Refugees Find Help for Pets As They Flee Ukraine

Families bring their dogs and cats as they rush for safety.

Refugees arrive with pets in Berlin
Refugees arrive with their pets in Berlin.

Charlotte Brocker

Russia’s war on Ukraine is clearly creating a massive humanitarian crisis. But as many people flee with just a few belongings, some are also leaving with their pets in tow. 

Humane Society International (HSI) is providing emergency supplies such as pet food and blankets, as well as veterinary care and funding for many refugees in need.

HSI has teamed with animal welfare group Berliner Tiertafel at an aid station in Berlin. The groups are offering care packaging and veterinary treatment for refugees who arrive with animals.

"The refugees we met in Berlin were clearly drained from their exhausting journey. They have all been through so much stress to make it to safety, but it was clear that they felt enormous relief to be able to receive help for their animals they brought with them,” HSI Germany Director Sylvie Kremerskothen Gleason tells Treehugger.

“Their dogs and cats are part of their family so for them, evacuating without them was unthinkable. But they of course left their homes with only what they could carry so they have no food or essential supplies for their animal companions, which is a worry HSI was able to remove for them.”

Gleason has been in Berlin distributing supplies to refugees.

“I could see from talking with them that caring for their animals is a necessary and welcome distraction from the trauma of war,” she says. “Some of the animals we met had serious medical conditions too such as epilepsy for which we've been able to arrange veterinary treatment."

Worsening Animal Welfare Crisis

volunteer holding refugee dog in Berlin

Charlotte Brocker

With help from a donation from Mars, Incorporated, the animal rights organization is offering supplies and treatments.

Teams in Berlin and Trieste, Italy, have packed hundreds of pounds of pet food and supplies to be shipped to the Ukraine border to make their way into homes and shelters with pets. HSI has provided funds to the animal organization UAnimals in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv to provide support for rescues, veterinary clinics, and zoos that are caring for animals.

The organization warns of a worsening animal welfare crisis inside Ukraine as it becomes more difficult to reach animals and their owners as the war continues.

“We are deeply concerned for the people and animals in Ukraine for whom the threat of injury or death from the fighting is compounded by the increasing challenge of safely finding food and supplies. Our first shipment of emergency funds and goods will reach many shelters, rescues and families struggling to cope,” says Ruud Tombrock, HSI/Europe’s executive director, in a press release.

“But the longer this conflict continues, the more challenging it may become. Significant numbers of dogs are now roaming the streets and seeking shelter in abandoned or bombed buildings because shelters have been damaged. There will also be animals on farms and in zoos for whom evacuation is just not possible. So alongside the human tragedy of this invasion we face the possibility of a worsening animal welfare crisis.”

Finding Supplies and Relief

refugee cat in Berlin wearing a jacket

Charlotte Brocker

The organization shares the stories of a couple of people and animals who have found relief.

Marianna fled Kyiv with her two children, ages 6 and 12, her mother, and their two dogs, Erik and Liza. Liza has epilepsy and had a seizure during their stressful journey, but is now receiving medication.

Another refugee, Karyna, also came to Berlin for help. Her cat, Bonifacio, was in foster care with a local shelter in Kyiv when the war started. She didn’t want to leave him behind and said there were about 60 cats still left at the facility. Bonifacio is receiving care for pre-existing conditions including hip trauma and brain injury.

If you’d like to help and are able to, you can make a donation to HSI to support emergency aid for groups that are helping the Ukrainian people and their animals.