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