Catching up with the exodus of people and their pets from Ukraine

I think that it is useful to occasionally touch base to remind ourselves that the ongoing refugee crisis in Ukraine is still there. People are still suffering. Cats and dogs are still suffering with them. They are still leaving Ukraine to save their lives. And it always amazes me how calm and well-behaved the cats and dogs are that I have seen on this arduous journey to safety.

Note: the videos on this page may not last for the duration of the page. If they have stopped working, I apologise but I can’t control their existence.

In another video we see a young women and her cat. The caption reads: “These two have been on a long journey together. Yana Zelieva, 17, fled Ukraine with her mom and refused to leave behind her cat, Zaika. Yana, from Kyiv, says when she got the call from her mother that it was time to leave, Zaika was the first thing she packed. Provisions were further down her list of priorities as they headed to another city, but the attacks would follow them and they made their way to the Polish border.”

At the Polish border railway station, the Polish are doing their best to feed both humans and pets alike. It is nice that they have accommodated the pets’ needs. They must be seeing a lot of them.

What we see in the videos are pet owners taking the cats and dogs with them but not all cats and dogs were saved in this way. Circumstances vary as does the attitude of the pet owners. Some just abandon them. A survey by the Europe Group Animals decided that 150,000 cats and dogs needed humanitarian aid in Ukraine as at November 2022. I suspect the figure was acting much bigger than that and has grown substantially since.

The survey revealed that the biggest problem was abandonment of pets, unsterilised animals living on the streets and a lack of food for shelter animals, stray cats and dogs and domestic cats and dogs.

Not long after the war started, the United Nations estimated that more than 3.7 million Ukrainians fled the country with 2 million crossing the border to Poland. Many of them were with pets: cats, dogs, parrots and turtles to name four different species.

Some of the pets were injured and doctors and volunteers over the border in Poland helped to treat them.

Some of the pet abandonments took place in the Ukrainian town of Lviv which is 45 miles from the Polish border. It is the final stopover on Ukrainian soil before making the final journal out of the war zone. Many Ukrainians left their pets at a shelter in that city. Many pets were rescued from the train station during the chaos. The shelter in Lviv took in 1,500 animals over the two months after the start of the war.

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