-safe.

“Unfortunately this has required a reduced operating capacity.”

A stay at the facility doesn’t come cheap either. A 10-day stay will set owners back at least $2000.

So what does this mean for pet owners desperate to get their furry companions home?

Heartbreak for families

Australian woman Kate McQuestin is still fighting to get her family dog, Yuki, home from Japan – where she had lived for the last two years.

“I paid for the necessary vet checks and pet transport companies to bring her back at this time. I was granted an import permit from the government for Yuki on April 21 and we left Tokyo on April 24,” she told NCA NewsWire.

In a desperate attempt to raise awareness and get her French Bulldog Yuki home, Ms McQuestin set up a website called Mission ImPAWsible where other Australian expats can tell their stories.

A number of pet profiles have been uploaded to the website with dogs and cats stranded in various countries including Japan, the UAE, the UK, Chile, Malaysia and Singapore.

Ms McQuestin said Qantas has gone above and beyond to help her get Yuki home. But the plan to have him transported on a freight flight from Japan was crushed.

Cargo carrying animals is only allowed to fly direct to Melbourne because that’s where the quarantine facility is, but the city is in lockdown and diverting planes.

“With the situation getting worse … I’m trying to highlight why a compassionate and pragmatic solution that meets important biosecurity regulations is needed,” she said.

Ms McQuestin has since started a petition which has gathered more than 1700 signatures.

“Perhaps this is the time for a policy. And even if it’s like a pop up quarantine facility in another location. Some kind of solution to be able to have the animals come back because my feeling is that it’s going to get worse before it gets better,” she said.

And Ms McQuestin is not alone.

Phoenix (pictured below) is currently stuck in the UK after his owners had to urgently move back to Perth in December last year.

His owner Ciara Lowe Thiedeman says her two young boys’ lives were torn apart by having to move suddenly, and they are desperate to have Phoenix home.

“We rescued our dog Phoenix. It’s time for him to rescue us – we really need him here with us as soon as possible,” Ciara’s husband Lowe Thiedeman said.

They are currently paying friends to care for Phoenix.

Like many, McQuestin has paid thousands in boarding kennel bills but the most heartbreaking thing is not being able to tell her children Oliver, 12 and Isabella, 10, when Yuki is coming home.

“It‘s a dire and costly situation that appears to only be getting worse for many of us,” she said.

“I just want to bring Yuki home and reunite her with my family.”

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