EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – The 3,000-mile-plus journey of Zeus and Chanel to the U.S. border came to a happy ending.
The pair of pugs were reunited with their Venezuelan owners once the humans were released from Border Patrol custody this month.
The canines are just some of the pets – including rabbits, among others – that asylum seekers are bringing with them as they cross the Rio Grande from Mexico to El Paso. They get them back if their claims move forward and the pets are healthy.
“The family was ecstatic to see them again,” said Michele Anderson, marketing and public engagement manager at El Paso Animal Services. “When I spoke to the family a day before, the woman was crying, really worried about her pugs and making sure they were being well taken care of.”
Border Patrol El Paso Sector Chief Agent Gloria I. Chavez said the agency contacts the local animal shelter whenever individuals who cross the border illegally and surrender to agents bring pets with them.
“We had situations like we encountered here today. There was a dog that came with one of the migrant families. The other day there was a rabbit that came through, so you never know what the Border Patrol is going to encounter at the border,” Chavez said. “We’re trying to be humane, not only with the people, but also with the animals we encounter.”
The policy seems to vary from sector to sector. National news outlets have documented how border agents have forced Russian and Venezuelan migrants in Yuma, Arizona, and Eagle Pass, Texas, to abandon their pets. The agency does not track animal encounters.
Zeus and Chanel, a male and a female, were healthy and in good condition after the long journey, according to Anderson. “The family loves these two dogs. We were able to put them into a foster home with a local veterinarian who volunteered herself to take in these two pugs while the family was undergoing proper processing,” she said.
The family – a woman, her child, her cousin and his wife – were released by U.S. immigration after a couple of nights’ detention. They were staying at an El Paso hotel when Animal Services gave them back their pugs.
During their two days in custody, an animal rights group raised an undisclosed amount of money for the dogs and their owners to continue their journey to the interior of the United States. The pugs also got vaccinations and a health check.
“It was a very long trek. I’m sure the family saw a lot of things on the trip, but they protected those dogs,” Anderson said, adding how the migrants showed them cell phone videos of them interacting with the pugs back home.
“Those dogs are a huge part of their family. […] We’re happy to help. We believe pets are family (and) they’re coming with nothing but very little and still able to travel with their beloved pets. You can tell these pets mean everything to them,” she said.