THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The non-resident Keralites are received with open arms at the four international airports in Kerala, but not their pets. If by any chance anyone brings a pet from abroad, it will be deported without second thoughts. All because the airports in the state do not have an animal quarantine facility. Since the airports in other states have it, the NRKs bringing pets exit via Bengaluru, Chennai or Hyderabad.
Jaison Mathai, senior manager (marketing) with Toyota, and member of an animal welfare group, ‘Tiger By The Tail’ based in Muscat, told DC that several pet lovers had requested him to take up the matter with the state government.
“While the other southern states have animal quarantine sections in their international airports, Kerala does not have it, though Keralites form the largest NRI population,” said Mr Mathai, a native of Kottayam, from Muscat.
“It is heart-breaking for the owners to abandon their pets. When they exit through other states, the cost is high,"he said.
Those landing at other airports will have to travel by road or train to reach Kerala.
Mr Mathai had written to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan in February and his representation was forwarded to the principal secretary, transport (aviation).
But he is yet to hear from the officials. A senior official of the animal husbandry department told DC that the ball is in the court of the Airport Authority of India.
The animals are quarantined for a certain period (one month to three months) to check for any diseases. After this, the pet will be reunited with the owner.
“The procedure to bring your pets from abroad is complicated. The paper works are exhaustive and the quarantine fee at the airport would be between Rs 2 lakh – Rs 3 lakh. In European countries, they take care of your pets,” said a senior veterinary surgeon.
Foreign countries charge the pet owner a nominal quarantine fee. After isolating the pet for three months, it will be returned in good condition. The pets should have microchip inserted and the medical certificates for vaccination for rabies.
The Thiruvananthapuram airport officials feigned ignorance about such a facility in other South Indian airports. An AAI official said majority of the pet owners abroad take alternative routes.
A customs official at Nedumbassery airport recalled how an NRK family was asked to fly back to Saudi Arabia after their Persian cat could not be quarantined some time ago.
“The media had highlighted the issue, but so far there has been no action,” he said.
Maria Jacob of People for Animals, Thiruva-nanthapuram chapter, told DC that PFA would take up the issue with Shashi Tharoor, MP from Thiruvananthapuram.
“The four airports-- Thiruvananthapuram, Nedumbassery, Karipur and Kannur --lack animal quarantine facility and the authorities are not concerned about it,” she said.
Her colleague Sreedevi S. Kartha recalled how a friend of her based in Dubai was working double shift to meet the expenses to bring her dog and four cats back to Thrissur.
“If the pet owners cannot identify a good adopter, they are forced to dump the pets at animal shelters where they are neglected. Kerala is not animal-friendly. Only animal-lovers will fight for the quarantine facility,”she said.
Pets cannot be taken from any of the four airports to foreign countries. P. M. Laseelan, a software engineer, took his three-year-old Persian cat, Doodle, to Miami, US, in 2015. He told DC that he took the flight from Bengaluru to Miami carrying all the medical papers of the pet.
“The customs official at Miami airport just inspected the documents and allowed us to exit without any hassles, which is unimaginable in Kerala,” he said over phone from Florida.