The Peruvian health authorities have refused a request to allow the return of a cat illegally imported into Belgium, leaving euthanasia as the only remaining option.
The cat, known as Lee, was brought into Belgium in April by Antwerp student Selena Ali after a visit to Peru. The cat did not have a licence and did not pass through quarantine.
According to the federal food safety agency, which has authority over such matters, the import was illegal, and because of the risk of rabies, there was no other option but for the cat to be put down.
Ali protested, and the cat went into hiding. The food safety agency went to the Council of State for backing for its position, and won the case.
Meanwhile Ben Weyts (N-VA), the Flemish minister for animal welfare, said the agency had overstepped its authority. Euthanasia was neither desirable nor necessary, Weyts declared, since EU rules also offered the option of sending the cat back.
That was contested by Denis Ducarme (MR), the federal agriculture minister, who has authority over the agency. “Peru is a high-risk country for rabies,” he said, and pointed out that there are no recognised quarantine facilities for dogs and cats in Belgium.
“In view of this thorough risk analysis, it was decided that euthanasia was the only possible option.”
Now the agency has made an approach to the Peruvian authorities to explore a return of the cat, but Peru is not willing to take Lee back.
“Euthanasia is now the only option,” an agency spokesperson said. Ali and her legal advisors have been informed, but they now claim the agency torpedoed Lee’s chances by sending the wrong documents to Lima.
A court is due to hand down a definitive ruling on Lee’s fate tomorrow. In the meantime, the cat remains in hiding. If Ali fails to produce it on the order of the court, she faces a financial penalty that will increase by the day.