With the weight of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine heavy in our hearts, we are thinking of the Ukrainian people and their animals and identifying ways to help them now and over the longer term.

How could we do otherwise with a torrent of images and news reports flooding in all around us? People desperately fleeing with their pets in tow, showing the world that they value their animals’ lives just as they do their own.

Amid the chaos, shelters, rescue groups and veterinary clinics in Ukraine are trying to keep their operations going, making every effort to provide safety and urgent care to animals caught up in the conflict. Relief workers and organizations are also doing all they can to clear the way for emergency entry into neighboring nations for Ukrainians with pets. 

Thanks to the kindness and generosity of our partner, family-owned Mars, Incorporated, we’re in a position to respond right away to the needs of Ukraine’s animals and those seeking to help them. In our previous collaboration, a worldwide COVID-19 relief effort, we were able to help more than 280,000 animals in 36 countries on five continents, providing desperately needed food, veterinary care and other support. 

With no time to waste, we’re prioritizing support to shelters, rescue groups and veterinary clinics in Ukraine. It is vitally important to sustain these institutions in their efforts to maintain operations and services. In many cases, they are helping individuals and families who cannot flee but are trying to hold onto and care for their pets and other animals. In addition, some groups are caring for animals on the streets. The demands and needs of the moment are substantial and will continue to be significant in the future.

To assist these organizations, Humane Society International is collaborating with a partner in Ukraine, UAnimals, to assess and prioritize the needs of shelters and clinics actively engaged in relief. HSI in Germany is working with Berliner Tiertafel to provide refugees with pet food and necessary supplies for their animals as well as veterinary care if needed.

We’re also planning to support animal groups in neighboring countries such as Poland and Romania as they assist refugees arriving from Ukraine with their pets. The groups trying to provide relief are going to need food, carriers, medicines and critical supplies. 

The same is true for zoos and wildlife rescue centers in Ukraine, and we’ll do our best to help them meet their needs, too.

For any of us, having to leave our homes under such horrific circumstances would be distressing enough, but no one should have to jeopardize their own safety because of uncertainty about evacuating with their canine or cat companion. Having to do so without food, medicines or documentation concerning their pets’ health and vaccination compounds an already nightmarish scenario.

That’s why it was encouraging to see the quick response of the European Commission, which recommended that veterinary paperwork requirements be relaxed for dogs, cats and other companion animals traveling with Ukrainian refugees seeking safe passage within the European Union. To their credit, a number of EU nations promptly did just that. 

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine offers one more affirmation of a powerful lesson that we have learned in nation after nation, and in crisis after crisis, around the world. Most people with pets will not willingly leave them to fend for themselves. Emergency response and evacuation efforts cannot be successful if they do not accommodate that deepest of human desires to protect a beloved pet from danger and harm and to do everything in our power to stay together. That’s what I see in the images streaming in from the conflict zone, the images of people with the pets they love and would not leave behind.

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