Animals Stories

Paralyzed Dog Forcibly Quarantined At JFK Airport And Assumed A Risk

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Despite what many seem to think, paralysis does not mean a death sentence for dogs. Dogs with limited mobility still live happy, fulfilling lives with their people. This type of thinking brought a paralyzed Border Collie mix named BlackBerry from Jordan over to a new life in America.

However, when Berry finally arrived in New York, CDC workers at the airport refused to release her. Lara Abdallat, an animal advocate who flew Berry across the world, issued a plea for help through rescue organization Kris Kelly Foundation. She wrote:

“On Aug. 24th, I flew a paralyzed dog from Jordan to New York – JFK. Not my first time [flying] a paralyzed dog to find it a loving home [with] our American friends. All papers are verified and certified… Again, Berry is fully vaccinated, healthy but paralyzed.”


But officials disagreed, calling the paperwork “unverifiable.” As a result, the CDC employees insisted on putting Berry into quarantine for 28 days and required she remain at the airport.

Abdallat went on:

“CDC wants to run a test, which we don’t mind. But [the CDC] also wants to put the dog in quarantine for 4-6 months, and the airport facility can’t keep her there that time. Or, they want us to make the one easy decision… to euthanize Berry.”

What Made The Decision To Detain Berry

The CDC issued a statement about the situation, indicating that Berry’s records gave them pause. They observed a typo in her paperwork, and that paired with her condition made her considered a public health risk. The statement read:

“In this situation, the vaccination certificate documentation was invalid and unverifiable, the dog was injured, and veterinary reports indicated that this dog showed signs suggestive of rabies. Thus, entry was denied.”

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Animal advocates argued, however, that the dog probably experienced pain from cabin pressure changes and acted accordingly. Abdallat wrote:

“Berry has a spinal injury, so the running assumption is that the cabin’s pressure caused her to be a little pain aggressive on landing, so the CDC thought that she may be rabid as she is paralyzed.”


Because of her condition, BlackBerry needs additional care such as having her diaper changed and medication. She also uses a wheelchair for her back legs. Meredith Festa from New York-based non-profit Paws Unite worried about Berry receiving proper care in the airport’s boarding facility, “The Ark.” She told the NY Post:

“She’s scared and she can’t walk and she’s sitting in her own pee thinking, ‘Where are all the people that cared for me? It doesn’t sit right in my stomach.”

In an update on Instagram however, Abdallat expressed her gratitude to the people working at The Ark.

“I used to call The Ark every couple of hours to check on Berry. The Ark would assure me that Berry was fed, slept , played, changed diapers etc.. The manager told me: ‘Our staff are so attached to Berry.’”

What Happens To Berry Now

Without a consignee, Berry was transferred to Royal Jordanian Airlines’ possession. It then became up to them to decide whether to have Berry euthanized or to pay to board her at a CDC-approved quarantine facility. Fortunately, Royal Jordanian refused the euthanasia option, and Paws Unite offered to pay for all of Berry’s expenses. Festa explained to CBS:

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“Nobody at the CDC or customs wants the dog to be euthanized. It just comes to the legalities of the situation, and there’s a lot of red tape and I know the airline is very confused.”


Per the CDC, Berry will receive another rabies shot. Over the next 28 days, the people at The Ark will look after her. They’re currently working to resolve the international cargo issue. For now, Berry remains in good hands while the bureaucracy gets sorted through.In an update, Festa wrote:

“Due to federal Regulations she will remain the airlines ‘property’ until her 28 day hold ends on September 25, 2020. Her case will then be re-evaluated by multi-agency officials and she will be released to Paws Unite People as long as we all remain in compliance.”

Still Happy Despite Her Circumstances

On an uplifting note, Paws Unite People maintains that Berry is doing well at The Ark.

“She’s super happy and a typical 9 month old puppy despite it all.”


In the meantime, veterinarians have been able to visit Berry at The Ark. You can help the organization with the many costs this ordeal has incurred by donating to Berry’s fundraiser.

(UPDATE: A previous version of this story indicated that Festa felt concerned over Berry’s care at The Ark. The quote was meant to indicate why CDC officials decided to detain Berry. The Ark has been instrumental in keeping Berry safe.)

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