Pro handball player pleads with Argentine customs authorities clear to pet missing rabies shot

Pro handball player who fled Europe back to his native Argentina with his dog because of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is fighting to be reunited with his pet after customs warned the animal will be put down or deported

  • Franco Gavidia, an Argentine handball player, is requesting customs authorities at Ezeiza International Airport to release the family pet dog, Coco
  • Gavidia was living in Hungary near the border with Ukraine but returned to Argentina this week over fears of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine
  • They spent two days flying before landing at the airport in Ezeiza, Buenos Aires, on Tuesday
  • Coco is one-year-old but apparently is not being cleared at customs because Gavidia is missing the dog’s rabies shot
  • Gavidia is refusing to allow the National Food Safety and Quality Service to deport Coco and send him back to Hungary
  • He dismissed earlier reports indicating the agency provided him the option of putting the dog to sleep

A professional handball player who fled Europe because of the Russian invasion of Ukraine is now pleading with customs authorities in his native country of Argentina to release his dog, Coco.

Franco Gavidia was living in Hungary, next to the border with Ukraine, when Putin’s forces invaded.

He decided it was time to return to his home country of Córdoba, Argentina for his own safety, with his dog Coco, who he adopted in Hungary.

He told Argentine news outlet TN that he and Coco spent 48 hours flying and changing airports before finally landing on Tuesday at Ezeiza International Airport in Ezeiza, Buenos Aires.

However, upon reaching the customs checkpoint, agents with the National Food Safety and Quality Service refused to allow Gavidia to proceed because Coco was missing a rabies shot.

Coco is not being allowed to leave Ezeiza International Airport in Ezeiza, Buenos Aires, because Argentine customs officials did not receive proof of his rabies vaccine shot. The dog arrived on a flight from Europe on Tuesday with his owner, professional handball player Franco Gavidia. He has spent over 30 hours at the airport and said he will not allow Coco to be deported to Hungary, the country they abandoned because of its proximity to Ukraine

Argentine professional handball player Franco Gavidia with Coco, his wife Cami and daughter Francisca

Argentine professional handball player Franco Gavidia with Coco, his wife Cami and daughter Francisca

Gavidia acknowledge that the one-year-old pooch was missing a letter ‘from a Hungarian veterinarian indicating the dog is healthy’ that should have been signed within the last eight to nine days.

TN initially reported that National Food Safety and Quality Service provided two options: deport or euthanize Coco.

He was heartbroken.

‘Coco is part of my family, he cannot be deported,’ he said.

Gavidia was looking forward to introducing Coco to his wife Cami and daughter Francisca, who had remained in Argentina while he worked and lived in Hungary.

‘I haven’t seen my daughter in eight months. Her birthday is today,’ he said. ‘I brought Coco because it’s her dog, too, and they won’t allow him to pass.’

Coco is being held by customs authorities at Ezeiza International Airport because his owner, Argentine professional handball player Franco Gavidia failed to obtain the required rabies vaccine shot before they left Hungary

Coco is being held by customs authorities at Ezeiza International Airport because his owner, Argentine professional handball player Franco Gavidia failed to obtain the required rabies vaccine shot before they left Hungary

Coco's rabies vaccine shot should have been administered eight to nine days before arriving in Argentina

Coco’s rabies vaccine shot should have been administered eight to nine days before arriving in Argentina

Gavidia has made it clear that he will not leave the airport grounds without Coco, indicating the dog 'is part of my family, he cannot be deported'

Gavidia has made it clear that he will not leave the airport grounds without Coco, indicating the dog ‘is part of my family, he cannot be deported’

Gavidia said no other country would accept Coco because he does not have his rabies vaccine shot and even if he agreed to send him back to Hungary, he would not have anyone there to provide him a home.

He said he is willing to cover expense for all of the veterinarian services that would be required to clear Coco through customs and would pay a fine and assume responsibility of securing a place to quarantine with the dog.

Gavidia has made it clear that he will not leave the airport grounds without Coco.

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