The war in Ukraine has had a devastating impact on millions of lives, both human and animal. Here’s how animal rescue organizations are saving dogs and cats affected by the conflict and providing them with the care and help they need.
Over the past 18 months, the war in Ukraine has been headline news around the world. Millions of people have had their lives uprooted and shattered, and their companion animals have fared no better. Thousands of dogs and cats have faced desertion and life-threatening situations, and are struggling to survive in increasingly harsh circumstances. But animal rescue organizations are working to change this, saving dogs and cats from the war-torn country and transporting them to safer environments where they can receive the care they need, along with a shot at a brighter future. This article looks at the work of just two such organizations, and the difference they’re making in the lives of Ukraine’s dogs and cats.
BIG DOG RANCH RESCUE
Since 2008, Big Dog Ranch Rescue (BDRR) has been a beacon of hope for countless dogs in perilous predicaments, including natural disasters and other life-threatening situations. Saving dogs from the war in Ukraine has been an unprecedented challenge, but BDRR has met it head-on. “Nothing quite compares to our venture into the war-torn terrain of
Ukraine, a mission we had not anticipated but could not turn away from,” says BDRR founder and CEO, Lauree Simmons. Luckily, they’ve had help from numerous other quarters in their efforts to rescue as many dogs as possible from Ukraine. For example, the city of Poznan in Poland extended a helping hand by donating the use of a vacant dog shelter for nine months.
“This has served as a haven for dogs who lost their homes and human companions to the conflict,” says Lauree. BDRR additionally enlisted the aid of Ukrainian refugees, those left homeless by the conflict, giving them a chance to find purpose amid the turmoil by staffing the shelter and caring for the dogs.
The organization also has receiving partners in Sweden, Switzerland and the UK, and has worked with many dog shelters and rescue groups in Ukraine, Poland and Romania. BDRR has sent food and supplies to these areas and worked with local groups to transport hundreds of dogs out of Ukraine via a green corridor (one of several routes agreed upon by Russia and Ukraine for the evacuation of civilians). The rescued dogs were subsequently sent to both homes and shelters across Europe.
BDRR took further steps to help shelters deal with the arrival of large numbers of animals. For example, Lauree visited an overcrowded Romanian shelter that was grappling with a staggering influx of dogs and cats abandoned because of the war. She walked the staff through the maze of challenges they faced, helping them to formulate and execute the best possible policies to cope with the immense pressure they were facing. As well, nearly a dozen dogs were transported from the shelter to BDRR’s headquarters in the US, to help relieve space.
While BDRR has been battle-tested by many natural disasters, the volatile dynamics found in an active war zone necessitated the development of a unique security blueprint.
“We were treading on uncharted terrain, where conventional disaster response strategies were no longer adequate,” says Lauree. “We are proud to say that no individual or four-legged friend was injured during our mission. It wasn’t a small feat but an international endeavor that crossed borders and united hearts.”
NETWORK FOR ANIMALS
International animal welfare organization, Network for Animals (NFA), was one of the first on the ground to support the country’s innocent four-legged victims of war.
“Many animals were abandoned as people fled for their lives,” explains the NFA website. “Others are street animals in urgent need of help as bombs tear up the cities and towns of Ukraine.”
Together with their partners in both Ukraine and Poland, NFA has been working around the clock to feed, treat and evacuate thousands of dogs and cats who would have otherwise been killed in the war zones. Chief among these partners is DIOZ, an animal rescue service and shelter based in Jelenia Góra, Poland. This organization has sent convoys into the most dangerous areas to feed and rescue needy animals, conducting 621-mile round trips to evacuate animals from Ukraine and transport them back to their shelter. Because DIOZ’s existing animal ambulance was old and unreliable, NFA bought them a new one and provided funds for fuel for their critical feeding and rescue missions.
Another organization NFA has been supporting and working with is the Animal Guardians Program, a project that aims to provide food and veterinary care for thousands of street animals in and around the regions of Zaporizhzhia, Donetsk, and Dnipro in Ukraine. The good-hearted “guardians” are pensioners, the disabled, and the poor. They emerge from shelter when there is a lull in the fighting to help animals, often taking numerous cats and dogs into their own homes to care for them. NFA supports the AGP by covering the cost of pet food, medicine, sterilizations, emergency veterinary treatments, and fuel to transport animals to and from clinics.
We don’t often hear about it on the news, but animal rescue and welfare organizations like BDRR, NFA, PETA and more have been working tirelessly to save dogs and cats from the bombed streets of Ukraine. Teams of courageous volunteers from these organizations brave dangerous conditions so that frightened, abandoned and needy animals can have another chance at life, someplace where they’ll be safe, loved and cared for.
Claudia Bensimoun is a freelance writer in West Palm Beach who specializes in writing about dogs and horses.