They were only meant to be separated for three days, but Kate McQuestin’s kids haven’t seen their beloved dog in over four months.
Every day they ask her when Yuki is coming home. Every day she has to tell them she doesn’t know.
The two-year-old French bulldog is one of hundreds of Australian pets effectively stranded overseas due to a bottleneck in processing and quarantining imported pets in Melbourne.
Cats and dogs entering Australia must undergo a quarantine period in the country’s only facility in Mickleham.
With direct international flights to Melbourne almost non-existent, families are now facing an impossible choice – continue to fork out thousands of dollars with no end in sight or give their beloved pets away.
“We’ve tried so hard to get her back for such a long time,” Ms McQuestin told AAP.
“It’s emotionally draining, it’s financially draining, and we can’t keep doing this.”
Ms McQuestin has already spent upwards of $10,000 in kennel fees, permits and flights in her efforts to bring Yuki home from Tokyo, where the family had been living for two years.
She was booked on a flight due to land in Sydney in April, only three days after the McQuestin family arrived home. The flight was cancelled and they’ve been in “limbo” ever since.
Meredith Herold shares the McQuestin’s frustration.
She stayed in the US an extra three months, desperately trying to organise a way for her pets, Boston terrier Otto and exotic shorthair cat Cinta, to fly home from Minnesota.
“The longer I stayed, the less likely it was to get them home to Melbourne … every rock we turned just crumbled,” she said.
“I decided in July, I needed to be back with my family and sadly this has meant leaving our fur kids behind.”
The pair are among the 12,000 people who have signed a petition calling on the federal government to make temporary quarantine arrangements in other Australian cities, or to allow pets to be transferred to Melbourne from other domestic airports.
Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud says animals continue to arrive at Melbourne’s Mickleham facility almost every day, but his department is working on a solution for pets that cannot fly directly to the city.
“The department is working collaboratively with overseas pet transport agents and international carriers on temporary arrangements to allow the safe arrival of pets to Melbourne via alternative means,” he told AAP in a statement.
He was unable to say when the families’ ordeals would end, pointing the finger at airlines.
“An announcement will be made when freight companies and airlines can demonstrate they are able to effectively comply with any strict new biosecurity arrangements,” Mr Littleproud said.
Ms McQuestin said the minister’s words were of little solace.
“We just need certainty on this … everyone is in limbo,” she said.
“The hard truth is that people are going to have to give their pets away or worse.”