For Ukrainian residents, the Russian invasion has uprooted their entire lives. Many have been forced to flee their homes, which adds another concern: what will happen to their family pets?
Polish animal rescuer Konrad Kuzminski has been making regular runs into war-torn Ukraine to safely transport dogs, cats, and other animals out of the country. Since the invasion began in late February 2022, Kuzminski and his colleagues at animal charity Dioz have rescued over 100 dogs, cats, rabbits, hamsters, and a chameleon.
Saving Both Beloved Pets And Abandoned Ukrainian Animals
When the hostilities began, Dioz encouraged Ukrainian citizens and animal rescue organizations to reach out for assistance getting their pets out of the country. Their shelter sits near the border, on the outskirts of Przemysl, Poland.
According to Kuzminski, Dioz received an overwhelming amount of requests from Ukrainians.
“We have received hundreds of calls to help people with their pets – some people do bring them across but others can’t and they don’t want to abandon their pets so contact us. We are sent drastic photos of people’s pets or animals that have been found abandoned and we try and help as much as we can but sometimes, we just can’t get to them all.”
Thinking about the people who felt they had no choice but to leave their animals behind in a war-torn country, Kuzminski noted:
“It hurts me so much to see these animals suffering and people sometimes forget about pets at times of war which I suppose is a natural consequence.”
Kuzminski also wants to set the record straight about abandoned animals during the invasion.
“There has been a lot of fake news and uncorroborated stories that Ukrainians are killing abandoned animals, that is just not correct. We have been involved in many rescue missions over there, rescuing animals that we have been told about or who have been taken to shelters.”
Daily Convoys Bring Animals From Ukraine To Poland
In times of war, people always worry first and foremost about humans’ safety. These rescuers are here for both the animals and the people who want them safe.
“Pets during a war are not as big a problem as the military and in this case especially the Russian troops and their tanks, they have caused this problem,” a [translated] post from Dioz says.
Using a converted ambulance van, Kuzminski and other animal rescuers drive in and out of Ukraine, returning with crates full of dogs. Some of the animals rescued from Ukraine will be kept safe for their worried owners. Others that can be treated will be put up for adoption.
“A lot of them are in a bad way, they are sick, hungry or suffering from broken limbs. We collect every animal we find and bring them back to our shelter to be looked after.”
Kuzminski shared one heartbreaking story with Daily Mail about a Ukraine resident who sought his help looking after his beloved dog.
“Last weekend I had a call from a guy who was in Ukraine, and he said he was living on his own but had a dog and he wanted us to look after because he was going to fight the Russians. We arranged to meet just over the border, and he was in tears as he handed his dog over to me but I said we would look after him and he could collect him when all this was over.”
One silver lining is that Polish authorities have made it possible for refugees fleeing with their pets to enter the country without vaccinations. Dioz shared on Facebook:
“The requirement for crossing the border is the presence of an animal chip and rabies vaccination. We have received information that it will be possible to vaccinate animals at the border.”
People Who Care About People And Animals
This work of rescuing dogs at the Poland/Ukraine border is dangerous, but it’s important to Kuzminski and his fellow rescuers in Poland. They will continue to side with Ukraine and help residents save their beloved pets from danger.
“No other Polish organization is working as hard as us to save animals and pets – we are sending convoys to Ukraine every day.”