When the war broke out in Ukraine, Dr. Soto kept seeing images of dogs and cats left behind or injured, and shelter animals abandoned and at risk of dying. So, she gathered vets from our Response Team and six volunteers to fly to Poland and help as many animals as they could. They planned to assist at the border city of Przemyśl because of the many refugees living there with their pets and to visit the makeshift shelters housing animals affected by the war.
WUFAW raised over $18,000 to purchase medical supplies and medication and collected items purchased from our Amazon Wishlist, enough to fill 23 suitcases!
The team arrived on April 12th and first visited the Ada Foundation, one of the groups crossing the border to save animals from Ukraine, and left them a couple of large bags of supplies. The next stop was at Tesco, the refugee camp, where they quickly got to work treating dogs and cats at the pop-up clinic in the parking lot.
The following day, the team was invited to Centaurus Foundation in Medyka, at their shelter at the Ukrainian border, to treat the 100+ animals they rescued. The dogs there suffered superficial wounds, infections, and skin diseases, and several puppies had Parvo. The cats had various ailments but were overall in good shape.
They were later approached by Malek of Centaurus, asking them to cross the border into Ukraine to a second shelter in Lviv that was in a dire state. Lviv is in the Western region of Ukraine and is considered a haven for those fleeing from the East.
There were over 140 animals rescued from the war-ravaged town of Borodyanka in Eastern Ukraine, where more than 500 dogs had been abandoned and locked in cages. Over 300 didn’t survive. The request caught WUFAW off guard because part of the agreement we sent the team over was that no one would risk their lives to cross. But once we were asked, it was hard to say no.
Our team would only go if they could 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 or donated. Accessing the medicines needed was difficult 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 faced a choice; pay the $15,000 to properly treat the suffering animals or go without the meds and be heartbroken when we couldn’t give proper care. We chose the former; the animals needed us, but they needed more meds. We were hopeful our supporters would come through to help cover the costs, and they did!
So, on Saturday, April 16th, five team members set out for Ukraine in a humanitarian convoy by Malik of Centaurus. They left before sunrise 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 ten dogs who had been 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 arrived, they toured the facility to see 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 two 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, which returned 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, which we funded. Many other dogs suffered from shock, dehydration, starvation, explosive stress, diarrhea, severe skin disease, and superficial wounds.
Everyone worked intensely for the rest of the day, standing in mud, cold, and not eating, to ensure they checked every animal before returning. 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 two vans long after the sun had set, and a 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, wondering 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 the next day again. They could rest a little easier now, knowing that at least half the dogs got out safely.