Charter flight takes pets stranded by the pandemic back to Australia

An all-animal flight is departing Vancouver on Thursday carrying 69 pets back home to Australia after they were stranded in Canada when the pandemic hit.

The pets have been separated from their Australian owners since COVID-19 travel restrictions were implemented back in March.

It took over three months to organize this charter flight at a total cost of $100,000.

“It’s a huge investment for an owner to get their pets back into Australia.¬†Whether this charter was operating or not, this is an expensive endeavour, ” said Bruno Mansuetto, owner of Worldwide Animal Travel which is organizing the flight.

Gypsie is pictured before being flown to Australia at YVR international Airport in Richmond, British Columbia on Thursday, November 5, 2020. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

He says with the pandemic dragging on, owners were running out of options and some were looking at the possibility of being separated from their pets until the spring of next year.

Australia called an embargo on any live animals from Canada. The country prohibits animals arriving as checked baggage carried by people in the cabin,

“When an animal travels to Australia, it has to enter as manifested cargo,” Mansuetto explained.

In addition to the flight cost, owners have to pay for various testing and veterinary treatments before the animal leaves, as well as fees to cover 10 days of quarantine when their pets arrive in Melbourne.

A woman says goodbye to her dog Kora before being flown to Australia at YVR international Airport in Richmond, British Columbia on Thursday, Nov. 5, 2020. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Donnie Saunders says it’s worth every penny for her Jack Russell terrier.

“Because they are our joy, you know, they’re just pure love.”

The 40 dogs and 29 cats will spend the duration of the flight in the cargo hold with their own crate, ice block and padding but some owners are still anxious.

“You can catch me crying later when I drop her off for good.” said owner Gina Wong.

Wong’s husband has already moved to Australia and she is taking their dog Kora to meet him.

While it may have taken months to organize this flight, Mansuetto says there will be no last minute flight cancellations.

“The aircraft is on its way from Toronto,” he said. “We have been communicating with Air Canada, and right now, everything’s a go. No delays.”

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