The world has watched in dismay and horror as Russia launched an horrendous attack on Ukraine. What the Russian President Valdimir Putin has called a ‘special military operation’ has been widely condemned by world leaders as a brutal act of war. United States President Joe Biden released a statement saying Russia alone is responsible for the death and destruction that will result from the attack. “President Putin has chosen a premeditated war that will bring a catastrophic loss of life and human suffering,” Biden’s statement read.
Strong sanctions against Russia have been announced by a wide range of countries as the International Community steadfastly opposes the assault by the Russian President.
While much has been made of the humanitarian crisis that will ensue from the attack, hundreds of thousands of non-human animals are also being affected. The invasion has led to many thousands of Ukrainians fleeing the country with their companion animals. Sadly, some have fled leaving their companion animals behind as they literally escaped under shelling from Russian launched missiles and encroaching Russian soldiers. Roads out of the country's capital, Kyiv, are heavily congested with delays of up to 30 hours for those attempting to leave the country by road. It is estimated that more than 360,000 Ukrainians have already crossed into neighbouring countries according to the United Nations. Families are being separated as men have been prevented from leaving by Ukrainian officials in order to stay and fight the invading Russian forces. Those without cars rushed to subway stations and bus routes, clinging to their companion animals in their arms or in carriers. Subway, train and bus stations were overwhelmed with those trying to escape.
Images on social media have shown the devastating impact war has already had as people attempt to cross the borders with their animals as well as those animals left behind on the streets of Ukraine. It is difficult to imagine such horrific situations or the desperation to escape from war for those who have not endured them.
Calls to action
Nastya Aboliesheva, who works for Kyiv based shelter Happy Paw, told Newsweek: “Our work now remains important and necessary, because animals do not understand what is happening and also need food and treatment… The main thing that people can help now is not to throw their animals at random, but to be near them or to evacuate with the animals.” Some neighbouring countries such as Poland, Romania and Slovakia have relaxed border regulations and are permitting Ukrainians to bring pets across borders without the usually required paperwork. In the United Kingdom, PETA UK has sent a letter to the secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs, George Eustice, regarding the UK entry restrictions for animals and urging him to ease entry restrictions in light of the current crisis.
However many animals in Ukraine are in desperate need of food, medicine and care. The status of millions of ‘farmed animals’ across the country and those in zoos remains unclear. Animal shelters in Ukraine are facing an immediate crisis as food supplies run low due to supply issues as a result of the Russian attack. The fresh water has even been affected. Brave volunteers have stayed behind to care for these animals, including the owners of the Cat Cafe in Lviv who have refused to leave their cats behind. The streets of Ukraine are home to about 50,000 stray animals that shelters try to rescue, feed and put up for adoption. Food supplies are the biggest problem, with only a few days of food remaining at many shelters. Another Kyiv-based shelter, Shelter Best Friends, which is home to 1,000 animals, estimated they only have two days worth of food left.
All of Ukraine needs our help. People have already lost family members, had their homes destroyed, and some have been forced to flee and leave everything behind. Fortunately there are many charities raising much needed funds for those humans affected. Many countries around the world have also pledged to offer refugee status to those who have had to abandon their homes and their former lives. The devastating toll of war on humans cannot be overstated nor can the necessity to help. However, non-human animals are also being massively affected and are also in desperate need of our help. The shelters in Ukraine that are attempting to care for them in dire circumstances desperately need money to buy food, shelter and water for the massive influx of additional animals that have been needlessly affected by the atrocity of war.
Please share this blog to help raise awareness. Following is a list of reputable animal rescues and shelters in Ukraine if you are able to contribute so they can provide much needed care for the animal victims of war.
International Animal Protection League
Shelter Friend Ukraine