Photo Credit: HappyPaw/UAnimals

Exactly one year ago, Russia waged war against Ukraine. 

The footage and photos showing Ukrainian families fleeing with beloved pets, along with war-devastated shelters, prompted Helen Woodward Animal Center to pledge $50,000 to help pets in war zones.

In a matter of weeks, that number went up to $356,000 thanks to help from the local community.  Today, the center is still in touch with the Eastern European animal welfare organizations served.   

Helen Woodward Animal Center reports that in addition to food and critical medical resources, center partner HappyPaw utilized these donations to purchase a rescue van, which is being used daily in Ukraine to transport injured animals and bring pet food to shelters in desperate need across the country. 

Helen Woodward Animal Center’s close relationships with Ukrainian animal welfare organizations began in 2018 with visits to the region as part of the Center’s “The Business of Saving Lives” conference, training animal welfare workers in best practices to increase adoption rates and decrease euthanasia.

When visiting Estonia in 2019, the center met Hellika Landsmann of the Estonian Society for the Protection of Animals. With her help, the center has built strong connections with groups such as HappyPaw and UAnimals, which work on the ground in Ukraine, feeding and getting veterinary supplies to shelters that are still operating in war zones. Last year, when HappyPaw needed a sturdy vehicle that could handle war-torn roads, they turned to the center for help.

“They needed the car because they can have veterinary help and food (taken) to the smaller shelters and try to help (in) this way. The car was really, really needed,” Landsmann said. “It was quite difficult to find this kind of car that can drive in such areas. They don’t have any roads anymore there because it’s all bombed.”

Amidst this danger, stray animals are abundant in Ukraine, as many people fleeing the country have abandoned their pets to escape. Rescue work has become even more challenging, as a lack of veterinarians and spay/neuter services in the country has led to a boom in stray animals. When Ukrainian troops or rescue volunteers find injured strays, they are typically transported to Poland or Estonia to get the treatment they need.

With thousands assisted, but so many more Ukrainian pets still waiting to be rescued, Helen Woodward Animal Center is honored to have helped facilitate the purchase of one of the major vehicles conducting life-saving work daily.   

The center is currently in contact with partner animal welfare groups attending to Ukrainian war animals and is strategizing the next phase to aid these rescues.  For those who would like to stay in the loop and find out more about how they can help, Helen Woodward Animal Center has set up a link.  By providing your name and email, those interested in helping will be the first to hear about the next steps to bring hope to those who are still stuck in the crossfire and to help put an end to the animal cruelty taking place in Eastern Europe and across the world.

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