A Noah's ark charter flight from Canada, filled with dozens of beloved cats and dogs, means pet owners across Aotearoa will be reunited with their furry companions.
Some of them have been waiting nearly 12 months, separated due to COVID-19, not knowing if they would ever see their pets again.
But for 36 owners, that wait is just about over.
Jennifer Ellis and Geoffrey Nijhuis moved from Canada to New Zealand last year but were unable to bring their dog Sage with them.
"In June we had to make the tough decision to leave Sage with my parents and travel over to New Zealand to start our new jobs. When flights didn't resume, we were heartbroken," Jennifer says.
They were over the moon when the option finally came to book Sage on a charter flight with Worldwide Animal Travel.
"Sage went for her 'passport' photo and cage fitting and was greeted by the awesome team at Worldwide Animal Travel. It's been a year since we've seen Sage, she is finally in New Zealand. We can't wait to go pick her up from quarantine and to introduce her to her new home," Jennifer says.
Forty-two pets joined the 14-hour Air Canada flight from Vancouver to Auckland, and the 36 families will be able to cuddle their pets as soon as quarantine ends.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic started, Worldwide Animal Travel has successfully arranged 3 charter flights, the first 2 going to Australia. If there is sufficient demand, a second charter to New Zealand might be on the cards.
Geri Hurring is very soon moving back to New Zealand, where she will meet up with her cats Romeo and Miley. Worldwide Animal Travel's flight was the "light at the end of the tunnel", she says.
"There was a lot of anxiety as to whether the flight would actually happen, given so much uncertainty in the world and some date changes. [But] after lots of hard work and planning, this is the definition of an absolute miracle. I am looking forward to picking up our babies soon," Geri says.
Nina White and her partner Zac are also moving back to New Zealand with their Australian cattle dog Boondi.
The 3 of them had been isolating together through COVID-19 in Canada, in what Nina describes as "the world's largest dog kennel, a 19-foot caravan".
"We decided to return to New Zealand, and it feels like everyone is welcoming us back with open arms.
"We are so lucky and grateful to Worldwide Animal Travel for organising these amazing charter flights, for those who can't part with their pets. We are looking forward to seeing our little dingo running free on the beaches of New Zealand," Nina says.
Pets are allowed into New Zealand, provided they meet MPI requirements.
And then it is up to airlines whether they have the capacity to transport animals.
MPI's director animal and plant health, Pete Thomson, says this is a great outcome for the pet owners.
"MPI has been working with pet transporters and authorities to help overcome issues associated with the international travel of pets, caused by reduced international passenger flights," he says.
"Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic we have taken a number of steps to help owners and pet transporters accommodate these disruptions while also ensuring New Zealand's high biosecurity standards are being maintained," Pete says.
The 42 pets will spend 10 days in an MPI-approved quarantine facility before being re-united with their owners.
The successful 'repatriation' was a combined effort from Air Canada, MPI and Worldwide Animal Travel.
- The COVID-19 pandemic is driven by human-to-human transmission. There remains no evidence that pets play any role in spreading COVID-19. Therefore, there are no requirements to test imported animals for this disease and this is in line with international guidelines.
- Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a significant reduction in international passenger flights to New Zealand and a huge demand for the cargo capacity on these remaining flights, resulting in ongoing disruption to global movement for cat and dog importers.
- MPI has taken several steps to accommodate these disruptions while ensuring biosecurity standards are met, including:
- Import permits are valid for longer (extended from 10 days to 6 months)
- A 10-day extension to tests and treatments has been added to all import permits. Due to the number of flight issues, blood samples are taking longer to reach laboratories.
- Applications for import permits are processed within 10 working days of receipt of a fully correct application (instead of 20 working days).
- If the entry date of an animal changes and the new date is outside of the validity period, we will update the permit free of charge.
- We have actively worked with pet transporters and overseas authorities to help overcome issues as they arise.
Images of the animals mentioned in this media release
Boondi [JPG, 581 KB]
Romeo [JPG, 146 KB]
Sage in a field [JPG, 592 KB]
Sage the husky [JPG, 553 KB]
Miley [JPG, 195 KB]