Over a dozen pets have been left waiting in quarantine facilities after the lockdown prevented them being reunited with their owners, costing owners thousands of dollars.
Moca and Bandit.
The Ministry of Primary Industries had initially planned to team up with the SPCA to transport the pets from Auckland to their homes across the lower North Island and South Island.
But all plans were halted after Air New Zealand and the Interislander ferries either stopped trips or halted live cargo, meaning the 14 animals could not be moved around the country.
“Air NZ and Cook Strait ferries are not transporting animals during lockdown and cats cannot be transported that far by road. So at this stage we haven’t been able to help,” an SPCA spokesperson said.
According to MPI, a small number of the pets held in the three quarantine facilities have been moved out and travel by road would be “too stressful” for the pets.
“After discussions with Air New Zealand, there is not the capacity to transport the remaining pets in Alert Level 4. It’s thought best to await changes to the alert level so a practical solution can be found.”
Air New Zealand explained in an earlier statement that since the number of domestic flights has been reduced by 95 percent, the space needs to be reserved for essential cargo during the lockdown.
Even private pet travel companies are unable to help as they’ve been stopped from operating, awaiting approval to work from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE).
Pet Star Travel owner Betty Hanson says as airlines aren’t allowing animal cargo for the foreseeable future and without approval from MBIE, ferries won’t even allow them to book ahead.
“Once we can cross the Cook Strait, we’ll be able to start moving.”
She says her company has already begun making inquiries in to hiring a private plane to transport pets.
The first flight is already expected to be “two-thirds full” due to reservations from others desperate to transport their pets.
“There is a large number of pets who need new homes but without approval from MBIE we can’t operate.”
It’s been a month for Ian and Marie Huggins since they’ve seen their two dogs, after moving home to the South Island from Dubai.
The couple’s two dogs, Moca and Bandit, have been unable to be collected since their quarantine period ended at the beginning of the lockdown.
Marie Huggins and her dogs.
It’s costing them around $2500 a month to house their dogs at the facility, a cost they say they didn’t prepare for.
“This is unsustainable for us but we have no other options. I am very stressed and anxious about the mounting costs and the welfare of the dogs,” says Ms Huggins.
Without any signs of a solution on the cards, the pair along with many other owners are left desperately waiting to see their pets again.
Air New Zealand has been approached for comment.