No Dogs at the US Border for Ukrainians
Ira Hrytsenko and her dog, Eddie, leaving their hotel room in San Ysidro, Calif. Credit...Mark Abramson for The New York Times
Natasha Hrytsenko, a lifelong Ukrainian inhabitant, wished for a fluffy white puppy. Ms. Hrytsenko, 30, spent her first two paychecks on a purebred tiny Maltese puppy. She brought Eddie to her Kyiv flat with her sister.
Ms. Hrytsenko recounts telling her sister eight years later, when conflict gripped their country and they decided to flee: But I will never abandon Eddie.
They traveled to Poland, Germany, Portugal, and finally the USA, where they had connections in Virginia. The small puppy accompanied them, under their arms or on their laps.
The sisters got as far as Tijuana, on California's southern border, before learning that dogs from Ukraine were rarely let into the country. Several folks had to leave their dogs behind in Mexico due to health concerns.
Then she informed her sister, I'd rather go back to Europe.
The loss of homes, loved ones, employment, and the quiet comfort of familiar communities has been felt by thousands of Ukrainians queued up at the southern border since the Russian invasion. The border barrier has proven catastrophic for some who had managed to bring a cherished pet with them.
He is everything to us, Ira Hrytsenko, 31, added.
The number of dogs here is increasing daily,” said Victoria Pindrik, a Save Ukraine Relief Fund volunteer dealing with Ukrainian immigrants trying to enter the US. We got our dogs back.
The CDC prevents dogs from entering the US if they have been in any of the roughly 50 nations classified as “high risk” for rabies.
Customs and Border Protection inspectors first admitted a number of pets into the nation at the busy border crossing in Tijuana, according to volunteers working at the border. Until recently, Ukrainian pets were allowed.
The Hrytsenko sisters prepared their dog for foreign travel as soon as they left Ukraine.
Volunteer vets immunized Eddie against parasites, put a microchip in his neck, and provided him with paperwork and an international ID to ensure he could travel.
The sisters planned to enter the US via Mexico, a route taken by thousands of refugees because to delays in establishing a legal pipeline for Ukrainians. Refugees have been able to fly to Mexico and request for humanitarian admittance at the US land border.
In their baggage were cans of Newman's Own organic chicken dog food. Eddie came in a little carrier.
An airport inspector inspected Eddie from head to toe after they arrived in Cancun last week. He gave me a certificate attesting to the dog's good health. On Sunday, they flew to Tijuana.
They joined hundreds of other Ukrainians waiting to cross. Eddie was soon bounding across the mats of a gigantic gym that had been converted into a massive refugee dormitory.
We were sure everything was fine,mIra recalls. Then we heard you can't cross with your dog.
After 6,000 miles and four international borders, this looked the most difficult. They considered going back.
Ms. Pindrik, an American volunteer helping refugees in Tijuana, said obtaining a visa and possibly quarantine could take weeks.
It is crucial for many of these traumatized families to maintain their family together, including their pets,” she said. “We understand the US requirements and their rationale, but the refugees cannot meet them.
The C.D.C. said it had approved permits for Ukrainians bringing pets. For those who come without meeting C.D.C. entrance rules, NGOs in Mexico and the US are helping them find a safe place to quarantine their pets.
Anastasiia Derezenko, who had spent a few nights in Tijuana with her husband and two children, was among the Ukrainians who managed to cross with their pet before the rabies prohibition was tightened. They arrived last week with Luka, their tiny Maltese, after visiting a Mexican veterinarian who provided the appropriate documents.
We had Luka in our arms when the Americans arrested us. Mme Derezenko spoke from Portland, Ore., where her family is staying with friends. It seems Luka has made fast friends with their hosts' pups.
He came all the way from Brovary, she claimed, referring to the Ukrainian city immediately east of Kiev.
Recent entrants, like the Hrytsenko sisters, have been told not to bring their dogs into the US.
It felt insurmountable to the sisters. Then they discovered a temporary solution: Mexico isn't on the C.D.C.'s rabies list, so Americans importing dogs from Mexico won't be stopped at the border. It is not even essential that Americans bring their pets from a place where rabies is rare or non-existent.
A few days ago, Americans began bringing dogs belonging to Ukrainians across the border. Several dozen Ukrainian pets, mostly dogs but also cats, have already arrived in California. The Hrytsenko sisters began seeking for a replacement for Eddie.
On Tuesday evening, they were told to join a group at the border checkpoint, where they would be led into California for processing by US authorities.
It started out great. An end to their months-long journey.
Then they discovered no American would take Eddie until the next day.
We broke, Natasha remarked. We couldn't leave Eddie alone. We've never left him. He is truly ours.
They delayed their flight to America till the next morning after being told that Eddie would arrive soon.
They put Eddie in his white-and-gray box near the gym on Wednesday at 10 a.m.
The dog began biting on the slits and the crate door, Natasha recalls, filled with guilt. Both sisters sobbed.
A dog cannot be told that everything will be fine, Natasha explained.
After entering the US, the sisters met up with Liuba Pavlenko, a fellow dog owner with whom they had connected in Tijuana. Mme Pavlenko and her two kids were waiting for their Chihuahua, Maya, to arrive from Mexico.
I'm sorry Maya and Eddie had to be refugees and travel, Ira stated at the hotel.
After a while, the families were worried.
I'm bored, Natasha said. More than five hours had passed since they had left Eddie in the container.
A live video from the border showed Eddie being taken toward the port of entry into the US. They looked at the TV, worried about their dog.
Oh my God, he's aged. See him. He's thirsty. He hasn't eaten.
The dogs were reunited with their owners around 45 minutes later and covered in affection.
Then the bath.
Natasha washed Eddie in the tub with the special White on White shampoo she had packed along with the organic pet food.
Then they were ready for the last step to Virginia, where their pals awaited.
A lot is unknown for Ukrainian dog owners in Tijuana. Mme Pindrik stated a local shelter promised to look into helping pet owners. New immigration rules are due soon, allowing Ukrainians to fly directly to the US, where they may face similar challenges at airports until the CDC updates its guidelines.
The Hrytsenkos simply cared that Eddie had survived. Five hours before their flight, they ordered an Uber to the airport.
Ira stated it was better to be early than late. We can't risk Eddie not getting on the plane.