This month marks two years since Russia invaded Ukraine. Since then, the war has displaced more than 11 million people, including 5 million inside the country. Human and animal lives and safety are so often inextricably intertwined; some families refuse to evacuate without their cherished pets, who provide love, comfort and a sense of normality to their lives. And many have faced hardship in providing for themselves and their companion animals as their lives were suddenly upended. 

Across Europe, our Humane Society International colleagues have been helping Ukrainian refugees and their pets since March 2022, providing emergency funding, access to veterinary care and supplies such as pet food, pet carriers and blankets. With the generous support of Mars Inc., we and our partners have been able to help thousands of people and their pets in the worst of circumstances both inside Ukraine and in other European countries receiving refugees. 

Our aid within Ukraine includes helping people and their pets to make it through the bitterly cold winters. We worked with local organizations, such as UAnimals, to assess and prioritize the needs of shelters and clinics in Ukraine actively engaged in relief. Countless dogs and cats are now struggling to survive on the streets in the cold, completely reliant on volunteer feeders, care and rescue by local organizations, and the kindness of other Ukrainian citizens, many of whom are struggling themselves. Some families are living in damaged houses, without electricity, water or heating in temperatures that can plummet to as low as -15 degrees Celsius (5 degrees Fahrenheit). 

Our relief work has involved aiding refugees and their pets across multiple European countries. Our colleagues in Germany worked together with local organizations to support refugees arriving in Germany from Ukraine with animals. At Berlin’s main train station, for example, as thousands of refugees arrived, those who had companion animals immediately found pet food and necessary supplies there. We also supported a temporary veterinary practice at the train station and hung posters with QR codes that led to a list of veterinarians all over Berlin that would provide support. The costs were then covered by HSI and our partner organizations. This was a quick fix before our Vets for Ukrainian Pets program launched.