20-year-old brown bear Vova has felt nothing but the cold, hard concrete floor under his paws. He has been locked up in a tiny concrete cage outside a restaurant in Khmelnitsky region in Western Ukraine – his purpose? To attract more visitors to the restaurant.
FOUR PAWS has known about the bear for years, but sadly, from a legal point of view, there was no case for confiscation, the only way that we could rescue Vova would be if his owner voluntarily surrendered him to our care.
Vova's situation was very poor. He spent his days in boredom, showing stereotyping behaviour where he would run and turn in circles. He couldn't act out his natural behaviours such as digging, swimming or climbing.
Hope for the Ukrainian restaurant bear?
In November 2021, Vova’s luck looked like it would change. The keeping of bears next to restaurants was forbidden by law in Ukraine. Immediately, FOUR PAWS set in motion a plan and contacted the responsible authorities to order a confiscation so that poor Vova can finally live a species-appropriate life in our care at our BEAR SANCTUARY Domazhyr.
Despite the keeping of Vova is clearly violating national laws and confiscation should have been ordered, the court closed Vova’s case.
Pressure on the Ukrainian authorities
We were not giving up on Vova – a new life was waiting for him at our sanctuary and since his keeping became illegal, we have been fighting to find a solution. Since we couldn't save Vova without a court-ordered confiscation we were appealing to the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources to comply with the law and to order confiscation of bear Vova.
Furthermore, more than 20,000 people supported Vova by signing a petition. However, the court rejected Vova's case.
Safe at last
After all, due to the changing situation in Ukraine and difficulties regarding Vova's care, (after the restaurant he was kept next to burned down), Khmelnitsky authorities contacted us and asked us to rescue Vova as soon as possible – it was time to take action immediately!
On the 23rd of March, a team of external FOUR PAWS partners transferred the brown bear to BEAR SANCTUARY Domazhyr, where, together with the other 33 bears, he will be in permanent care. At the sanctuary, Vova finally gets to live the life he deserves.
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Update: April 2022
The newest resident of BEAR SANCTUARY Domazhyr is adapting incredibly well at his new home. Currently, he is staying in the adaptation enclosure, so that his caretakers can keep him under constant care. During the very first days of his arrival at the sanctuary, Vova was quite anxious, but these recent days he is much calmer and curious. He is already swimming in his pool, and it seems to be one of his favourite activities so far. Vova has great appetite and eats everything with a lot of pleasure, especially peanuts.
His neighbours are bear Martha and the cub gang: Jenny, Moris, Toby and Andor. So far, he likes observing them, and is very relaxed next to their enclosures.
Update: September 2022
Bear Vova has been adapting well at his forever home at BEAR SANCTUARY Domazhyr, and was ready for a thorough vet check on site.
The vets took blood samples, performed an ultrasound and x-rays, and checked his teeth. Also, a lump on his right elbow was removed. His teeth, in particular, weren't in a very good condition, but this is very common with former 'restaurant bears' as a result of many torturous years of biting his metal cage bars. Both of his upper canines were broken and had to be extracted. Now he is under painkillers and an antibiotic.
Soon after all the procedures, Vova got up and was doing well. He will stay for some time in the bear house until he recovers from the big day.