Group works to save animals left behind amid Ukraine war

Source: The Hill | January 31, 2023 | Saul Elbein

Some Ukrainians are risking their lives to save cats, dogs and other animals made homeless by the Russian invasion.

The fighting has destroyed entire towns and leveled large stretches of many cities while forcing millions of Ukrainians into exile abroad or in the relatively safer western parts of the country.

Olga Chevganiuk, of the Ukrainian animal organization UAnimals, estimated that amid other effects the fighting has left at least 200,000 animals homeless.

When volunteers enter a territory newly recaptured from Russia, “we see ruined houses, and we see scared animals,” Chevganiuk said.

“Sometimes they’re so scared, they are afraid to reach people — but sometimes they are so hungry that they run when they see the car coming.”

Once primarily focused on advocacy causes like securing better conditions for circus animals, UAnimals pivoted to more direct aid once the war began.

That includes rebuilding bombed-out shelters and securing food and medicine for the thousands of private citizens providing care to animals in war-torn towns — including sometimes those still under Russian control.

Ukraine’s homeless animal population ballooned in the early days of the war.

“No one knew what was happening the time people were panicking, and very often, they wanted to go,” Chevganiuk said.

Many migrants took their pets, but others left them, assuming they would return within a few days. “But then they didn’t come back,” Chevganiuk said.

That meant UAnimals spent much of the early part of the war fielding calls from “people asking us how they can help animals locked in the houses.”


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