Ukrainians flee with their cats and dogs

Russia’s war against Ukraine has sparked a humanitarian crisis, as an estimated 1.7 million refugees have already fled westward, with that number sure to increase as Russian bombs rain down on Ukraine’s cities.

Many of those refugees have an added challenge: taking their beloved pets with them.

According to the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), a number of key countries bordering Ukraine — and other countries in Europe — have made it easier for Ukrainian families to enter with their pets, no doubt aware that some of those refugees would rather stay behind in danger than abandoning their cats and dogs to a likely death. Some of those countries’ policy steps include relaxing health records often required for animals taken across national borders.

A woman holds Ukrainian passports and a pet as she crosses the border in Vysne Nemecke, Slovakia, on Friday. (Darko Vojinovic/AP)

“The devastation caused by some of these rocket attacks, that open environment full of glass, concrete and metal is dangerous to people but also to animals,” James Sawyer, IFAW’s United Kingdom director, told BBC News.

“Local supplies are running out, one of the two animal shelters we support has been damaged by shells, losing one of the animals,” he said.

Photos of refugees show many of them with cat carriers or simply holding their cats and dogs in their arms. One photo of the train station in Przemysl, Poland, shows a woman holding her pet rabbit while stepping off a train from Ukraine.

A woman leaving a train carries a pet rabbit in her arms.

A woman carries a pet rabbit as she exits a train from Kyiv in Przemysl, Poland, on Feb. 23. (Omar Marques/Getty Images)

Those pets require food, shelter and health care.

In Przemysl, a town near the Ukrainian border, an animal shelter has been frantically working to save as many sick and wounded Ukrainian pets as it can. According to the Daily Mail, which visited the shelter, the group has rescued “more than 100 dogs, cats, rabbits, hamsters and even a chameleon.”

Radek embraces a wounded dog at the Ada Foundation animal clinic.

Radek comforts a wounded dog evacuated from Ukraine at the Ada Foundation animal clinic in Przemysl, Poland, on Sunday. (Omar Marques/Getty Images)

“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 he wanted us to look after because he was going to fight the Russians,” Konrad Kuzminski, a staffer at the shelter, told the Daily Mail.

Cats stand inside a cage as they remain in quarantine after being evacuated from Ukraine at the Ada Foundation animal clinic on March 06, 2022 in Przemysl, Poland.  (Omar Marques/Getty Images)

Cats inside cages in quarantine after being evacuated from Ukraine at the Ada Foundation animal clinic on Sunday. (Omar Marques/Getty Images)

“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,” Kuzminski said.

Ukrainians fleeing Russian bombs are also taking their pets to bomb shelters within Ukraine, and photos show families huddling in subway stations with their pets.

Kyryl, 9, holds his dog in his arms while walking with his family along train tracks.

Kyryl, 9, from Kyiv arrives with his dog, Hugo, at the Hungarian border town of Zahony on March 2. (Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

A refugee holds her cat, wrapped in a blanket.

A refugee holds her cat in Siret, Romania, at the Romanian-Ukrainian border, on Saturday. (Andrea Alexandru/AP)

A woman holds her cat in her arms as evacuees cross a destroyed bridge.

A woman carries her cat as evacuees cross a destroyed bridge in Irpin, northwest of Kyiv, on Monday. (Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP via Getty Images)

A girl cradles her cat as she and others arrive at a bus station at the Greek-Bulgarian border.

A Ukrainian refugee holds her cat as she and others arrive by bus at the Greek-Bulgarian border on Monday. (Sakis Mitrollidis/AFP via Getty Images)

A puppy peers from a pet carrier.

A puppy peers from a pet carrier in Siret, Romania, on Feb. 27. (Andrea Alexandru/AP)

An emergency worker warms the dog of a displaced Ukrainian with a blanket.

An emergency worker warms the dog of a displaced Ukrainian at the border in Siret, Romania, on March 2. (Andrei Pungovschi/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

People carry their small dogs on their laps on a train.

People fleeing Ukraine sit with their dogs on a train from Zahony, Hungary, to Budapest on Sunday. (Bernadett Szabo/Reuters)

A student holds his cat after arriving at the airport in Chennai, India, from Ukraine.

A student holds his cat after arriving at the airport in Chennai, India, on Friday after being evacuated from Ukraine. (Arun Sankar/AFP via Getty Images)

People with their pets flee from Irpin, Ukraine.

People with their pets flee from Irpin, Ukraine, on Monday. (Wolfgang Schwan/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

A woman comforts her child as a dog looks on.

A woman comforts her child as a dog looks on at a refugee shelter in Beregsurany, Hungary, on Monday. (Bernadett Szabo/Reuters)

Julia Gereasumenko holds her cat and dog in her arms in a Kyiv subway station.

Julia Gereasumenko and her pets, Garfield the cat and Yoda the dog, take shelter in a Kyiv subway station on March 2. (Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Olga Okhrimenko holds her dog, Knolly, in a ballroom converted into a refugee shelter.

Olga Okhrimenko holds her dog, Knolly, in a ballroom converted into a makeshift refugee shelter in Suceava, Romania, on Friday. (Andrea Alexandru/AP)

A man and his dog cross a river on a blown-up bridge.

A man and his dog cross a river on a blown-up bridge in Irpin, Ukraine, on March 1. (Aris Messinis/AFP via Getty Images)

A refugee cradles her dog in a ballroom converted into a refugee shelter.

A refugee and her dog in a ballroom converted into a refugee shelter in Suceava, Romania, on Friday. (Andrea Alexandru/AP)

A woman carrying a bag and a dog, followed by others, flees Irpin, Ukraine.

People flee Irpin, Ukraine, on Sunday. (Oleksandr Ratushniak/AP)

A child and a cat lie under a blanket in a school basement.

A child with a cat in a school basement on the outskirts of Kyiv on Sunday. (Serhii Nuzhnenko/Reuters)

A woman holds her small dog, which is dressed in a colorful jacket.

A woman holds her dog as she waits outside a train station in Lviv, Ukraine, on Friday. (Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters)

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What happened this week in Ukraine? Check out this explainer from Yahoo Immersive to find out.

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