For Ukraine’s animals, a home is getting harder to find
“The needs are growing every day as the number of animals increase.”
LVIV, Ukraine — The first thing you hear after entering the animal sanctuary in Znesinnya Park near the center of Lviv are the dogs. There are scores of them barking and howling, members of a raucous makeshift orchestra sounding out a discordant opera.
They are orphans of war, rescued from bombed-out cities or left by refugees who were uprooted from their homes and unable to care for their pets anymore.
Their residence now is a hulking shed, previously abandoned, that has been hastily outfitted with rows of wooden and metal cages, castoff blankets and towers of bagged pet food.
Orest Zalypskyi started Domivka: Home of Rescued Animals five years ago primarily to care for endangered and injured wild creatures: foxes that were used to train hunting dogs and had their claws and teeth removed, a circus monkey about to be euthanized, an owl with a clipped wing.
But since the Russians invaded last year, Domivka has also become a center for rescued pets — dogs, cats, rabbits, horses, lambs and birds. Before the war, the sanctuary contained roughly 200 animals. Now, it has more than 500.
“We didn’t have any place for them,” said Viktoria Stasiv, a volunteer. “It was crazy.” They rushed to put together the dog kennel in an old brick and concrete shed that had been used for trash.
At a different site, about an hour away, are 170 sheep, goats and llamas that Domivka volunteers are caring for on a plot of donated land. The animals belonged to a petting zoo in Zaporizhzhia that had to be abandoned.
Over the past year, the group has hosted thousands of animals, Zalypskyi said.
There was a brief period last spring, after the war began, when animal owners and rescuers were allowed to take animals across the border into other European countries without the usual requirements for things like vaccinations. Busloads of volunteers from Germany and Poland came and took dogs, rabbits and cats back with them. Nearly 5,500 pets were rescued and found new homes outside Ukraine; another 1,500 were adopted inside the country.
But now, adoptions have slowed. Anyone outside Ukraine who wants to liberate a pet from the misery of war has to pay about 200 euros and pick it up. When it comes to dogs, most people want puppies, Stasiv said, but most of the abandoned dogs are older and bigger. Some are injured.
Chip, a sweet-faced mutt, arrived from Kherson, a heavily besieged city 560 miles away, where he was blinded during an attack. Bonie, a large black dog with tan paws and snout, has a steel rod in his back after his spine was broken in a shelling. Lina Brithna, a rehabilitation worker, is helping him learn to walk again. Zubik, a black and white part-malamute, lost one of his front legs.
There are a couple of puppies that were found in a trash can in Lviv. They are kept in a small indoor shelter along with other injured animals and recent arrivals that are quarantined for their first two weeks. They scamper around Brithna as she cleans their cages. The cats watch, occasionally poking their paws through holes in the plexiglass doors, and wait their turn.
All the dogs are taken for walks three times a day along the snowy grounds — by volunteers, visiting families and sometimes former owners, who would love to keep their pets but are themselves refugees and can’t provide a home.
Domivka did not previously have a website, but with so many more animals under its care, the nonprofit is now fundraising on Facebook and Instagram. Over Christmas it sold branded calendars that featured longtime residents and war evacuees, including a white-tipped eagle named Galya.
This small shelter in a Lviv park is one of several domestic and international organizations, like U-Hearts Foundation, UAnimals and the International Fund for Animal Welfare, working to help feed and care for animals during the war.
The shelter needs more staff, enclosures and food, Zalypskyi said through a translator. “The needs are growing every day as the number of animals increase.”
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.
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