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Scots military heroes’ facing leaving pets behind in Kenya celebrate U-turn

Scots military heroes who were facing leaving their beloved pets stranded in Kenya due to Government red tape are celebrating a U-turn.

The futures of fifteen dogs and cats belonging to service personnel returning from a two-year tour at the British Army Training Unit in Nanyuki were in limbo this week after fraught negotiations with pet travel officials in the UK sparked fears they could be left behind or stuck in quarantine for months on end.

Frantic owners told the Record how Army and RAF officials had made arrangements to allow the pets to return to RAF Brize Norton on three flights in the coming weeks because there are currently no direct flights available from the red list country.

But they said The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), whose Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) is required to give the pets their final stamp of approval on landing, could not commit to the job when the flights were scheduled to land in the early hours.

Chloe Docherty’s daughter Orla, seven, with rescue dog Bear

Now, after support from the Record, the families have been informed that their pets will be met for clearing.

Chloe Docherty, 31, from Paisley, said it was “fantastic news” that she could bring home the family’s rescue dog Bear, who they took on as a puppy soon after arriving in Kenya.

She said: “A lot of us have rescued pets here or brought over our own. There are a lot of Scots here who were in the same situation.

“With the amount of support we have had, APHA have decided to support the move. We got confirmation this morning.”

Last year the families were separated from their pets for several months after being evacuated from Kenya due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

Many of the animals had to be put into local shelters until their owners returned in October, which families were reluctant to repeat.

The owners also couldn’t be assured that the animals would make it home to the UK if they try to travel on flights via connecting countries.

They also said it is not an option for the animals to wait at Brize Norton until a time when DEFRA can attend.

Sophie Wilbond, 39, whose family live in Aberdeen, had been facing being separated from her beloved rescue dog Trooper and cat Kleo.

She said: “We rescued Trooper from the side of the street when he was just a puppy and we love him. We couldn’t leave him here.

Scots military heroes' facing leaving pets behind in Kenya celebrate U-turn
Sophie Wilbond with rescue dog Trooper

“Kleo the cat was rescued 10 years ago in the Middle East and we brought her here with us.

“I don’t know what would have been worse – quarantine or leaving them behind. They are just like your children.

“The Army and RAF has been amazing. They don’t have to use these trooper flights because they are essentially for military working animals but they have worked closely together to make this happen.”

Laura Rothwell, 27, whose husband works closely with the Scots regiment, said she could have been left without her medical support dog, sprocker spaniel Freddie and her beagles Prince and Blue.

Scots military heroes' facing leaving pets behind in Kenya celebrate U-turn
Laura Rothwell with Freddie, her support dog, and also Blue and Bumble

She said: “I’ve got a medical report to say Freddie helps with my mental health.

“My dogs are my children and I need Freddie in my life.”

DEFRA’S Animal and Plant Health Agency has provided ongoing support to RAF arrivals for the past year to facilitate the return of service personnel returning from overseas postings in emergency circumstances from countries such as Brunei, Cyprus and Ukraine.

But alternative arrangements needed to be made at DEFRA’S discretion for RAF Brize Norton, regardless of flight times, because it is not an approved route for pets.

A spokesman said: “We are working on a resolution to allow these animals to return to the UK as soon as possible, while ensuring the UK’s high standards of biosecurity are protected.”

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