Thousands of people are fleeing Ukraine with their pets, while others are working to keep their pets and other animals safe within the country.
Advertisement
Ukraine woman holding her poodle waiting to board an evacuation train to western regions on March 1, 2022
Credit: Pierre Crom / Getty

Amid the plight of the nearly 500,000 civilians fleeing Ukraine as Russia invades, there's another saga: Ukrainians are desperately trying to get their pets to safety and protecting the animals left behind.

Most European countries regulate how pets cross their borders, making last-minute escapes impossible. Regulations include extensive applications, rabies tests, up-to-date vaccination records, veterinary health certificates, animal passports, and proof of identification like microchips. Currently, however, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Lithuania have all relaxed or outright dropped their rules governing pet entry from neighboring Ukraine, according to a compilation of resources from the International Fund for Animal Welfare. Following the recommendation of its veterinary federation, the European Commission has also advised its member states to remove pet entry barriers to give refugees "one less thing to worry about."

"People should not have to jeopardize their own safety in efforts to prevent their animals from being left behind to fend for themselves," Rudd Tombrock, the executive director for Europe's office of Humane Society International (HSI), told news outlet Euractiv.

Images of people escaping Ukraine with their pets—or just trying to survive—have flooded social media, including one of this woman who walked more than 37 miles to safety with her cat. This man, wearing a helmet and toting a firearm, was seen carrying a cat carrier and fish aquarium out of an apartment reportedly damaged by Russian shelling.

While the relaxation of pet rules has likely saved animal lives, many more pet owners and caregivers are struggling to keep their furry, feathered, or scaled friends safe.

Owners of the Cat Cafe in Lviv say they refuse to flee and leave their cats behind. One Italian who runs an award-winning animal shelter that houses some 400 residents in the capital city Kyiv says he'll remain in country, writing on Facebook, "I can DIE HERE for my animals ... who deserve to be protected at any cost." One Ukraine-based reporter also shared a photo of himself in a bomb shelter with his cat, writing "she's been very brave."

While we watch the events in Ukraine unfold, it's easy to feel helpless. But several organizations in Ukraine and beyond are rallying to assist pet parents and animals who have nowhere else to turn. Here is information we gathered about a few of the groups you can support:

UAnimals

This animal-welfare organization is supporting animal shelters and zoos across the country, helping feed animals and get them out of the country.

Happy Paw

This is another organization supporting shelter animals across Ukraine, coordinating supply deliveries and helping feed pets who are still in the country.

Shelter Ugolyok

This farm sanctuary and animal rescue is trying to ensure its hundreds of animals survive the Russian attack.

International Fund for Animal Welfare

IFAW is partnering with shelters and Ukrainians to care for animals still in the country while helping the ones who are able escape.

Casa Iui Patrocle

This Romanian nonprofit is helping to find shelter, veterinary assistance, and housing for animals reaching the country's border.

Sirius

One of Ukraine's largest animal shelters based north of Kyiv is still caring for animals and needs donations to continue.

Shelter Friend Ukraine

This shelter in central Ukraine cares for 600 dogs.