Local couple buys dog from Russia, but can’t get it out of JFK

Updated: Sep. 28, 2020 at 3:00 PM EDT
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TOWN OF LERAY, N.Y. (WWNY) - A Watertown couple is waiting to get the dog they bought from Russia months ago. But, the problem isn’t getting him to the U.S., it’s getting him out of New York’s airport.

Hedy Starr is a trainer at the Canine College in the town of LeRay and Thelion is one of her two dogs.

Starr says she and her husband, Ryan, have been working to add a third to the mix - a Dalmatian she calls Vaxis.

Hedy says she purchased Vaxis from Russia.

He arrived at JFK International Airport September 8. Hedy says she hasn’t been able to get him because the dogs have been seized and is now in the dark about how Vaxis is doing.

“We’ve requested proof of life, we’ve requested photographs. We’ve requested any information that they can give us. And, we’ve been met with no comment,” she said.

A declaration from a Centers for Disease Control official claims multiple discrepancies on some of the dogs’ papers that point to potential fraud, including two different veterinarians having the same signature.

That’s why Vaxis and 10 other dogs are being held at the ARK, an animal holding facility at JFK.

“Our lawyer is stating they don’t have a Russian handwriting analysis to be able to say that these are forged,” said Hedy.

Now, one of the 11 dogs has died. That’s according to a federal lawsuit brought by the courier who imported the dogs from Russia.

Documents state the dog died from canine parvovirus, which the plaintiff contends the dog contracted at the ARK.

A post on the facility’s Facebook page refutes that claim, saying it’s possible the dog caught the virus before arriving.

Ryan says he has big concerns about how the ARK is caring for the dogs.

“They were neglecting animals, one has died. They’ve been withholding information to the owners, including myself,” he said.

But the government states the 10 dogs were taken to a veterinary clinic Saturday to be examined for parvo.

Nine were vaccinated for the virus and rabies.

Hedy says that means it won’t be possible to tell if they’ve received rabies vaccines in the past and a possible extended stay at the ARK.

“They have to now do another 28 days quarantine at the ARK before they come home,” she said.

An emergency restraining order to keep the dogs in the U.S. was set to end Monday.

But in a document the government says it agrees to not remove the dogs until October 28 at the earliest.

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