Ukrainian Refugees Met With Struggle Crossing U.S. Border With Dogs

by Britt

Ukrainian pet owners and animal lovers have been faced with heart-breaking challenges since the war started on home soil. For many, the choice of whether to evacuate Ukraine and seek safety elsewhere came down to bring their pets along. After all, pets are family too!

Ruslan Lytvyn/Shutterstock

Many faced challenges crossing at the border into Poland. Documentation requirements made it challenging for pet owners who may not have grabbed the necessary paperwork before fleeing home. Shelter volunteers found the process nearly impossible with vaccination documents and other requirements destroyed when their shelters were attacked by Russian soldiers. Even those dogs who were orphaned when their owners were killed defending their country were often being turned away.

Now, Ukrainian pet owners seeking refuge with friends and family overseas are faced with a new struggle as they are being refused entry into the United States.

The reason dogs from Ukraine are now facing difficulty getting into the US is due to restrictions that were put in place by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The United States was declared canine-rabies free in 2007. As of July 14, 2021, the United States has put a temporary suspension in place, restricting all dogs entering the US from countries that are considered to be high-risk. This includes dogs that are coming from Ukraine.

This doesn’t mean that dogs arriving form the Ukraine will never be allowed to cross US borders. Dog owners can apply for a CDC Dog Import Permit to bring their dogs into the United States. But the current suspension has made it so that there is no guarantee when these permits will be processed and approved (or denied).

A recent statement from the CDC states that it “is working to expedite import permit requests for dogs that originate in Ukraine and surrounding countries for persons wishing to import their personally owned pet dogs.”

In the meantime, dog owners have been exploring other opportunities to bring their dogs over the border. One solution that many dog owners have turned to is a group of dog lover that have been transporting dogs across the border from Mexico. Dogs that cross with a US citizen from a low-risk country like Mexico don’t even require proof of vaccination. Recognizing this, the group has been working to help transport dogs to safety.

Even this solution isn’t easy for dogs and their owners. Dogs crossing often have to stay crated for multiple hours, which may be new to many. Furthermore, the demand for these services has grown enough that the volunteers can’t guarantee the day of transport. Pet owners may reach the border only to find out that their dogs have been bumped to a transport on a following day.

While the volunteer transport isn’t perfect, many pet owners agree that it’s better than waiting for an update on when they can cross themselves with their pets. The stories of those who do find their way to safety with family and friends in the United States continue to inspire families that are still in the process of making the difficult journey.


Britt Kascjak is a proud pet mom, sharing her heart (and her home) with her “pack” which includes her husband John, their 2 dogs – Indiana and Lucifer – and their 2 cats – Pippen and Jinx. She has been active in the animal rescue community for over 15 years, volunteering, fostering and advocating for organizations across Canada and the US. In her free time, she enjoys traveling around the country camping, hiking, and canoeing with her pets.

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