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Stress, dehydration, injuries… the pets of refugees who are taken care of at the border

The two-year-old gray cat, named in honor of the king of Latin pop Ricky Martin, is not in great shape.

“It was very stressful for him”, explains its owner Anastasiia Herasymchuk, who tells of the 30-hour journey to escape the fighting that was closing in on their village in the Donetsk region. “He ate nothing and drank nothing.”

Volunteers from the International Fund for Animal Welfare (Ifaw) feed the cat an unsavory meal and place it in a cage that they cover with blankets to give it some rest. And let the young couple eat and breathe too.

“Helping people through their animals”

“You know, we don’t just help the animals here”, says Andrew Yaroslaw Kushnir. “We help people through their animals”.

Even the son of a Ukrainian refugee who fled World War II to the United States as a child, the 34-year-old veterinarian says he felt compelled to leave the comforts of his California life to help his neighbors — and their roommates — in the rustic atmosphere of a tent in Medyka, an important crossroads between Ukraine and Poland.

Here we evaluate the health of the animals and distribute everything necessary for free: harnesses, lines, muzzles, cages, food.

Stress, dehydration, wounds, fleas and worms… Dogs, cats, rodents, parrots, ferrets and other reptiles also bear the scars of the war that Russia started on February 24.

“Some have experienced the sounds and smells of war, and their owners tell us they now react as soon as there is noise,” says Jennifer Gardner, Ifaw program manager.

“That’s why it’s important that our stocks contain appropriate harnesses and cages for the animals, so that they can’t escape if they are suddenly stressed,” she adds.

A little special menagerie

Every day the tent welcomes about sixty animals. A somewhat special menagerie that also saw four snails pass by, each the size of a fist, transported in a pierced Tupperware. It is impossible that their owner will be separated from each other by the war.

“We cleaned them, put them in a new box, fed them lettuce and she was very happy,” testifies Diane Treedwell, another volunteer.

the refugees “would leave all their belongings behind to make sure their best friend goes out”she says.

A cage is one hand less for carrying a suitcase.

“Happy” animals

“In reality”, emphasizes Andrew Yaroslaw Kushnir, “The animals we see here, on this side of the border, are lucky: they are the ones that have crossed over.”

“While, on the other hand, the animals were left behind by owners who could no longer care for them”, he specifies.

They are provided by Jakub Kotowicz. In Przemysl, about ten kilometers from Medyka, this 32-year-old Polish veterinarian, co-founder of the ADA foundation, dedicates part of his clinic to abandoned animals in Ukraine.

Together with other organizations, it organizes convoys to return from Lviv dogs and cats found in combat zones.

He and his team try to get them back on their feet before putting them up for adoption.

“The transport takes a very long time”, he observes. “From eastern Ukraine, it’s one or two days in small cages that the Ukrainians have crammed into three or four cats. So it’s very stressful for them.”

Around him is a room in his clinic full of boxes – spaciously – stacked on top of each other, in which about forty cats, including two young mothers, are waiting for the end of their health quarantine. Two young women provide them with food, fresh water and hugs.

Jakub Kotowicz claims to have examined 900 Ukrainian dogs and cats in three weeks. As well as a small injured white goat and a stork with a broken beak.

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