When Bingo first set foot at the airport in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, after months of preparation before leaving Cuba, he did what any grateful dog would do: he licked the face of his tag. -his.
A 15-pound, sandy-haired, perky-eared Chihuahua was one of the lucky ones.
Cubans, driven by the economic crisis, have left their country in record numbers over the past two years, and prefer to take their dogs with them.
But like their owners, pets who want to leave the island face onerous regulations, costs and logistical problems, said Nathalie Osorio, an animal rights activist. Osorio told Reuters he had helped facilitate the travel of more than 150 pets.
“There was a lot of ignorance at the beginning about the procedures, it was very difficult,” said Osorio, who helped Cuban migrant Karolina Vázquez reunite with her dogs Bingo and Sasha in the United States.
“Many of the immigrants still can’t go and get their pets and so they have to rely on third parties to send them their pets,” he added.
Dr. María Gloria Vidal, a specialist at the National Center for Animal Health, told Reuters that the practice of exporting pets continues to rise.
Cuban authorities have issued more than 2,000 export certificates so far in 2023, Vidal said, more than double the number of certificates for the export of pets than last year.
“Many people think that there are some complications on the part of the competent veterinary authority in Cuba, and that is not the case. We always have that willingness to work,” he said.
But each country has its own rules about importing animals, a process that can be complicated.
The United States, the main destination for (human) immigrants from Cuba, allows those who enter the country legally to be accompanied by their pets, but puts Cuba on the list of countries with a high risk of canine rabies, which increases the obstacles in the process.
Cuba does not have a laboratory approved by the US, Vidal told Reuters, which means that rabies blood tests must be sent to the neighboring country to the north for analysis.
Activists say that despite the obstacles, immigrants and their pets are already reaping the benefits of services designed to help.
“We helped them to be brought to their family and we even helped the small dogs who were alone in an apartment (…) only a distant relative brought them food and leaves,” said Osorio. “It’s actually (and) very gratifying. Very gratifying”.