Mr White moved his family back to Newcastle on the NSW east coast in December so his son could start the school term in January but was required to leave his Cavalier King Charles cross Beagle behind so she could be tested and get the all-clear.
He has since been monitoring the coronavirus outbreak closely. Luma was expected to fly out on April 1 but Qantas has now cancelled all international flights beyond the end of March.
This has left Mr White and his dog in quarantine limbo, with the Department of Agriculture unable to budge on the length of time due to strict biosecurity laws to protect the country from diseases.
“I know there are bigger things at risk now than my dog and my situation. I empathise with all people who have lost family members to the virus or are suffering personally. I just don’t think this is fair or even reasonable. We are talking about seven days, not months,” he said.
Mr White wanted Luma to spend an extra seven days in quarantine in Australia, where she would already be required to spend 10 days at a facility.
“I understand they have policies, but these are not normal times,” he said.
A Department of Agriculture spokesman said there had been an “unprecedented” number of inquiries and asked people to be patient.
“The department is aware of the disruption to owners and their pets’ importation due to the world-wide disruption of airlines associated with the COVID-19 pandemic,” the spokesman said.
There have been no changes to the import conditions for dogs and cats due to coronavirus.
“COVID-19 does not change the existing risks posed by diseases of biosecurity concern or the requirement for all cats and dogs to meet the conditions of their import permit in full,” he said.
While he acknowledged this was a “distressing time” for those impacted, he said the import conditions needed to be maintained to protect the country. It was not possible for pets to spend extra time in Australian quarantine due to the increased biosecurity risk and the department did not have control over flight cancellations.
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Jennifer Duke is an economics correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, based at Parliament House in Canberra.