When the killing of stray animals became illegal in Ukraine since 2021, municipalities began slowly setting up facilities to reduce their overpopulations in a humane way. However, the war is having a major impact on the country, causing huge damage to the its infrastructure and other resources. Ukraine is also one of the poorest countries in Europe and it is unclear how stray animal projects initiated by the authorities will continue in the near future – if at all – due to the challenges.
Even before the war, Ukraine had a large stray animal population of up to an estimated 200,000 dogs, and likely many more stray cats roaming the streets of this country. Since the start of the war in February 2022, thousands more pet dogs and cats have been lost or abandoned. The growing stray animal population causes the citizens significant issues, from the risk of dog bites to the transmission of zoonotic diseases. In the second half of 2022, multiple rabies cases were reported with at least two confirmed human victims. This additional hazard in war-torn Ukraine is one the country can barely handle.
Our dedication for strays in Ukraine since 2012
FOUR PAWS has been helping homeless pets in Ukraine for over a decade, with the first stray animal care activities being carried out by our local veterinary team in Ukraine and mobile clinic in 2012. This was in response to the mass brutal culling of stray dogs (which was legally allowed at the time) in preparation for the UEFA football championship in Kyiv, which attracted global attention. Following this, we continued to help with our work to help stray animals across the country and support municipalities with humane stray animal care projects.
We had to briefly interrupt our work when Russia invaded Ukraine, as the first weeks of the war were extremely challenging and our number one priority was to keep our team members safe. A few weeks later, however, due to our extensive connections in-country and huge international support, we were able to refocus and adapt the way we worked to ensure we could continue helping thousands of stray animals in Ukraine. This has been achieved both through strategic partnerships and the work of our own teams in Ukraine. Together, we provide life-saving work for strays, abandoned pet dogs and cats; support for refugees and their pets; as well as provide provisions to animal shelters in Ukraine which are struggling to take care of their animals due to high intake numbers, low adoption rates and lack of food and medical supplies.
How FOUR PAWS works
While we aim to deliver sustainable and humane stray animal care programmes in Ukraine our focus during the war has been on delivering emergency relief due to the current situation. We have been providing emergency aid response to protect the animals within our established programmes, but we have also launched new projects to help the many companion animals in need.
Since the war, we have implemented three projects to sterilise, vaccinate and treat dogs and cats:
Mobile clinic work
FOUR PAWS also supports refugees and their pets and conducts animal-assisted therapy sessions in refugee centres and for soldiers returning from the battlefield. In addition, we have delivered food to shelters in bombed areas, and much more. To learn more about our activities in war time Ukraine, please see here.
Activities for Ukrainian dogs and cats in 2022 in wartime
A report of FOUR PAWS’ Stray Animal Care activities during the Ukrainian-Russian war, until 31.12.2022