I have been glued to the news all week. I can’t decide if I should limit my exposure to protect my mental health, or continue to soak up every bit of news and education about what’s happening that I can. Thus far, I’m sticking with the latter plan. The Ukrainian people can’t turn off their reality, so why should I? I am horrified by what I am seeing. Not only must I process what is happening to the citizens of that brave country, but I also find myself wondering about Ukrainian animals.
I asked myself how could it be that I was worried about animals when I see such trauma and pain on the faces of so many fleeing Ukrainians? But of course, my next thought was, “What if we had to flee?” I wrote last week about fleeing a fire next door. But fleeing my country? Of course I would take my dogs at least. But four dogs? How does one walk for days at a time, carrying a few precious belongings, trying to get passage on a train, and do it with multiple pets? And I must leave my horses behind to deal with bombs and explosions?
The article referenced below stated my conundrum very clearly:
Some people may wonder how anyone could worry about animal lives when human beings are fleeing a war zone. But domesticated and captive animals are among the most vulnerable in such crises, being often unable to move themselves to safety, and those who find room to have compassion for them needn’t do so at the expense of compassion for humans. And as shown by the people doing their best to protect animals in a horrific situation, whether they are leaving with their companion animals or staying behind to protect them, helping animals is a way to help their human guardians too.Claire Hamlett, published in SURGE
I hardly know where to begin to get my thoughts out through my fingers… As I have mentioned previously, my veterinary career took a major detour when I started a local support group that morphed into a national nonprofit. I supported families dealing with traumatized children. Mostly, we dealt with foster and adopted children. But I can’t watch the devastation in Europe and not weep for the hundreds of thousands of children (and their parents) who are being horribly traumatized by this abysmal attack.
I am also, according to my husband, more tuned into and concerned about animals than the average human being. I guess that is why I wanted to be a veterinarian from the time I could walk. I have seen the posts of people walking for miles and miles, carrying a cat carrier, or carrying or walking a dog.
The abandoned pets
Sadly, according to this article, initially many folks were forced to abandon their pets at the border due to not having “proper paperwork” to cross. Can you imagine the trauma of having to abandon your pet when your world is already so traumatic? Apparently, that has changed of late, and animals are being allowed in. (I even heard a story of a young couple with a newborn and they had trouble getting across the border because they didn’t have paperwork on the newborn!)
Many folks began their exodus without making any arrangements (what could they do?) for their pets. This article states:
As a result, thousands of pet animals are left behind on the streets of Ukraine and animal shelters are overcrowded with limited food supplies. Consequently, several animal welfare organizations are working round the clock to provide food and shelter to them.Shreya Agrawal for The Indian Express
Even before the invasion, Ukraine’s capital Kyiv had an estimated 50,000 stray animals. Local shelters already struggled to meet the needs of that population. Now, shelters and zoos are struggling to find food and other supplies to meet the needs of their residents.
As one might expect, many Ukrainians took shelter with their pets. There are innumerable social media photos of people hunkering down with their animals. No doubt some didn’t evacuate because they wouldn’t leave their pets behind.
And what of the horse population?
Check out this article written on March 2nd: Charity foundation established to support Ukraine equestrians.
This article discusses a newly minted foundation called the Ukrainian Equestrian Federation Charity Foundation. It is registered in Belgium and has the following mission statement:
(It) aims to help horse owners, riding schools, athletes, equestrian clubs, stables and professionals. It will also provide counselling and needs-based assistance on the ground, including the relocation of horses, and gathering and distributing goods for equestrians and their horses both in Ukraine and in their temporary locations in Europe.
The foundation’s director is also attempting to negotiate with Polish veterinarians to simplify the requirements for horses to cross the border. Roads are nearly impassable in many areas. Drivers are either women or foreigners, as men are not allowed to leave the country.
The article states that there are more than 100,000 horses in Ukraine right now. It provides a website link for those needing help. Additionally, it is opening up a bank account and setting up a hotline. The director of the foundation states:
Horse owners, riding schools, athletes, breeders, and professionals are in desperate conditions without any resources of saving their horses. By making donations or offering help, you will provide the Ukrainian equestrian community hope for a better future and save the lives of the Ukrainians and their loved ones.Mykhaylo Parkhomchuk
The governing body of the equestrian sport world, the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI), has removed all international equestrian events in Russia and Belarus from the FEI Calendar. The FEI prohibition on Russian and Belarusian athletes, horses and officials came into effect at midnight (CET) on Sunday, March 6, 2022 .
The Ukrainian people will need ongoing support for many years to come. No one knows how this will end. What is abundantly clear, however, is that much of their country and infrastructure has already been destroyed. The people and their animals will need our support. And they most certainly could use our prayers…