A Fish Hoek woman dependent on a service dog for mobility said she was left angered and bewildered after her dog was taken from her at Cape Town International Airport on her return from a holiday.
Janice Salthouse, 59, has had a service dog – called Denver – for the last six years and says she is unable to walk without the dog as she had polio as a child.
“I am unable to walk without Denver. I use him to balance,” said Salthouse.
Salthouse visited a friend in the Netherlands last month. On her return, her dog was taken from her at Cape Town International Airport by officials from the quarantine station in Milnerton because his blood had not been tested for certain diseases.
The dog was kept there for a week. Salthouse, who had no family in Cape Town, had to arrange for a friend to stay with her.
According to Salthouse, she had applied for import and export permits for the dog in January.
But she said that officials she dealt with from the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries were “not very co-operative”.
“I waited five months for the correct documentation. It was never clear what they needed from me. And after speaking to several people. I received the permits,” she said.
According to Salthouse, she received a form stating that she needed to have Denver’s blood tested in the Netherlands for five diseases.
“The day I left, the department gave me a name and address of someone in Holland who was going to do the tests. When I got there, they knew nothing about it and the diseases the department wanted tests for were not even recognised in the Netherlands. So I couldn’t have it done,” she said.
Salthouse said she had paid more than R3 000 for the dog’s stay at the station, even though he was taken against her will.
Meanwhile, the Department of Agriculture said it had “bent over backwards” to accommodate Salthouse and her service dog.
Spokesman Selby Bokaba said: “Import requirements – set by the World Organisation for Animal Health – include blood tests which must be completed with negative results prior to departure from the exporting country (in this case the Netherlands).”
He said because Salthouse did not have the blood tests done, her dog did not comply with the South African import requirements.
“Those animals which do not comply with the South African import requirements are to be returned to the exporting country, euthanised or placed in a state-owned quarantine,” Bokaba added.