A Noah's ark charter flight from Canada, filled with dozens of beloved cats and dogs, will soon mean that pet owners across Aotearoa will be reunited with their furry companions.
Forty-two pets were aboard the 14-hour Air Canada flight from Vancouver to Auckland, some had been apart from their families for nearly 12 months because of Covid-19.
The pets will spend 10 days in an MPI-approved quarantine facility before being re-united with their owners. For the 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.
When an option finally became available to get Sage on a charter flight, the pair were over the moon.
"Sage went for her 'passport' photo and cage fitting and was greeted by the awesome team at Worldwide Animal Travel."
"It's been a year since we've seen Sage. We can't wait to go pick her up from quarantine and to introduce her to her new home."
Geri Hurring is moving back to New Zealand where she will meet up with her cats, Romeo and Miley.
Hurring describes Worldwide Animal Travel's flight as 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 my babies soon."
Nina White and her partner Zac are also moving back 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 describes as "the world's largest dog kennel, a 19-foot caravan".
"We are so lucky and grateful to Worldwide Animal Travel. We are looking forward to seeing our little dingo running free on the beaches of New Zealand," Nina said.
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 animals.
MPI animal and plant health director Pete Thomson said it 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 successful "repatriation" was a combined effort by Air Canada, MPI and Worldwide Animal Travel.
Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, Worldwide Animal Travel has successfully arranged three charter flights, the first two for Australia. If there is sufficient demand, a second charter to New Zealand might be on the cards.