NewsAnimal rescue in the Ukraine war: "What can the...

Animal rescue in the Ukraine war: "What can the dogs do for it?"

When people flee the war in Ukraine, they often have to leave their pets behind. Animal rights activists risk their lives to bring the suddenly unprotected animals to safety.

Medyka – It’s already dark when Sascha Winkler drives his white minibus into the yard of an abandoned farm in Medyka in eastern Poland. Loud barking, anxious barking and pleading whines come from the hold.

“I have 23 dogs, a lot of puppies,” calls Winkler. Before dawn, the animal rights activist set off to rescue abandoned dogs from war-torn Ukraine. Now he’s finally back in Poland – and the dogs are safe. For the time being, they can stay in an improvised shelter set up by the Polish Centaurus Foundation on the disused farm in Medyka.

Less than two kilometers from the stables of the abandoned farm, human tragedies are unfolding. Tens of thousands of refugees from Ukraine arrive every day at the Medyka-Schehyni crossing on the Polish-Ukrainian border. They are fleeing from the Russian missiles and bombs that are destroying their homeland. The Polish border guards have counted 1.7 million refugees since the beginning of the war.

Often no place for dogs and cats

“When people have to flee, many leave their pets behind,” says Sascha Winkler. This is the twelfth animal rescue trip to the Ukraine for the 35-year-old businessman from Chemnitz. In the overcrowded trains that bring the refugees from Ukraine, there is often no room for dogs and cats. “Above all, taking bitches with puppies is practically impossible.” There are local animal shelters and animal rights activists in Ukraine who take in the abandoned four-legged friends, says Winkler. But their options have been exhausted.

That’s why he left in the morning with two other drivers to bring donated animal feed to Ukraine and to pick up dogs from the towns of Brody and Radekhiv near Lviv. As he says, Winkler is not afraid of the war. “I was with the Bundeswehr in Afghanistan, I’ve seen worse.”

Dominik Nawa brought five dogs from the western Ukrainian city of Stryj in his blue van. “Four puppies and their mother. A woman found them tied up in front of the church in Stryj,” says the 46-year-old, who runs a sanctuary for horses, donkeys and goats in Silesia.

Many puppies with their mothers

A dozen volunteers from Poland, Ukraine, Germany and the United States help unload the cages, covered with woolen blankets, from the delivery vans. There are many puppies with their mothers. The animal rights activists pet the frightened puppies and carefully carry them into heated containers. “My grandmother had to flee as a child and couldn’t take her black Spitz with her. She never let that go – she kept talking about her “Mohrchen”” says Stefanie Seelmann from Munich. And quietly she adds: “What can the dogs do for that?”

The improvised animal sanctuary in Medyka is only a transitional station for the dogs and cats that are also taken in here. Paul came from Dresden to take animals to Germany. “As many as will fit in my car.” At home, he has found a private animal shelter that will take them in. And a few masters and mistresses who are already looking forward to their new darling. dpa

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