Thank you for MLTnews’ coverage of the plight of abandoned companion animals in Ukraine. Your articles triggered an avalanche of emails of people wanting to help. Tana and I went into this journey thinking our mission was simple…we’d walk some dogs and take care of some cats that needed some love. But the contacts that were generated from MLTnews turned our journey into something more complex and meaningful.
Right after we arrived in Przemysl, Poland to start work, the game shifted. Poland passed a law on March 22 making it more difficult for Ukrainian animals to cross the border. Many Ukrainian refugees, being forced from their homes by the Russian invasion, were now asked to leave their companion pets. I can’t imagine how difficult that situation must be for them. With four million refugees and a conservative number of 30% pet ownership, that’s 1.2 million animals that can be forced into homelessness. The pets are being left at the train or bus station or dropped off at a shelter that is already busting at the seams. There is one shelter in Kharkiv with 1,400 animals. The game no longer was to get animals into Poland, but to keep them alive and well in Ukraine, a country at war with a really broken supply chain.
Both Tana and I are back in the Pacific Northwest, but our lives didn’t return to normal. This tragedy continues to unfold and as an animal lover it’s difficult to sit on the sidelines. While we were there, we talked to a lot of volunteers on the ground, as well as organizations. As fulfilling as it was working with the Ukrainian pets that were rescued and working in the warehouse loading and unloading 40 lb. bags of pet food, it barely scratches the surface of the overwhelming problem.
To address this issue, we needed a strategy to help the shelters get the food, medication and supplies in a less chaotic way. So, we are building a web portal for the shelters to list their needs. Volunteer drivers across Europe can then select which shelter they want to deliver to and then verify the number of animals at each shelter. Then we can start planning regular deliveries so the animals won’t starve.
After keeping the animals fed, we need to slow down the population. After the Russians invaded, the government of Ukraine shut down their spay and neuter program to focus on war efforts. With the surge in animals at the shelters, they don’t have a way to keep them all separated, which is worsening the problem. So, our group is launching a portable M*A*S*H unit that will go the shelters to spay/neuter, vaccinate, microchip and provide flea treatment in large volumes. If we can do this successfully and raise enough funds, we can expand the M*A*S*H units and treat thousands of animals a week. Mason County has been sharing with us how they do it and their best practices. They have on-the-road units that can operate on 75 animals a day.
We’ve put together a non-profit called ARF which stands for Animal Relief Fund. We are raising money through a GoFundMe and are looking for volunteers. The goal is to keep as many animals alive as possible in Ukraine. A big thank you to MLTnews for helping.