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Wanted cat Lee can be flown to Peru and back

Peru’s ambassador to Belgium has confirmed that a cat which risked euthanasia after being illegally flown into Belgium could be repatriated.

Federal Minister Denis Ducarme had written to the Peruvian Embassy in Belgium asking for confirmation on whether the cat, called Lee, could return to Peru.

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The ambassador’s reply means that the cat will be flown to Peru, observe quarantine there, and then be flown back to Belgium, the owner’s lawyer, Anthony Godfroid, told VRT.

The cat’s return flight across the Atlantic will be done at the expenses of its owner, 23-year-old Selena Ali, Godfroid, said.

“She will bear all the costs, this will not cost the taxpayer,” Godfroid said, adding that the cat would be allowed to return from August, when there would be “legal and scientific certainty” of its state of health.

In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, the cat’s entry into Belgium sparked a row between Ali and top government officials, including Ducarme, a regional minister in Flanders and the federal food agency AFSCA.

AFSCA had contacted Ali after it became known that she brought the animal into Belgium on her own repatriation flight in April but failed to follow the necessary procedures, with the agency saying that the cat posed a risk for rabies and needed to be euthanised.

As media attention for the fate of the cat grew, with a petition launched by Ali gathering thousands of signatures, officials in Peru stepped into the debate and said on Wednesday that the cat was “welcome” to return.

According to Ali’s lawyer, his client still faces criminal prosecution for bringing the cat into the country illegally but said that the coronavirus crisis meant that she had no other choice.

“She had a cat and couldn’t leave it there, that would have meant the death of the cat,” he said. “Mistakes have happened, we are not going to hide that, but now there’s a solution and that’s the most important thing.”

Gabriela Galindo
The Brussels Times

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