A 'Noah's ark' charter flight from Canada, filled with dozens of beloved cats and dogs, will soon see pet owners across New Zealand reunited with their furry companions.
Some of them have been waiting nearly 12 months, separated due to Covid-19, not knowing if they would ever see their pets again, but for 36 owners that wait is just about over.
Jennifer Ellis and Geoffrey Nijhuis moved from Canada to New Zealand last year but were unable to bring their dog Sage with them.
"In June we had to make the tough decision to leave Sage with my parents and travel over to New Zealand to start our new jobs. When flights didn't resume, we were heartbroken," Jennifer said.
They were over the moon when the option finally came to book Sage on a charter flight with Worldwide Animal Travel.
"Sage went for her 'passport' photo and cage fitting, and was greeted by the awesome team at Worldwide Animal Travel," she added.
"It's been a year since we've seen Sage; she is finally in New Zealand. We can't wait to go pick her up from quarantine and introduce her to her new home."
Forty-two pets made the 14-hour Air Canada flight from Vancouver to Auckland, and the 36 families will be able to cuddle their pets again as soon as quarantine ends.
Since the Covid-19 pandemic began, Worldwide Animal Travel has successfully arranged three charter flights, the first two going to Australia. If there is sufficient demand, a second charter to New Zealand might be on the cards.
Geri Hurring, who will soon be moving back to New Zealand, where she will meet up with her cats Romeo and Miley, said Worldwide Animal Travel's flight was the "light at the end of the tunnel."
"There was a lot of anxiety as to whether the flight would actually happen, given so much uncertainty in the world and some date changes. [But] after lots of hard work and planning, this is the definition of an absolute miracle. I am looking forward to picking up our babies soon," she said.
Nina White and her partner Zac are also returning to New Zealand with their Australian cattle dog Boondi. The three of them had been isolating together through Covid-19 in Canada, in what Nina described as "the world's largest dog kennel," a 19-foot caravan.
"We decided to return to New Zealand, and it feels like everyone is welcoming us back with open arms," she said.
"We are so lucky and grateful to Worldwide Animal Travel for organising these amazing charter flights, for those who can't part with their pets. We are looking forward to seeing our little dingo running free on the beaches of New Zealand."
Pets are allowed into New Zealand, provided they meet MPI requirements. It is then up to airlines as to whether they have the capacity to transport them.
MPI's director animal and plant health, Pete Thomson, said the flight was a great outcome for the pet owners.
"MPI has been working with pet transporters and authorities to help overcome issues associated with the international travel of pets, caused by reduced international passenger flights," he said.
"Since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic we have taken a number of steps to help owners and pet transporters accommodate these disruptions, while also ensuring New Zealand's high biosecurity standards are being maintained."
The 42 pets will spend 10 days in an MPI-approved quarantine facility before being re-united with their owners.