A Warzone Is No Place for Pets

If you are anything like me (and the chances are that you are because you are reading this site), you’re an animal lover. I cried like a little kid when my long-time companion Boston Terrier Sam Adams died on the operating table a few years back. It’s a real loss. They’ve become members of the family.

Many Ukrainians feel the same way. They are people just like us living modern lives in cities and towns. They have kids, mortgages, car payments, and family pets.

It’ll be OK, buddy. Image Credit: visit Ukraine.today

Many have been forced to flee their homes and sometimes the entire country. After that tough decision is made, the next question is, “What do we do with the dog, or the cat, or both?” Well, the country of Ukraine has set up a website to address the issue, which we at SOFREP have stumbled upon recently.

The page’s title is “Rules for transporting animals: how to take out a cat/dog abroad during the war?” This is a direct translation from the original Ukrainian, so it sounds a little awkward, but you get the idea. There is also a link to a 24/7 helpline to support both Ukrainians and foreigners needing assistance.

Mantas Stashkevičius, the Director of the Lithuanian State Food and Veterinary Service, is quoted on the page as saying,

“We cannot be indifferent to people escaping from such a terrible situation. Many Ukrainians go away with their pets, and we must help them find safe place to stay”. 

Numerous Ukrainian pets have been relocated to other European countries, and several are bending their immigration rules for refugee animals.

Meet the Irpin Angel

Nastya Tikhaya lived in Irpin with her parents and had a shelter for homeless and handicapped dogs. She was known as the “Irpin angel.” Image Credit:  dailymaverick.co.za

The photo above of a young Ukrainian woman trying to get her dogs to safety went viral on social media. When the photo was taken, Russians were occupying the city of Irpin, killing citizens in large numbers, looting and destroying homes, and even shooting at cars. The citizens were scrambling to evacuate the city.

Government officials were able to arrange for safety corridors to be established so that those trapped in Irpin could get out. However, as we have seen in the past, Russians don’t always honor their agreements regarding these safety corridors, so any attempt to exit would still be hazardous.

Nastya Tikhaya and her family ran a rescue for homeless and handicapped dogs. Quite an honorable undertaking. The family quickly realized that to keep the animals safe, they had to be moved out of harm’s way. Nastya and her husband started moving dogs out of occupied Irpin just as soon as a green corridor was announced. They got the Ukrainian Territorial Defense force to help them, and together they managed to cross a half-destroyed bridge out of the city and make it to safety. She and her family are true heroes.

Not All Made It

Two dogs find fresh water amidst the destruction in the streets of Kyiv in April 2022. Image Credit: Rodrigo ABD/AP

I wish I could report that all the dogs made it out of Ukraine OK and went on to live happy, healthy lives with caring owners. But, unfortunately, war doesn’t work that way. This is not a feel-good piece. I’m obligated to share the whole truth. Hundreds and perhaps thousands of dogs and cats died following the initial invasion.

According to the Ukraine animal rights organization UAnimals, 485 dogs were abandoned in locked cages at an animal shelter in Borodyanka when the war began. They spent weeks locked into their pens with no food or water until volunteers could reach the site in early April when it was safe.

By the time help arrived, all but 150 of the dogs had died, and those remaining were in critical condition. The survivors were given food and water and were transported to local veterinarians for immediate care. Unfortunately, a few more unfortunate souls died on the way to the vet.

UAnimals issued a statement sharing the horrible news and calling for those who abandoned the animals to be held accountable.

“A few days ago, we were shocked by the terrible news — more than 300 dogs were killed in Borodyanka Animal Shelter… The animals were not killed by bombings…they died a terrible death without food and water, locked in their cells. We have to hold everyone accountable who silenced and contributed to the tragedy.”

Following the issuance of the above statement, UAnimals called local police officials and asked that the shelter’s owner be brought up on charges of animal abuse. No word on whether those charges were ever pursued or not.

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