ID MyHorse

The Plight of Ukrainian Horses and Companion Animals

Out of sight, out of mind?

When Russia invaded Ukraine in February, I was glued to my television for days, even weeks. It was incomprehensible to me how one moment, people could be going about their daily lives, and the next moment, they were engulfed in a war. Initially, my thoughts were nearly 100% focused on the people. Soon, however, I also began to wonder about the plight of Ukrainian horses and small animal pets. Please understand that I am not worrying about the plight of the animals over the trauma to the people… I am concerned about all of them.

However, as this horrible war dragged on for months, our news media moved on to other stories. We moved on with our lives, and the plight of Ukrainian people and Ukrainian horses started to fade from our minds. To be sure, we get snippets of news, especially as it relates to the bombing of the Ukrainian infrastructure and the concerns about the beleaguered citizens surviving another cold winter. I have not seen much news lately about the equally impacted animals living in Ukraine.

The Polish veterinarian

My reawakened awareness started with this article that crossed my Facebook page. It talks about a 32-year-old Polish veterinarian who has repeatedly crossed into Ukraine from Poland. I cannot find a date on this article, so I am not sure when it was originally written. The article states:

Dr. Kotowicz and his team have worked tirelessly, forgoing sleep for days at a time, to empty Ukraine’s shelters and bring the animals to safety in Poland. Without their help, Ukraine’s shelter pets face abandonment, starvation, and death by violence as war rages around them. The center is also taking in fleeing refugees’ pets and stray animals they discover along the way.

by Dina Fantegrossi

This is Alan. That is what the shelter named him, as they presume that his original owners are dead and no one is going to claim him. A human refugee pulled Alan out of the ruins of a building and eventually Alan found his way to the Polish shelter.

“He is a war victim. A dozen or more head wounds, infections, a broken sternum, parasites and skin diseases are just the visible injuries he has sustained.”

Horrific stories and photos on Facebook

There are a few other articles you can find if you do a Google search. Likewise, you can find a few other photos. They are heartbreaking. Most of the photos in this post are pulled from Facebook pages, especially this one. That page belongs to a woman who had to turn her five horses loose when her city was bombed. I believe she was eventually able to find all of them, and begin the process of rehabilitating them. This “before” and “after” photo is indicative of the plight of so many Ukrainian horses.

Ukrainian horses

This article, written in March, begins by stating that it “Contains imagery some may find offensive.” Yet one of the photos has blurred the image of what are most likely two dead horses. The unbelievably sad title of this article is: Russian troops ‘burn 30 horses alive’ in stable near Kyiv, Ukraine says.

There were 32 horses in this stable; only two made it out alive. The owner of the stable was told that if she didn’t leave, Russian troops would shoot all of the horses. Later, a friend went to the stable to check on the welfare of the horses. She was horrified to learn that nearly all of the horses had been killed and the stable was burned to the ground.

Horse owners were tasked with identifying their deceased equine companions through photos of burned bodies. Apparently, many of these precious horses were owned by children under the age of 10.

BEVA… The British Equine Veterinary Association

A piece written in September by a British veterinarian was the latest article I could find about the plight of Ukrainian horses.

Horses remain under serious threat within occupied areas of the Ukraine, with horrendous accounts of animals continuing to be maimed or killed.”

Dr. David Rendle of BEVA

Dr. Rendle is the president-elect of the BEVA. He traveled to the Polish-Ukrainian border and shared his experiences with the organization upon his return. Dr. Rendle provided Ukrainian veterinarians with antibiotics and pain-relieving medications for the suffering Ukrainian horses. He also collaborated with a British rescue organization to help relocate horses out of Ukraine. The article states:

While there he received pictures and testimony of a number of attacks being carried out by Russian forces on stables in Bucha, Irpin and other equestrian premises north of Kyiv.

This article goes on to describe what is perhaps the same story I previously mentioned… or maybe it is one of many such stories? Stables burned, fleeing horses shot, or left to fend for themselves. Villagers would collect a loose horse or two and keep them in their backyards. Of course, humans are struggling to find food and shelter. Horse hay and feed are equally scarce. Farmers are afraid to cut hay, as stories circulate of farmers bombed while on their tractors in the field.

It is hard to understand what could motivate anyone to perform these deliberate acts of cruelty. Random shootings, stabbings and burnings are widely reported and pictured on social media. We have no idea how many horses are dead and how many injured, but it has to be a significant number.

Dr. David Rendle
The many levels of neediness

It isn’t hard to comprehend the need for antibiotics, pain medications, and other basic veterinary products. Even more basic is the need for hay and feed. But consider this… Even if horse owners are successful in keeping their horses with them on their property, they likely have no money. How can they pay for veterinary services, assuming there are even services available to them? How can struggling veterinarians, who are themselves dealing with the impact of war, procure supplies without financial resources?

I had to edit the feature photo to fit the size I needed. It is a good thing, because it allowed me to crop out the front half of the horse at the bottom of the photo. Now you don’t have to see the gaping bullet wound evident in the girth region. We have our issues here in America, but I wager that very few of us can really wrap our minds around the carnage that is occurring in Ukraine.

How can you help?

The Polish veterinarian mentioned at the beginning of this post works for the ADA Adoption Center and Animal Clinic. It is located in Przemysl, Poland, just over the border from Ukraine. You can donate directly to that clinic by clicking here.

The British Equestrians for Ukraine Fund is urgently seeking donations. You can donate to them by going here. It is possible to donate using US dollars.

This page is a veritable wealth of information. It tells you how you can donate feed, make a monetary donation for veterinary supplies and other necessities, and spread helpful information. Again, the link was originally posted in MARCH. I am assuming the need is even greater in December.

Go hug your horse, and your loved ones. America is not perfect, but it is the only place I want to live.

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