Ukraine's Silent Refugees
On February 24th, Russian President Vladimir Putin launched Europe’s biggest military attack since World War II. Aiming to topple the Ukrainian government, this invasion has killed thousands of people and driven millions more to seek refuge in other European countries. This is a major humanitarian crisis, displacing many people from their homes in Ukraine. Unfortunately, the war has also upended life for the silent victims of the war: Ukraine’s animals.
In the desperate rush to flee the war, many companion animals were forced to be abandoned by their owners, especially larger dogs. The beloved pets of Ukraine do not understand why the night sky is littered with bright explosions, or where their human companions have vanished to. Left trapped in homes or roaming the streets on their own, companion animals can become lost in the chaos of war. They are left in desperate need of food, supplies, and veterinary care. Animal shelters in Ukraine are on track to run out of food and supplies very soon as well. Luckily, animal welfare groups are working tirelessly to rescue stray animals in Ukraine, collecting donations to support local veterinarians in Ukraine, assisting other animal shelters with financial aid, and have been able to evacuate domestic animals into neighbouring countries.
Zoo animals are threatened as well. These zoos are damaged amid the bombing and fighting, and there have been reports that animals have begun to die from starvation and cold. Animals held in captivity are already suffering psychological stress- the chaos of war only intensifies it. Animals in Ukraine’s zoos are under so much stress that many zookeepers are staying with them overnight. Evacuating these animals into crates and transporting them across conflict zones is risky and can cause illness and death. It seems that the only thing to do for these animals is holding tight and wait for help to come.
Farmed animals are victims of the war as well. When animals in such cramped quarters cannot be cared for or fed properly, they can succumb to the disease. One poultry farm in Ukraine had to suspend production due to power losses, and most of the flock was slaughtered due to a lack of food.
Amidst the chaos and tragedy of war, Ukraine has proven to be a country that extends love and solidarity beyond its human citizens. The Ukrainian people continue to astound and impress with their compassion and bravery in risking their lives to rescue our beloved animals from the war. To the animals and animal lovers alike, these people will be remembered as heroes.
Pic Courtesy: “A Ukrainian woman is seen with her dog leaving war-torn Kyiv on March 6, 2022” in https://www.cbsnews.com/pictures/ukraine-war-refugees-pets/2/