Animal associations

War in Ukraine: animal shelters struggle to cope with a wave of abandoned animals

The cacophony of anger and despair coming from the cages of this animal shelter in Lviv is perhaps an apt metaphor for how Ukrainians feel 50 days after Russia invaded the country.

The center in western Ukraine is on the front line to help care for pets abandoned during the war.

Whether their owners were killed in the conflict or forced to flee — as of April 15, 4.7 million Ukrainian refugees have left the country — the abandoned animals flock.

“Some animals are in very poor condition,” Natalia Tyrko, a volunteer at the shelter, told Euronews. “Some have not eaten for a long time and many are stressed by what they have witnessed. Some of them bite and scratch each other. We will try to help.

The center – which used to be a wildlife shelter – provides medical care for pets and volunteers try to calm their nerves.

Natalia said the shelter has already helped 800 dogs and cats. Some are sent to Poland, she says, while others are adopted locally in Lviv if the center is unable to trace the owners.

“We do everything we can”

New cages are being built to cope with the influx – on the day of Euronews’ visit, 28 dogs are expected to arrive from the capital kyiv.

During the interview with Natalia, the dogs start fighting in a cage and the staff have to separate them.

Almost all the volunteers have scratches and bite marks on their hands and arms from handling the animals.

“A lot of animals come here because the owners don’t want to deal with the problems when they cross the border into Poland,” Natalia said. “Maybe they have to live in a small apartment and don’t want or can’t have the animals there.”

A dog from Irpin – a kyiv suburb where the fighting has been particularly intense – is having a hard time, says Natalia.

She says he spends most of his time inside a doghouse. A local volunteer tries to calm his nerves by reading books to him from time to time.

“We are doing everything we can,” Natalia said. “But we need more help. We get all our food and medicine from organizations and we need everything.

“Wounded and Sick”

There are no official figures on the number of homeless pets since the Russian invasion. However, the internet has been flooded with photos of people helping pets out of the rubble of destroyed buildings and being evacuated by car from the front lines.

There is also a government shelter in Lviv, where 34 dogs and 11 cats are currently housed.

Director Alina Raspopova told Euronews that many are in poor condition after living on the streets. She claims that they are able to trace the owners in about three-quarters of the cases.

“Some are injured and sick when they come here,” she said. “They normally spend 21 days here, but it all depends. We do what we can to help them physically and psychologically.

They have a clinic, where dogs and cats are cared for. If they cannot find the owners and no one adopts them, they are sent back to the streets, where they were found.