BRUSSELS—Animal protection organisation Humane Society International, together with a generous donation from Mars, Incorporated, is helping Ukrainian refugees fleeing the conflict with their beloved pets by providing emergency funding and supplies such as pet food, blankets as well as veterinary care. The charity reports that refugees accessing their pet support services speak of their relief at being able to save their much loved animal companions who are an enormous comfort in extremely stressful circumstances, especially for traumatised children. While HSI and the local groups with which it works are providing a welcome lifeline for animal victims who make it to safety, the organisation warns of a worsening animal welfare crisis to come inside Ukraine as reaching people and animals with aid is likely to become more problematic.
In Germany, HSI is working with animal welfare group Berliner Tiertafel at a dedicated aid station in Berlin, to provide care packages and veterinary treatment for the refugees arriving with animals. Some of the pets have severe medical issues like epilepsy for which they were provided medication.
HSI’s Germany director Sylvie Kremerskothen Gleason who has been in Berlin distributing pet supplies to refugees, says: “Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is of course a devastating humanitarian crisis, but the beloved dogs, cats and other animals of those fleeing Ukraine are very much part of that refugee story. Leaving pets behind to starve or be injured in the conflict is understandably for many an impossible decision, and we have heard from refugees we’re helping in Berlin that the loyal companionship of their pets has kept them and their families going on the arduous journey to safety. For children especially, their pets are an enormous source of comfort to help them cope with the trauma of war. These refugees are frightened and exhausted, so being able to help them care for their pets means they have one less thing to worry about at a time when they need help the most.”
One of the refugees being helped by HSI and Berliner Tiertafel in Germany is Marianna, who fled Kyiv with her two children aged six and 12 years, her mother and their two dogs Erik and Liza the husky. Liza has epilepsy and had a seizure during the traumatic escape, but has now received veterinary attention thanks to HSI.
Another refugee, Karyna, also came to HSI and Berliner Tiertafel for help in Berlin. Her cat, Bonifacio, was in her foster care from a local shelter in Kyiv when the war began and she didn’t want to leave him behind. Karyna says there are around 60 other cats still left at the shelter. Bonifacio has several pre-existing injuries including a hip trauma and brain injury. Karyna is relieved her cat is now receiving the veterinary care he needs.
HSI teams in Berlin and Trieste in Italy have also packed hundreds of kilos of pet food and supplies to make the journey to the Ukraine border to reach shelters and homes struggling to keep going. Inside Ukraine, HSI has also teamed up with Kyiv-based animal organisation UAnimals to provide them with the funds they need to help rescues, veterinary clinics and even zoos caring for hundreds of animals.
HSI/Europe’s executive director, Ruud Tombrock says: “We are deeply concerned for the people and animals in Ukraine for whom the threat of injury or death from the fighting is compounded by the increasing challenge of safely finding food and supplies. Our first shipment of emergency funds and goods will reach many shelters, rescues and families struggling to cope. But the longer this conflict continues, the more challenging it may become. Significant numbers of dogs are now roaming the streets and seeking shelter in abandoned or bombed buildings because shelters have been damaged. There will also be animals on farms and in zoos for whom evacuation is just not possible. So alongside the human tragedy of this invasion we face the possibility of a worsening animal welfare crisis.”
You can help by making a donation to HSI’s emergency response for Ukraine and other life-saving efforts.