Dog from Russia finally makes it to new home in north country

Updated: Oct. 27, 2020 at 1:45 PM EDT
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WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - From Russia to Watertown. One Dalmatian has made it home after a nearly two month holdup at JFK International Airport.

It’s a day in the park for Hedy Starr and her Dalmatian, Vaxis - a day nearly two months in the making.

The dog is from Russia and Starr says she picked him up from JFK International Airport over the weekend.

“I sat with him and I hugged him and I kissed him. I couldn’t stop crying,” she said.

But that’s not when Vaxis arrived. He and 10 other dogs landed in the U.S. on September 8.

They were kept in an animal holding facility at JFK due to government concerns about their vaccination paperwork.

“It was devastating. It felt like trial by fire,” said Starr.

That animal facility is called the ARK at JFK. Founder and CEO John Cuticelli says it’s not meant to keep any dog for the nearly two months Vaxis was there.

“Typically we hold a dog for six or seven hours,” he said.

The dog’s courier filed a lawsuit against the government to get the dogs released. Cuticelli says his facility got stuck in the middle of that legal battle.

“Customs and Border Protection and CDC control what comes in and out of our country, not the ARK. The ARK is nothing more than a care provider,” he said.

Starr says she had to pay a little more than $6,000 for Vaxis' stay at the ARK. But, she says all the hurdles to get him home have been worth it.

“He’s a great dog and I’m so grateful to have him in my life,” she said.

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