With the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) implementing restrictions against the importing of dogs into the U.S. from select countries on July 14, an Ashburn resident is working to bring to the U.S. as many adoptable pups as possible from Turkey before that deadline.
Tina Allen Kolessar started a virtual fundraiser through GoFundMe on June 22 to help pay for flights by which she and others could rescue stray dogs and find them new stateside homes.
The CDC will temporarily suspend the entry of dogs into the U.S. from more than 100 different countries that have been deemed high risk for dog rabies, according to the agency’s website.
According to Allen Kolessar, the CDC has long mandated that dogs receive rabies vaccines more than 30 days prior to arriving in the U.S. from international countries.
The agency has recently encountered numerous instances of falsified rabies vaccination records for inbound dogs, resulting in the July 14 embargo.
Turkey, where Allen Kolessar and her husband previously lived while he worked for the U.S. Department of Justice, is one of the countries deemed high-risk.
During her time overseas she noticed how ubiquitous stray animals were in the area. Packs of dogs often popped up in public parks, neighborhoods and other spots, completely unchecked.
“You cannot drive anywhere in Turkey without seeing dogs, whether it’s the side of the highway or a park,” Allen Kolessar told the Times-Mirror.
“They get dumped in the forest or just put out in the street,” she said.
Allen Kolessar said that the general attitude towards domestic animals in Turkey is much different than in Western cultures, with the concept of pet ownership being relatively new and “sort of a status symbol, if anything.”
“People will get puppies and they go to the beach house for the summer, and then at the end of the summer they just leave the dog behind,” she said.
The overwhelming presence of stray cats around her residence led Allen Kolessar to start practicing the trap-neuter-return (TNR) method, with the goal being to humanely control the population of free-roaming felines.
“I didn’t want to have all these cats caterwauling around and not being fed,” she said.
“I ... spayed and neutered 30 cats on my own dime.”
Her reputation for caring for homeless animals grew quickly, and soon she was receiving requests from friends to help find new homes for local animals in need.
“Everybody was like, ‘Hey, I found this kitten,’ or ‘Hey, I found this dog that’s being abused,’” Allen Kolessar said.
“I’m kind of an accidental rescuer,” she said.
Her efforts to aid homeless animals continued after she and her husband moved back to the U.S.
With the help of a friend in Turkey, she would identify adoptable dogs and arrange for them to be flown to a loving, American family after a multi-step vetting process.
That process, at minimum, includes giving the dogs rabies vaccines and distemper shots, as well as inserting microchips into them.
The new CDC restrictions, however, have jeopardized Allen Kolessar’s rescue efforts in the near future, even those involving dogs who have already been vetted, placed in boarding and designated to an adoptive family.
One such dog was originally scheduled to fly to her new home in Ohio in just a few weeks.
“[The dog] needed an operation and we were giving her time to heal,” she said.
“She was supposed to fly over on July 20, everything was set. Well, that doesn’t meet the July 14 cutoff, so all of a sudden it’s a scramble,” she said.
The virtual fundraiser, Allen Kolessar hopes, will fund as many last-minute flights as possible to the U.S. prior to the cutoff.
The fundraiser is one of several campaigns recently highlighted by GoFundMe officials, as a number of dog lovers across the country have attempted to import as many canines as possible before the July 14 cutoff.
“We cannot leave them there,” Allen Kolessar wrote on the campaign webpage. “We cannot put them back in the streets, landfills, and empty lots where they came from.”
The campaign has accrued $2,615 as of Tuesday morning, a little more than half of its $4,000 goal.
Donations can be made at gofund.me/0b3413e6.