Anyone who has to flee their home, neighborhood, city, or country during a war has to make difficult decisions about what to do with them. So did the many people who boarded one of the overcrowded and extremely limited trains in Ukraine.
In the European Union there are rules that determine which pets are allowed to cross the border with their owners. Owners must apply for an identification number for their pet, and be able to prove that the animal has been vaccinated against rabies and has a valid European pet passport. This mainly applies to dogs, cats and rodents. Depending on which country the owners want to visit with their pets, the rules for animals from outside Europe are subject to much stricter rules.
When the war broke out in Ukraine, the owners were forced to abandon many pets. In Ukraine there are many animal shelters that receive these animals. They have reported countless dogs and cats being left at train stations. Daniel Cox, campaign manager for PETA Germany, said people are facing the choice of saving their lives or staying with their pets in Ukraine…This must be a very difficult decision.
“We are seeing an improvement in the situation regarding entry conditions into European territory,” explained Marie Morgan Jano, campaign manager at PETA France. Under pressure from many animal welfare organizations, the European Union is now taking into account the exceptional situation of the war in Ukraine and has introduced simplified rules. A national hotline has been set up in the Netherlands to receive animals from Ukraine with their owners. Information about the shelter, vaccination and care of these animals can be found on the website of the Reporting Centre: hulpvoordierenuitoekraïne.nl. Information about regulations for animals from Ukraine can be found on the website of the Dutch Consumer Product and Food Safety Authority (NVWA). In Belgium, organizations such as the Prince Laurent Foundation and Sciensano are obligated to receive and vaccinate pets from Ukraine.
Animals are also the victims of this struggle, but we often don’t even think about it. At PETA, our mission is to help all the animals that need us,” said PETA spokesperson France.
Like National Geographic I mentioned previously in the story Masha Bear Rescue from Ukraine, “Thousands of animals have been left in zoos, farms, air raid shelters and even on the streets across Ukraine. Food is becoming increasingly scarce, especially in areas under enemy fire, and many are inaccessible Areas for outside help Zoos and shelters report that their animals are shocked by the shelling and crawl away in fear when they hear sirens and explosions from air raids, run into fences and abandon their young.
According to Marie Morgan Janow, PETA teams were initially stationed on the borders with Poland and Romania. The idea was to welcome people with their pets and provide identification numbers and vaccinations for animals that need them. Pet food was available, a ‘pet aid and care clinic’ was set up and vets were on standby.
“Many people cross the border with their pets in their arms, carrying them in makeshift cages or without cages to transport them,” said Carmen Arsen, president of Eduxanima, which is part of the Romanian National Federation for Animal Protection (FNPA). 500 km from the border with Ukraine, Eduxanima employees regularly travel to Ukraine with a mobile veterinary clinic. Activists immediately distribute food, water, collars and tools.
“In the case of cats, it is a big problem that most of them do not have a mobile litter box for one, two or three days. A lot of cats get urinary tract infections,” says Carmen Arsen. Activists set up a pickup truck in which protected pets can rest while they wait with their owners to relocate to a nearby border. These people pass. Some stayed overnight in the shelter and continued their journey the next day.
Employees of other animal welfare organizations also cross into Ukraine to get animals out of the country or bring them food. In consultation with local animal shelters, several organizations are working together to evacuate animals to shelters in Germany, Poland and Romania.
Currently, PETA teams are present in Poland and Hungary to find solutions for long-term pet care at the border. A whole mission has also been set up there to deliver tons of animal feed to almost every corner of the country. All this work was done with the help of groups of Ukrainian activists. They know the country, they have their networks and they can provide immediate assistance because they can assess the situation on the spot. PETA staff works with a network of Ukrainian volunteers who have performed miracles and rescued cats and dogs across Ukraine,” said Mary Morgan Jano.
Thousands of pets saved
PETA has already delivered more than 200 tons of relief supplies to Ukraine, feeding “more than 800,000 animals” across Ukraine, according to the organization’s French branch. Carmen Arsen estimates that about 5,000 pets have now been transported across the border into Romania.
According to spokespersons for various organizations, foster families for most of the pets cared for in shelters along the border with Ukraine have now been found. Some of the animals have been reunited with their owners on the safe side of the border, while volunteers are still caring for other animals.
Daniel Cox said that the Beta team has been on the border with Poland since the start of the war. These employees are stationed in Poland and go to Ukraine every day, where they managed to save more than a thousand animals. Pets come from all over Ukraine to the city of Lviv, which serves as a transit center for fleeing animals and people. From there we control the animals and it is still two and a half hours to the Polish border. Once the animals arrive in Poland, they are placed in shelters or in clinics we work with if they need urgent medical attention.
Numerous reports about the situation have been published on animal welfare organizations’ blogs and websites. We see animals roaming the streets everywhere and the animals here are regularly poisoned. Attempts by foreign organizations to sterilize pets were stopped. There are very few shelters. In public shelters, pets are ignored and feared. Pets are also still being killed. There is no care for the animals, and captive dogs often starve,” according to one of the many eyewitness accounts on the website of White Paw, a German animal rights group.
People who help these animals are risking themselves. Two activists with whom PETA UK had been in contact were killed. They were transporting pets at the time and it is possible that they were caught in the crossfire.”
Some Ukrainians stayed in the country to take care of their pets and help organizations rescue as many stray dogs and cats as possible. Volunteers try to travel as little as possible and work with local carriers to move much-needed supplies to distribution centers, as local organizations distribute items across the country. Daniel Cox, who visited the country himself in March 2022, said the network of organizations and people in Ukraine to help animals is incredible.
The condition of wild animals kept in zoos, sanctuaries, or abandoned in nature parks is monitored by other specialized and sometimes better-equipped organizations. The Ukrainian government has not yet been able to launch any initiative to save the animals. “The country is at war and the war is still escalating, and we have to understand that,” says a German volunteer.
This article was originally published in English at nationalgeographic.com