BRUSSELS—Travel companies are urged by Humane Society International/Europe to provide safe, pet-friendly passage for Ukrainian refugees travelling with their animals, to avoid cats, dogs and others being abandoned at bus or airplane terminals due to being refused travel.
The animal protection charity’s teams in Poland and Romania were alerted that refugees attempting to travel further into the EU are faced with the impossible decision to leave their pets behind due to pet transport obstacles and restrictions. HSI/Europe has reached out to 75 leading European transport companies whose services are used by Ukrainian refugees, with an appeal to remove the barriers for a safe pet-friendly passage.
Ruud Tombrock, executive director of HSI/Europe, says: “With many European travel companies refusing to let Ukrainian refugees travel with their animals, we’re seeing a worrying number of cats and dogs being left behind at local shelters, charities and with relatives, or even released near airports or bus stations. This agonising dilemma unnecessarily adds to the stress that refugees are already enduring, because their companion animals are beloved members of their extended family. It also puts additional pressure on local charities and authorities, who have to find a solution for the animals coming from Ukraine. HSI/Europe has reached out to transport companies across Europe asking them to do everything within their power and resources to help Ukrainian refugees with pets gain access to planes and buses. Several leading companies have responded and are doing great work to make travel pet friendly. However, more transport companies must step in to ensure that no one fleeing Ukraine is needlessly separated from their companion animal.”
The appeal is addressed to freight forwarders, cargo handlers, shippers and other stakeholders in the transport industry in addition to bus and airline companies. HSI/Europe is urging them to:
- Ease the procedures and restrictions for taking animals on board.
- Inform and empower their staff to make safe pet-friendly decisions.
- Reduce or waive the fees for transporting animals.
- Increase the number of animals permitted on board and provide pet carriers to passengers who need them.
Airlines, bus and train companies that do not transport pets can also help by stating their policies and regulations clearly on their websites, and by providing free phone support in multiple languages.
A growing number of airline, bus and freight companies have already responded positively, showing that safe pet-friendly passage of Ukrainian refugees is possible. HSI is collaborating with LOT Polish Airlines to provide pet crates and pet transport for free for passengers holding Ukrainian nationality for LOT flights departing from Warsaw and Krakow between May 1-31, 2022. The free pet transport is for cats, dogs and ferrets travelling with the owner in the cabin, or in the baggage hold. The airline is also taking more pets on board. KLM and Bulgaria Air also offer free pet transport. The Polish bus company Szwagropol, and Europe’s largest long-distance bus service FlixBus—which also manages Eurolines in Romania, Italy, Spain and France—will allow pets on board and empowers staff to adapt procedures when safe to do so. Professional pet shippers IMG and Budapest Vet Cargo are providing free advice and support for obtaining the necessary travel documentation and vaccinations. Positive reactions are lacking from budget airlines.
More than 5.8 million Ukrainians have left their country since the start of the war, many bringing along their beloved companion animals. Authorities and nonprofit organizations in neighboring countries are facing huge pressure to care for the refugees and pets. The travel industry can facilitate by ensuring refugees and their pets can continue their journey to safety together.
Reference in this press release to any specific commercial brand, trade, firm or corporation name is for the information of the public only, and does not constitute or imply endorsement by Humane Society International or any of its affiliates.
Media contact: Yavor Gechev, communications director for HSI/Europe: firstname.lastname@example.org