Two Years Later: PETA-Supported Teams Are Showing Up for Animals in Ukraine

Posted on by Chelsea Munro

Updated (23 February 2024):
Destroyed homes, painful untreated wounds, and a constant search for enough food to survive – these are just a few of the daily struggles dogs, cats, and other animals in Ukraine face two years after the country was invaded, and their numbers grow with each day the bloody conflict continues.

Those lucky enough to have survived and stayed with their guardians often fare little better. Many shops are closed, and those that are open have only limited supplies of food at extremely high prices. In addition, finding veterinary care can be nearly impossible.

“The war of aggression against Ukraine has now been going on for two years. That’s 17,520 hours of rocket attacks and strikes, ground fighting, destruction, death, and great suffering for humans and animals. During this time, PETA Germany, together with strong partners in Kharkiv, has set up a unique aid project that provides hope and comfort. We appeal to you not to forget the animals affected by the war. They want their hunger to be satisfied, their injuries to be healed, and their fear and terror to be alleviated.”
– Sylvie Bunz, project director of PETA Helps Ukraine

It takes a herculean effort to feed hungry animals in Ukraine each month. Teams from Germany stop at nothing to enter the war-torn country – they even courageously manoeuvred around a blockade recently to deliver a freight of food and other provisions. From there, other team members and a network of brave volunteers use the supply chain they assembled at the beginning of the war to reach the thousands of dogs, cats, donkeys, and others who rely on them to survive.

One delivery feeds around 1,300 dogs and cats who live in a safe shelter near Kharkiv. Another provides more than 50 horses with the fresh bedding and feed they need to survive the harsh winter. Other animals in Dnipro, Mykolaiv, and elsewhere also count on deliveries. And every day, teams are rescuing more animals, often from the front lines in the conflict-ravaged towns and villages mentioned in the latest news reports.

Here’s how teams have moved mountains for animals in Ukraine since the onset of the war:

  • They’ve created 1,300 safe spaces for housing animals in need, including dogs, cats, horses, sheep, goats, chickens, pigeons, geese, ducks, swans, and fish.
  • PETA’s Global Compassion Fund helped establish a veterinary clinic in October 2022. Up to 130 seriously injured and ill animals can be operated on and given the best possible care there every day.
  • Every month, team members perform spay/neuter surgeries for around 150 animals to prevent thousands from being born only to suffer and die on the streets.
  • Animals in Ukraine have received nearly 1.5 million kilograms of food and other provisions, despite conditions that often make deliveries difficult.
  • All the animals the project helps receive regular veterinary care. The ones who will be transported elsewhere in Europe for adoption are quarantined and prepared for the journey in accordance with EU regulations. This takes 16 weeks per animal! Around 60% of the animals are reunited with their guardians who have fled, while the remaining 40% are transported to our partner shelters in Europe.
  • Every day, 85 PETA-supported employees work on site to care for animals and rescue others.
  • More than 15,000 animals have been rescued so far!

Update (9 January 2023):
From risking their lives to save dogs, cats, and others caught on the front lines of war to providing emergency and long-term veterinary care, this PETA-supported team in Ukraine – Animal Rescue Kharkiv – has an important message of gratitude for you:

“Without all of you, we could not have done it. We are grateful to the bottom of our hearts.”
– Igor Sobko, Deputy Manager, Animal Rescue Kharkiv

Update (27 November 2023):
Two hundred terrified animals on a farm in Ukraine watched as their home was torn apart, one blast at a time. Watch as a PETA-supported team braves a Russian drone attack to get everyone out alive!

Update (30 August 2023):
The blast of an air-raid siren in Hamlet’s village left the dog trembling in fear. Moments later, a missile roared through the air, turning Hamlet and his guardian’s home to rubble. Their lives were all they had left – and the badly injured Hamlet was in danger of shuffling off this mortal coil.

His legs, including one of his elbow joints, had been struck by flying shrapnel. Without any way of securing the help he needed, Hamlet’s guardian could do nothing but watch as her beloved companion’s wounds began to fester and his health deteriorated.

Then, Ukrainian troops arrived to secure the village, and being kind souls, they alerted the Global Compassion Fund–supported team Animal Rescue Kharkiv (ARK) that Hamlet needed their help. Hamlet’s guardian tearfully hugged her best friend goodbye, handing over the weakened dog to ARK with a plea to save his life and, knowing she would probably never see him again because of the war, find him a loving home.

ARK rushed the frail dog to their Global Compassion Fund–supported veterinary clinic in Kharkiv for emergency surgery. The deeply embedded shrapnel was removed, and his infected wounds were cleaned. The surgery was a success, and brave Hamlet, having regained the native hue of resolution, was soon wagging his tail around the clinic, happy to cuddle with the staff and grateful to be walking once again!

The ARK team and other Global Compassion Fund–supported teams rescue and care for severely injured and traumatised animals like Hamlet every single day. They know they are shell-shocked and need gentle care. They help them recover and find new loving homes, or they search for their original guardians who were separated from their animal companions during the turmoil of war. Many go into foster care or to specially established shelters funded by the Global Compassion Fund, but so far, ARK has reunited 60% of all rescued and recovered animals with their original families. Each life saved and every tail wag or soft purr is reason enough for these courageous teams, who risk their own safety, to keep going, day after day, no matter how many slings and arrows, missiles and mortars, or other unnatural shocks come their way.

Update (7 June 2023):
Teams supported by PETA’s Global Compassion Fund (GCF) are navigating the murky waters of flooded streets to save frightened animals clinging to rooftops or struggling to reach a patch of dry ground after the destruction of a major dam in southern Ukraine.

Animal Rescue Kharkiv set out for the devastated region with food, medical supplies, and boats soon after news broke of the flooding, and the group was shortly joined by another GCF-supported rescue team out of Mykolaiv.

“This catastrophe transcends any dramatic situation we have experienced side by side with our local partners since the outbreak of war.”
– Sylvie Bunz, Special Projects Senior Manager, PETA Germany

The floodwaters are challenging, and broken power lines and military devices are making the situation even more dangerous. Rescuers are risking their lives to reach as many stranded and traumatised survivors as possible. Teams are whisking the animals they save to a nearby clinic for any necessary veterinary care, while others are being transported to local shelters in the hope of reuniting them with their guardians.

How You Can Help

Your gift to PETA’s GCF today will support these daring rescue teams in Ukraine and provide hope to animals in desperate need.

Update (13 April 2022):
Just as we were about to leave, this sweet, abandoned fellow was delivered to us by caring locals. He, too, is now at the shelter with his new dog and human friends. Once he’s been microchipped, sterilised, and vaccinated, he – like all the other sweet souls – will be ready to be adopted into a permanent home far away from the war.

Abandoned dog taken from Ukraine to Poland

People do not want to leave their animal companions behind. They have suffered enough: they’ve already lost their homes, and they cannot lose their beloved family members, too.

This is Lena. She fled Kyiv with her cat companion Dracula after a missile hit her neighbour’s house. It took them 20 hours to travel from Kyiv to Lviv. She is one of hundreds of thousands of people who want to leave the country together with their beloved animals.

Lena and Dracula who fled KyivThe UK must urgently join the many other countries in Europe and beyond that are providing humans and other animals, like Lena and Dracula, with refuge. The government must ease the border restrictions.

Update (9 March 2022):

Fourth Rescue Mission: Saving Over 80 Animals From Kyiv

Today, at 7 am, PETA Germany headed back to Lviv, Ukraine. There’s no time to lose when animals are in need. It’s a tough journey, as the road is covered with ice and it’s been snowing all night. They are driving carefully from Poland and hope to arrive soon, as more animals are waiting for them.

PETA Germany's car at the border

This time, we are going to pick up almost 90 cats and dogs. They all come from a shelter for homeless animals in Kyiv, on the other side of the country. Brave activists from animal protection organisation White Paw travelled over 300 miles (!) to bring the animals to safety.

Devastatingly, two of the volunteers were killed during this journey. Our thoughts are with the families of these heroes. We will always remember their courage.

Over 200 Animals Rescued Already

To date, we’ve rescued over 200 cats and dogs from Ukraine.

One of them is Mishka. She and her friend Rouzha lived on the streets of Lviv.

Rescued dog Mishka

They made friends with a kind local woman who fed and cared for them for many years. She was in tears when she met us: at once sad to part with her friends and enormously happy and relieved to know that Mishka and Rouzha would be safe and spend the rest of their lives in peace in a loving home.

Rescued dog Rouzha

And it’s not only dogs. Just look how grateful this cat is to his human rescuer!

Rescued cat makes it to Poland

All these cats and dogs are getting the care they need and will soon be vaccinated, spayed or neutered, and ready to move to their permanent homes.

Update (8 March 2022):

PETA Entities Finish Their Third Rescue Mission in Ukraine

The team returned at 6 am today, after setting off yesterday morning, and managed to bring a further 70 cats and dogs into Poland. Most of the animals are in good health, but those who need veterinary help are receiving round-the-clock care.

Among them are this very sick dog, who is refusing to eat or drink, and a cat with a broken leg. Both of them are now being looked after by veterinarians.

sick rescued dog from Lviv

The animals have come from all over Ukraine. Some were found tied to railings at stations or in abandoned carriers. Brave local rescuers brought them to Lviv so that we could take pick them up and transport them across the border. Some of them have travelled over 300 miles to reach safety.

dogs in crates rescued from Lviv

After a short sleep, the team will plan its next rescue mission to bring more cats and dogs into Poland from Ukraine.

rescue dog from Lviv

Food Delivery to Odessa

A third lorry carrying another 20 tonnes of food for cats and dogs set off this morning for Odessa. There are reportedly still some dwindling provisions for humans there, but animals have been hungry for four days now, so it’s urgent that this transport arrives soon. It’s a very risky and long journey, but we will keep you updated on the news from Odessa.

a truck bound for Odessa

Support at the Border

PETA Germany’s team and activists from Animal Rebellion Berlin and Rosenheim are at the Medyka border between Poland and Ukraine, giving away food and water to families arriving with animal companions. They are also offering essential information and humanitarian aid to the people there.

Activists at the border

PETA Germany's tent at the border

PETA UK are continuing to provide up-to-date information about border regulations as they receive it for people escaping Ukraine with their animal companions here. Please share this link far and wide to help keep families together.

Update: Monday, 7 March, 2022

PETA entities, together with Polish charity ADA Foundation, set off on another rescue mission in two vans and one animal ambulance this morning – aiming to bring 80 more animals from Ukraine to safety in Poland. Thanks to a network of brave volunteers, cats and dogs from all over Ukraine are being taken to a shelter in Lviv, in the west of the country, from which we aim to collect them and, all being well, bring them to shelters in Poland. From there, they can be reunited with their families or adopted into new loving homes.

PETA Germany's car crossing the border

All the animals rescued last week are safe and being taken care of: their stomachs are full, and they are receiving all necessary veterinary care and being spayed or neutered as well as vaccinated and given comfort and attention. Thirty-six of them are now en route to Germany, where they will be put up for adoption far away from the conflict zone.

On Friday, three volunteers bringing food to an animal shelter in Bucha, just outside Kyiv, were shot and killed, reportedly by Russian troops. The three fearless individuals successfully delivered the provisions to the shelter – which had gone without food for three days – before being tragically killed.

She was one of the best human beings I knew … She loved animals,” said the husband of 26-year-old Anastasiia Yalanskaya, one of the volunteers who lost their lives. We salute these three heroes, and PETA entities channel their bravery and perseverance as they carry on this important work.

PETA Germany has also been helping people in Ukraine who have run out of food for their animal companions. In addition to the 40 tonnes of food taken to Ukraine last week, PETA Germany has organised the delivery of 20 more tonnes of food for cats and dogs, which is now on its way to Odessa. It’s a long and dangerous journey to this war-torn part of the country. Please keep your fingers tightly crossed that these much-needed supplies will get to Odessa safely, and stay tuned for more updates on this life-saving work.

Update (5 March 2022):
While PETA Germany prepares for its next rescue mission and animals who made it safely over the border are being looked after and treated at a veterinary clinic, we are calling on people fleeing Ukraine not to leave their animal companions behind. There is help available at the border. Please share this life-saving information (in Ukrainian) with your friends in Ukraine:

Update (4 March 2022):
PETA Germany successfully completed two parallel rescue missions in Ukraine on the night of Thursday, 3 March.

The first, in collaboration with Viva! Poland, was in the Lviv area, where they picked up around 100 terrified and hungry cats and dogs, many of whom were very sick. They were able to get them safely across the border to Poland, where they are now being treated by vets.

The second group, which included fellow activists from White Paw, managed to collect another 26 cats and a dog from a shelter in Lviv and bring them back to Poland. During this mission, they also successfully delivered 20 tonnes of desperately needed food and other supplies, which are now being distributed across the country to those in need via a network of brave volunteers.

The teams haven’t stopped and will not stop! After their heroic rescue missions, they’re back at it today and have just managed to deliver an additional 20 tonnes of supplies!

animals in crates are loaded into a vanPETA Germany and White Paws

Original Blog:

Since Russia invaded Ukraine and continues to attack, hundreds of thousands of people have fled the country. According to the United Nations, about 1 million people are on the move. On Friday, 25 February, a team from PETA Germany rushed to the Polish border loaded with food and other emergency supplies to help, and it has been providing meals, beds, and assistance with paperwork for refugees and their animals 24/7 since then. This morning (3 March), they crossed the border into Ukraine with 20 tonnes of food and other supplies for shelters that have run out of everything. The situation is critical for everyone involved and they are pulling out all the stops to get to them.

Despite getting all the necessary documents and permissions to make the risky journey, things during a war are unpredictable and the team has been held up for hours, while the contents of the lorry have been X-rayed and opened, but they are desperately hoping to be on the road again soon.

A truck filled with supplies from PETA carrying supplies to the Ukraine border

Bringing Animals Out of Ukraine to Safety

In collaboration with Polish animal protection group White Paw, a smaller convoy was sent ahead to the shelter, and they are right now transferring animals into their vehicles in the hope of getting them to safety in Poland. The roads are extremely congested and are proving to be another challenge on top of many others.

If all goes well, our brave rescuers will be back in Poland tonight with the first group of rescued animals in tow.

Food for Animals in Need

Shops in Ukraine are closed, and supplies are running out, so it’s vital that the transporter with the 20 tonnes of food is able to get back on the road soon. We hope it will be the first of many, and there’s already another lorry full of food and other emergency supplies on its way to Poland.

Arriving at the Ukrainian Border on Friday, 25 February

Crimsee the cat and her guardian finally rest after a long journey to the border

Immediately after arriving at the Polish border, PETA Germany’s team helped Crimsee, the cat photographed above, who was carried by her caring guardian more than 37 miles from the war zone. The woman was so exhausted she could barely stand.

They are both now safe and receiving support from PETA Germany.

PETA Germany’s team also responded to a call for help where several dogs were crossing the border with their human guardians and needed urgent care. All involved were debilitated and frightened.

PETA Germany staff at the Ukraine Border

PETA Entities Call For Safe Passage for People and Animals Into the EU

Many EU countries have now relaxed the entry requirements for animals, who must normally be vaccinated and microchipped and have had a recent rabies antibody test, but not the UK. Any refugees hoping to go there to stay with family would have to abandon their beloved animal companions, which, of course, many would never do, leaving these families with nowhere to go.

While EU nations and many other countries have eased border restrictions for animal companions, the UK has not. PETA UK is urging the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) to act now to ease entry restrictions so that Ukrainian refugees may enter the UK with their animal companions, too.

PETA UK has a page which outlines the entry regulations for humans and their companion animals seeking refuge, which is regularly updated. 

PETA staff with food for companion animals at the Ukraine border


People in a shelter in Kyiv, UkrainePhoto © Ратынский Вячеслав / UNIAN

Photo © Ратынский Вячеслав / UNIAN

What You Can Do

Help support PETA Germany’s work on the border. Donate to PETA’s Global Compassion Fund.