As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) put in place restrictions against the importation of dogs into the United States from certain countries on July 14, an Ashburn resident is working to bring to the United States as many as many adoptable puppies as possible from Turkey before this deadline.
Tina Allen Kolessar launched a virtual fundraiser through GoFundMe on June 22 to help pay for flights through which she and others could rescue stray dogs and find them new homes across the United States.
The CDC will temporarily suspend the entry of dogs into the United States from more than 100 different countries that have been deemed high risk for canine rabies, according to the agency’s website.
According to Allen Kolessar, the CDC has long required that dogs receive rabies vaccines more than 30 days before arriving in the United States from international countries.
The agency recently encountered numerous cases of falsified rabies vaccination records for incoming dogs, leading to the July 14 embargo.
Turkey, where Allen Kolessar and her husband previously lived while he worked for the US Department of Justice, is among the countries deemed high risk.
During her time abroad, she noticed how ubiquitous stray animals were in the area. Packs of dogs often appeared in public parks, neighborhoods and other places, without any control.
“You can’t drive anywhere in Turkey without seeing dogs, whether on the side of the highway or in a park,” Allen Kolessar told The Times-Mirror.
“They are thrown into the forest or simply put on the street,” she said.
Allen Kolessar said the general attitude towards pets in Turkey is very different from Western cultures, with the concept of pet ownership being relatively new and “sort of a status symbol, if any. “.
“People will have puppies and they’ll go to the beach house for the summer, and then at the end of the summer they’ll leave the dog behind,” she said.
The overwhelming presence of stray cats around his residence led Allen Kolessar to begin practicing the trap-neuter-return (TNR) method, in an effort to humanely control the free-roaming feline population.
“I didn’t want all those cats whining and not being fed,” she said.
“I… neutered and neutered 30 cats at my expense.”
Her reputation for caring for homeless animals quickly grew, and soon she was receiving friend requests to help find new homes for local animals in need.
“Everyone 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 help homeless animals continued after she returned to the United States with her husband.
With the help of a friend in Turkey, she would identify adoptable dogs and arrange for them to be airlifted to a loving American family after a multi-step vetting process.
This process, at a minimum, involves giving the dogs rabies vaccines and distemper vaccines, as well as inserting microchips into them.
The CDC’s new restrictions, however, have put Allen Kolessar’s rescue efforts in the near future at risk, even those involving dogs that have already been checked, boarded and given foster care.
One of these dogs was originally scheduled to fly to their new home in Ohio in just a few weeks.
“[The dog] needed surgery and we were giving him time to heal,” she said.
“She was supposed to fly over on July 20, everything was settled. Well, it doesn’t meet the July 14 deadline, so all of a sudden it’s a scramble,” she said.
The virtual fundraiser, Allen Kolessar hopes, will fund as many last-minute flights to the United States as possible before the deadline.
The fundraiser is one of many campaigns recently highlighted by GoFundMe officials, as a number of dog lovers across the country tried to import as many dogs as possible before the deadline of 14 July.
“We can’t leave them there,” Allen Kolessar wrote on the campaign’s webpage. “We can’t put them back on the streets, dumps and wastelands where they came from.”
The campaign racked up $2,615 on Tuesday morning, just over half of its $4,000 goal.