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Photo Description: A child holds her cat in her coat inside the railway station in Lviv.” – NBC

Photo Credit: Bernat Armangue / AP

Wars create countless innocent victims. Our hearts go out to all those currently surviving each day in Ukraine’s war zones and all those who have fled. No group has been spared in this war. The bombing of a maternity ward last week showed the world that horrifying truth. We have watched the Ukrainian people work together to help the most vulnerable escape – including children, elderly, and pregnant women. 

Not forgotten in this conflict are Ukrainians’ beloved pets, other innocent and defenseless victims of wartime. Pet owners and volunteers are risking their lives to prevent animals from being left behind and to provide care for animals who are left behind.

Earlier this month volunteers were unjustly killed while bringing emergency food to stranded shelter animals in Bucha, Ukraine. Just 18 miles outside of Kyiv, the city has been locked in the middle of the conflict. Despite the dangers these courageous volunteers risked their lives, staying behind to feed shelter animals who had not eaten in days. One of the volunteers was Anastasiia Yalanskaya, a young Ukrainian woman. The New York Post reports that it is believed that Yalanskaya’s car was “deliberately targeted at close range by Russian troops.” They had successfully delivered dog food to the shelter and were on their way home when their vehicle was tragically riddled with bullets. 

Last week in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city, a bomb fell on an animal shelter, killing five dogs. Five other dogs ran away and the shelter staff are still searching for them. Since the war started the shelter has received many desperate messages from families who fled the city and had to leave their pets behind and worry about their fates.

Aid groups and staff are working tirelessly to continue to care for animals left behind in shelters, farms, zoos and wildlife sanctuaries, as well as animals abandoned in towns and cities in Ukraine. Across international borders, many groups are providing veterinary care and other resources for refugees caring for pets. These pets are also providing comfort to their humans, helping to reduce some stress. For refugee children especially, pets can provide a sense of security and normalcy amidst troubling circumstances.

“We’re estimating that there are hundreds of thousands of pets that have crossed over with families,” says the director of disaster response and risk reduction at the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAF). 

We stand in solidarity with all the heroes in Ukraine and neighboring nations who are helping people and pets caught in the conflict. Here are some organizations you can support that are working on the ground to help animals caught in the war zone: