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THE DOGS OF WAR: The heroic activists struggling to save animals abandoned in Ukraine

Early in the invasion, Europeans seemed eager to rescue Ukrainian pets. But later on the situation became increasingly difficult. People began releasing scared animals into the fields near the Polish border, as Poland started to turn back volunteers transporting animals to European shelters.

SASHA MASLOV: As the first anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine approaches, assessing the extent of the enormous toll on lives is impossible… In the midst of the suffering, remarkable stories of heroism have emerged: ordinary citizens in neighboring countries have provided food and shelter to refugees… But against this backdrop is an additional narrative of suffering; the farm animals and house pets caught up in a brutal war that has decimated the families who cared for them.

When the full-scale invasion of Ukraine began, a massive effort to save these vulnerable creatures was undertaken by thousands of animal rights activists, volunteers, and people who found themselves in a position to help. For some, this work was a natural extension of their long-term commitment to caring for animals. For others, the suffering they witnessed—of homeless animals whose owners had perhaps fled, or died, or lost them in the chaos of war—led them to this work…

What these animals most needed was a secure and loving home. Early in the invasion, Europeans seemed eager to rescue Ukrainian pets. Websites with images of animals needing homes appeared, and many Western Europeans responded generously. But there was no clear mechanism in place to deliver a pet to a new owner. So volunteers organized a transit service, in which a person carried a fully vaccinated and sterilized animal across the Western border of Ukraine–either by train, car, or bus.

During the first weeks of the war, among the mass exodus of Ukrainians seeking safety in Western Europe, animals that were brought into the EU required no paperwork. By the summer the situation had changed, and it became increasingly difficult for more than one or two pets at a time to enter without supporting documents.

Poland started turning back volunteers and organizations trucking rescue animals to European shelters, or directly to new owners, so they had to return to Ukraine. There were reported incidents of people in distress releasing scared animals into the fields near the Polish border, likely hoping for the best. Animal welfare organizations began to withdraw from the Polish-Ukrainian border, partially because their work became impossible, and partially because the interest from Europeans in Ukrainian pet adoption had faded…

Recently, even as larger organizations and non-profits with representation in Ukraine have stepped in to provide aid to animals and offer assistance to local shelters as well as rescue efforts, the main goal for Ukrainian shelters is to find homes for animals suffering because of the war… Here are the stories of some of these activists. SOURCE…

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