Story By: Delano Langras, Sub Editor: Michael Leidig, Agency: Newsflash
Belgium officials are taking a Belgium beauty contestant hopeful to court to force her to pay EUR 5,000 an hour for every hour that she does not hand over a kitten which they say needs to be put to sleep.
The kitten was brought into the country by Miss Belgium 2020 finalist Selena Ali after she returned from doing an internship in Peru.
Under Belgian law, the kitten should have spent three months in quarantine before being allowed to board the flight, but this was not possible because of the coronavirus pandemic and as it was the last flight available, it was the only choice.
She said the Belgian embassy, given the circumstances, allowed her to take the kitten on the flight, and delighted at getting back safely, the young woman had then spoken about it to local media. This, in turn, attracted the attention of inspectors from the Federal Agency for Food Safety (FASFC).
FASFC spokeswoman Helene Bonte said: “We had already informed Selena before her departure in Peru that the kitten Lee was not allowed to come. Lee’s history is too unclear to be sure that the animal is completely rabid-free. Peru is a high-risk country for rabies. It is a deadly disease that passes from animal to human. Belgium has been rabies-free since 2001, but the government remains vigilant and has appointed the FASFC to control animal imports.”
She said that as a result the young woman had been informed that there had been a “decision to euthanise the cat that had bought into Belgium in a non-compliant manner”.
She said that under normal circumstances it would have been possible to send the cat back to Peru, but that was no longer possible because of the coronavirus. Euthanasia was therefore the only solution.
But Selena refused to hand it over, and the matter then escalated when police stormed her home searching for her pet.
Selena argued that the cat had been examined by a vet in Belgium who confirmed that it had no signs of rabies, it had been quarantined for weeks in her apartment before she left, and that the Cuzco area where the cat was from been rabies-free for 10 years meaning there was zero risk.
A court case to decide on the matter is set to take place on 29th of May with a decision expected then on whether she will have to pay the money for every hour that she does not hand over the kitten, as requested by officials.
According to animals rights group GAIA (Global Action In The Interest Of Animals) they also want the young woman to stop speaking out about the cat, demanding EUR 1,000 for each time she does.
Her lawyer Anthony Godfroid told local media: “The FASFC is asking EUR 5,000 for every hour that Lee is not handed over.”
Selena – an applied psychology student at the Thomas Moore School in Antwerp – has so far refused to say where the kitty is hiding and over 46,000 people have so far signed a petition to save the cat’s life, including none other than the Flemish Minister of Animal Welfare, Ben Weyts.
Weyts claims that there is no need to put the well-travelled feline to sleep and that instead the kitty should be quarantined.
He said: “The reaction has been exaggerated. A search for a cat? That sounds like a bad Belgian joke.”
Weyts added: “If there is an alternative route to avoid euthanasia, we should follow it.”
Officials claim that alternatives were offered including putting the cat temporarily in the care of a friend in Peru while its owner was in Belgium.
However, Selena chose to take her cat on board the plane.
Selena claims that if she made a mistake by doing so then she must be punished for it and not the cat.
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