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They Risked Their Lives to Treat Animals in Ukraine

Lviv is in the Western region of Ukraine and thought to be a haven for those fleeing from the East. So, when Dr. Soto and her team were asked to travel across the border to visit a shelter there, she didn’t hesitate to say yes.

They had over 140 animals rescued from the Borondyka shelter that was occupied by Russians for over 4 weeks and were in critical condition. The only way our team would go was if they were able to source enough vital medical supplies to treat ALL the dogs and cats. The original 24 suitcases full of provisions the team brought to Poland had already been used. Four large bags were donated to the Ada Foundation, several were donated to the Tesco Refugee camp and the rest were used to help the 200 animals at the Centaurus Foundation in the town of Medyka.

Accessing the medicines needed was not going to be easy because the local vet hospitals didn’t want to sell us the “drugs” we required. After an exhaustive search, we found a vet hospital two hours away (who wishes to remain anonymous) willing to provide everything on our list, putting their business in jeopardy of losing their license. But it would come at a price, a hefty one. We were faced with a choice; pay the $15,000 so we could properly treat the suffering animals or go without the meds and be heartbroken when we couldn’t give suitable care.  We chose the former; the animals needed us, but they needed the meds even more. We were hopeful our supporters would come through to help cover the costs and they did!

So, on Saturday April 16th, five members of the team set out for Ukraine in a humanitarian convoy organized by Malik of Centaurus. They left before the sun rose and traveled 2 hours to cross the border. Once they got through, they made a pit stop at a gas station where they set up a roadside triage to treat 10 dogs who were denied entry into Poland the previous evening.  Merle, a volunteer for Centaurus, was transporting the pups when she was stopped and ended up sleeping overnight in the parking lot hoping to get through on the next attempt.  

The dogs were checked and treated then thankfully made it across to Poland. Our group continued to the shelter in Lviv. When they first arrived, they toured the facility to get a sense of how many animals needed urgent attention. Because of the overwhelming number of lives requiring assistance, Dr Sarah and her mother Anna addressed the cats and kittens, while Dr. Soto and the 2 other volunteers focused on the dogs and puppies.  

They swiftly got to work on a black female pup lying seemingly unconscious in one of the kennels. Dr Soto did a Parvo rapid test, and it came back positive, so she immediately started her on fluids, and several other meds to stabilize her. But she needed around the clock care and was sent to a 24-hour vet hospital, we funded.  A large percentage of the other dogs were suffering from shock, dehydration, starvation, explosive stress diarrhea, many had severe skin disease, and several had superficial wounds.

Everyone worked intensely for the rest of the day, standing in mud, freezing cold, not eating, all to make sure they checked every animal before they headed back. They stocked the storage room with the medical supplies purchased the day before in Poland, leaving plenty for the next couple of weeks. The hope was to bring dogs with them to Medyka, but a Ukrainian citizen was required to accompany the pups as their “owner”. Luckily, two local women volunteered to make the trek. So, twenty dogs were loaded into 2 vans long after the sun had set, and curfew was in place for the residents of Lviv.

Dr Soto, worn out and bone tired, wished she could have stayed longer but it was too risky. The group drove back and made it safely to Centaurus in the pitch dark, not knowing if the dogs made it or not. Soon after, one of the vans and Ukrainian volunteers showed up with ten of the dogs. The other ten had been denied but they would try again the next day. For now, they could rest a little easier knowing that at least half the dogs got out safely.