NYSBA Volunteers Help Ukrainian Refugees Emigrate with their Pets

By Jennifer Andrus

August 8, 2022

NYSBA Volunteers Help Ukrainian Refugees Emigrate with their Pets


By Jennifer Andrus

Lawyers with the Committee on Animals and the Law at the New York State Bar Association are helping Ukrainian refugees who are entering the United States with their family pets as they escape their war-torn homeland.

NYSBA members Nancy Volin and Fiona Farrell were moved to act after Helen LeBrecht emailed a video of police digging through the rubble to rescue a puppy from a bombed building in the city of Donetsk. The three of them immediately marshalled the help of fellow committee members including committee chair Barbara Ahern and the Ukraine Pet Project was born.

Working their network of sources in the animal welfare and immigration community, the lawyers assembled lists of government regulations and documents needed for pet owners to safely bring their animals into the United States.

“Our goal is to circulate this information to refugees who are still waiting to come to the U.S. so they will have all they need to emigrate with their pets,” Volin says.  “We are focusing on the refugees who have lost everything but are holding onto the family pet. We know how traumatic losing an animal can be especially for children and we want to lessen that trauma. This information can help them navigate the legal process so they can hold onto their dogs and cats.”

Farrell says it’s important to meet the health requirements to avoid a pet quarantine. “Both the U.S. and New York State have requirements that must be met. If they are not met, an animal could be quarantined or refused entry entirely,” she said.

Through contacts at the Center for Disease Control, Farrell has learned that the federal government is reducing red tape to fast track animal permits for pets accompanying refugees seeking entry to the U.S. through the U4U (United for Ukraine) program. Farrell says the CDC is waiving a waiting period and has granted over 500 permits for animals from Ukraine since the war began. Farrell’s sources also tell her that most of the animals coming from Ukraine are healthy, in good condition and have few if any war injuries.

CDC Permit Process & Paperwork

Ukraine is one of more than 100 countries on the CDC list of high-risk countries for rabies. Having documentation of a rabies vaccine for imported pets is essential in the process of gaining a CDC permit. Domesticated animals, mainly dogs and cats, must follow these requirements for entry:

Three Options for U.S. Entry for Pets 

Coordinating travel for animals coming into New York from a foreign country requires some planning and paperwork. When traveling by air, dogs must enter the U.S. at one of 18 ports of entry. In the NY metro region, it is best to use JFK airport because it has a CDC approved quarantine station for animals.

The best option for pet owners or those helping refugees is to apply for a CDC Dog Import permit. The permit is available for importing up to two dogs into the U.S. from a foreign country. This option avoids the need to reserve a space at a kennel or pay for a nearly month-long quarantine.

If a Ukrainian animal owner doesn’t have time to get the CDC permit, they can work with the ARK Pet Oasis at JFK Airport. The center is CDC approved and will accept foreign issued rabies paperwork and results of a valid rabies serology titer test. They will have to pay for the pets to be examined by a veterinarian at the ARK and a revaccination for rabies.

The last option is for those pets with no CDC permit or rabies paperwork. Owners or those helping the owners must reserve and pay for a 28 day stay in quarantine at the ARK Pet Oasis at JFK Airport. The ARK staff will examine and revaccinate the animals for rabies at the owner’s expense. A foreign issued rabies vaccine certificate is still needed for this option. If  importing three or more dogs into the U.S., additional exams and vaccination will need to be given by a CDC approved provider. If an animal arrives without a CDC permit or kennel reservation, the animal will be denied entry into the U.S. The animal could then be returned to its home country at the owner’s expense, although it doesn’t seem to have been the case very frequently.

A Closer Bond 

Farrell says an added benefit of this work has been developing closer friendships among committee members. “Sharing my passion for animals with this group of committee members is one of the great benefits of being a NYSBA member. I have enjoyed working with these members and getting to know them better through our work on this project.”

Animals and the Law Committee Chair Barbara Ahern agrees that they all have a role to play in helping Ukraine. “The New York State Bar Association is working in many areas to help the people of Ukraine. Our Ukraine Pet Project is providing that missing link to allow people to come here with their pets.”

For More Information: 

The Ukraine Pet Project has an information sheet full of helpful links for documents and additional information here.


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