KOCHI: Even as the news of pet parents doing their best to evacuate their animals from Ukrainian war zones hit the headlines, airports in Kerala were not allowing pets to travel through its channels. The Cochin International Airport Limited (Cial) started International Animal Quarantine and Certification Services (AQCS) from February 14 till June 30 on a trial basis. But pet lovers fear that if the service doesn’t find decent patronage, the airport will wind it up.
According to them. AQCS animal cargo services were open from July to September last year too. But it was stopped soon, citing a lack of takers. Many NRI pet parents, who either lost lobs or were infected with Covid, wanted to bring their pets back to Kerala but were forced to leave them behind since airports here didn’t provide them with the facility. Fathima Nahan from Kakkanad had to bring her cat from Saudi Arabia through Kempegowda International Airport, Bengaluru. Though she made repeated calls to CIAL, the airport couldn’t assure her that they would let the pet travel.
“We drove down from Bengaluru to Kochi because CIAL couldn’t give us a confirmation. Even now, many of our overseas friends are wondering if CIAL allows animal cargo,” says Fathima.
Daya, an animal welfare organisation based in Ernakulam, said that the essential pet services should not be stopped only due to lack of patronage. None of the airports in Kerala has AQCS permanently, said Ambili Purackal, one of the founders of Daya. The organisation has been campaigning to start the services in Kochi airport since 2019. Kochi airport begins the service on a trial basis when campaigns intensify and then wind it up saying there are no takers. “Will animals arrive regularly, like humans? If an NRI wants to bring his pet dog or cat, he has to travel to New Delhi, Bengaluru or Chennai and then drive down,” said Ambili.
She alleged that Union animal husbandry and dairy department as well as CIAL are not replying to queries regarding the service. The airport is also not replying to the RTI enquiries. In India, only New Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Chennai airports have AQCS service permanently.
While CIAL is third in the country when it comes to NRI transport, why are they not letting the animals travel from abroad, asks Sreejith Sadasivan, another NRI from Muscat. He tried to move to Piravom with his adopted cat in 2020, but CIAL didn’t help him. The emails to the Civil Aviation Ministry and AQCS officials didn’t fetch a reply either.
“We have a group of pet lovers called ‘Tiger by the Tail’, founded by another Malayali, Jacob Mathew. He has been trying to get CIAL to make animal cargo services permanent. It is strange that the airport is not publicising the AQCS when they open it on a trial basis so that more pet parents can use them. If people don’t know about the service, how will they use it?” he asks.
For a cause
- Only New Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Chennai airports have AQCS service permanently in India
- CIAL started AQCS animal cargo services from July to September last year too. But it was stopped soon, citing a lack of takers