The Ukrainian refugee crisis: Unpacking the politics of pet exceptionalism

Journal article

Sandvik, Kristin Bergtora (2022) The Ukrainian refugee crisis: Unpacking the politics of pet exceptionalism, International Migration. DOI: 10.1111/imig.13100.

Read the article here (Open Access)

The rescue of pets soon became part of the humanitarian narrative of the attack on Ukraine. The open-door policy on companion animals from Ukraine—a high-risk country for rabies—in terms of regulatory modifications and the provision of services could be described as one of ‘pet exceptionalism’. While the influx of pets and the response to it has significance for the international refugee regime, there has been scant scholarly engagement with the movement of pets across borders during emergencies. To bridge academic knowledge gaps and suggest policy lessons, the article discusses how the management of the Ukraine pet influx fits with existing regulatory regimes and policy priorities governing companion animals, and the tensions involved. Drawing on a 6-month desk study (March–August 2022)—the article considers the events, interactions and policy choices which shape how companion animals are received. Using the UK and Norway as examples, it suggests that the aim of the resources and procedures directed at caring for pets and helping owners is pragmatic—to safeguard biosecurity and enforce regulations while also protecting animal health and psychosocial well-being. The term ‘pet civic consciousness’ is used to consider the notion of pets as family members, and how trust in government and understandings of biosecurity and regulatory requirements are filtered through cultural and linguistic lenses. The article identifies biosecurity, juridification, resource allocation and ethical issues of fairness across refugee populations and the intrinsic value of companion animals as central topics for future discussion.

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