As Ukrainian refugees pour into Poland with their pets, Bristol-based UK charity Viva! has teamed up with its Polish counterpart to rehome and provide care for animals caught up in the conflict. The charity is providing pet food, carriers, collars, veterinary care and space at a nearby animal sanctuary for pets that can no longer be looked after.
The charity has provided a warehouse full of supplies and has delivered 45 tonnes of pet food to animals across Ukraine. Its team is ready at train stations and refugee points across Warsaw in Poland to aid those arriving with animals.
One refugee, Diana was met by Viva! volunteers at Przemysi train station in Poland, who were ready to assist her with her two dogs and pet bird. She pleaded in a video interview for people fleeing war not to leave their animals behind. Diana said: “War is very hard but don’t leave your animals behind, they love you.”
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News that Ukrainian volunteer Anastasiia Yalanskaya, 26, had been killed after dropping off dog food to a shelter, horrified long-term Viva! volunteer Lisa Buck and inspired her to take action and make the trip to Poland alongside other volunteers. Lisa drove for more than 1,000 miles with a van load of supplies for animals arriving in Poland from Ukraine because she couldn’t bear the thought of “animals being hungry and homeless.”
Lisa said: “My intention was to travel to the Ukraine border with pet supplies and stay there for three weeks, helping people and animals. I posted on Facebook asking for donations of pet food and asked local shops to set up donation boxes.
“I’ve been flooded with so many kind donations that I have to keep re-packing the van! Every time the doorbell goes with more packages I feel a lump in my throat from the generosity. Having reached capacity, I’m planning a return trip in April.”
After transporting 100 Ukrainian cats and dogs to a sanctuary in Poland, who were at risk of starving or being bombed, the Polish shelter began to reach it’s capacity. In response the Bristol-based charity managed to raise £30,000 to support efforts in Poland to rescue animals.
Founder and director of Viva! Juliet Gellatley said they have now launched a scheme to rehome Polish dogs in the UK. She said: “To ensure we can accept more animals into our Polish sanctuary, we have launched a rehoming scheme in the UK.
“We have appealed to British people to home some of our existing Polish dogs, whose characters we know and who don’t require quarantine. They have responded magnificently, creating more space for us to receive new refugee dogs.”
Cezary Wyzinsky, who has been in charge of Viva! Poland for 18 years, said: “The situation was chaotic and we were bringing both people and animals from the border five hours’ drive away. But now it is better organised, with six refugee centres having been set up in Warsaw who contact us with details of what they need – food, carriers, leads, flea collars and so on.
“So far, we have delivered over 45 tonnes of food, some within Warsaw but most of it we have sent to the group, Animal ID Ukraine. They are supplying sanctuaries and groups of animals within Ukraine.
“Being a big sanctuary with space, we have been able to divide up pens to accommodate the 100 newcomers. Our volunteers and resident vet, along with a refugee vet from Ukraine, have been able to settle, reassure and treat the often traumatised new arrivals.
“It is a desperate situation, with two million refugees and their companion animals now in Poland, and the flow continues. We are coping at the moment but we are very close to capacity.”
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