Rescue dog charities believed operations would have to stop last Thursday when Eurotunnel said groups of animals larger than five could no longer travel.
Outrage surfaced online when charities said planned rescues were in danger of being halted because they could not afford to transport only five dogs at once, as vans would usually hold around 20.
Charities and adopters heard nothing from Eurotunnel until a statement was made at 7pm on Friday confirming rescue charities would be exempt from the new rule.
They said: “We wish to clarify that these restrictions will NOT apply to DEFRA approved transport booked by registered charities, where we can be assured that animal welfare standards are being observed.
“We would like to offer our sincere apologies for any distress caused in the meantime.”
But the confusion has led to delays and complications in rescues, with some rescue charities needing to set up new accounts.
George Geddes, 25, is a financial journalist living in Clapham with his physiotherapist girlfriend.
The couple applied to adopt rescue dog Tank, a six-month-old male puppy found under a bridge in Bulgaria, through Wild At Heart Foundation.
They were expecting Tank’s arrival on Saturday but will now have to wait at least another week.
Geddes said: “They have given rather confusing and conflicting rules.
“Our shelter has said they’re trying to set up a business account so they can travel but apparently the customer service person hung up on them.
“It’s frustrating. These are people trying to help dogs.”
He said Eurotunnel ignoring everyone’s messages and requests on Friday added to the frustration.
Speaking on Friday, Geddes had said it was becoming quite depressing seeing the empty basket and collar around his home.
Francesca Corsini, 33, is an administrator from Barnett who was also expecting to welcome a rescue dog into her family this week.
She said: “The news from Eurotunnel is a relief but ill-timed as late on Friday evening.
“I’m feeling much more positive about Nana’s arrival now even it is a few days later than expected.”
Speaking before the update from Eurotunnel, Corsini had said she was heartbroken at the thought Nana might not be able to get to the UK.
Leaving the update until 7pm on Friday meant customer services and DEFRA could not be contacted before Monday morning to confirm the situation.
Corsini said transport for Bridge the Gap, the rescue charity dealing with Nana, contacted Eurotunnel on Thursday and was told in no uncertain terms that travel was limited to five for all transporters.
This would make the update a back-track rather than a clarification.
Rescue dog charities like Paws2Rescue tweeted Eurotunnel directly on Friday to say their decision was leaving animals in grave danger.
A petition called ‘Reverse draconian decision by Eurotunnel costing the lives of rescue dogs around the world’ started by Dogs4Rescue in Manchester gained over 25,000 signatures in just 24 hours.
Paws2Rescue Founder Alison Standbridge said on Friday morning the decision would condemn rescue dogs to death.
She said she had been sickened and saddened when she first saw the new rule because charities like Paws2Rescue are the only lifeline for countries in Europe that do not have animal welfare laws in place to protect dogs.
She suggested social media might have influenced Eurotunnel’s late-evening announcement on Friday.
She said: “I am hoping that the voices of many across social media had some effect on Eurotunnel.
“Paws2Rescue’s next dogs are due to leave Romania on Monday, so I guess we will find out pretty soon.”