Vet stays behind to help pets in Ukraine
More than 3.4 million refugees have fled Ukraine since the Russian invasion and many left with their pets, while others left their animals behind.
Animal rescuers help in a number of ways, including treating animals that remain in Ukraine, as well as those that have passed through to safer countries, such as Poland.
Veterinarian Vladyslav Matviichuk was forced to flee his home and practice. He and his wife Iryna and their two rescue cats found refuge with his parents in another part of Ukraine. He now cares for pets for free in the kitchen of his parents’ house.
“Many animals suffer from explosions, missiles and tanks. Many animals have become homeless. Veterinary clinics are destroyed or closed. It is a very big problem to buy food and medicine for animals today,” Matviichuk said. “I try to help everyone. I treat and operate at home, take calls, consult online, by phone, by video, if it is not possible to help animals offline. Unfortunately, my resources are currently running out.
Because they are so short on supplies, Iryna had to cut up sheets to make bandages for the animals for post-operative care.
“Today is a very difficult day for us,” Matviichuk told Treehugger via email. “There were more than seven air danger sirens in the area, where we are temporarily living. And most of the time we had to spend in the air-raid shelter. Thank God, all my family, friends and patients are alive and well.”
Matviichuk answered some questions about what he is doing and why he is staying in Ukraine.
Treehugger: What was your experience, leaving your house and now staying with your parents?
Vladyslav Matviitchuk: My experience as a veterinarian is more than 6 years in kyiv. Before the war, I worked in a private veterinary clinic as a surgeon and therapist. I had comfortable working conditions and everything I needed to work: ultrasound machine, X-rays, laboratory, medicines, etc. My family was forced to temporarily move to a safer place for my parents. I took everything I had with me to work and also bought a diathermocoagulator with my own savings to perform surgery. Now I help stray animals, refugees and anyone who needs help. I look after the animals in my parents’ house, as well as make calls, consult online, by phone, by video. Now I work in extreme conditions: I perform surgery in the kitchen, provide assistance on the streets and provide temporary shelter for stray animals.
But uncomfortable working conditions are no longer a problem. The biggest problem is the danger of war and the inability to make the diagnoses necessary to establish a definitive diagnosis. For example, in case of injuries, it is not possible to make an x-ray. Also today I had a patient complaining of frequent vomiting and I have to prescribe symptomatic treatment as there is no laboratory here. I love animals and my job very much and will do my best to help them.
Why did you and your family choose to stay?
We are Ukrainians and there is our homeland, which needs help, protection and support these days. All Ukrainians are very peaceful, kind and friendly people, but at the same time we are very brave and ready to save and protect our country. Me, my family, my friends and millions of other Ukrainians make everything possible and impossible to help our native Ukraine. Glory to Ukraine!
Which patients do you treat? What types of injuries/conditions have you treated?
I care for and help all animals in need. They are strays, people who have stayed with their pets, people who are moving with their pets to a safer place.
For example, recently a family from Bucha spent the night at my parents’ house. Despite the difficult situation, they did not leave their 8 cats and took animals with them. Not only the refugees, but also their animals need help. War refugees are also victims of war. We help them and their animals find shelter, provide veterinary care and feed them. We disseminate information about the support provided in different regions. Advise how to calm animals during explosions. I treat, operate and consult for free. I participate in the accommodation or temporary care of animals left behind by their owners. In addition, diseases, viruses, animal injuries also need treatment during war, all of which I have dealt with. Of course, we live in a war, but animal problems have not gone away in Ukraine. The number of stray animals was and remains a big problem in Ukraine, so I helped volunteers with free castrations to solve this problem.
I also want to mention the many cases where animals have been left behind and locked up in apartments. People left their homes in panic and left the animals there, hoping to return soon. Some animals were locked up for more than 7 days. People rescued them and adopted them. We provided first aid to the animals. Thank goodness many animals have been rescued and they already have new owners.
What are the greatest needs of vets and rescue groups treating pets in Ukraine and those who have fled to neighboring countries?
The biggest problems currently facing animals in Ukraine:
- Lack of fodder and food
- Lack of diagnostic facilities in some areas
- Shortage of medicines and resources for their treatment
- Clinics and pet stores closed
- Animals and people [that] going without food or water in some places
- Increasing the number of stray animals because their owners have abandoned them, fleeing war
- People [without] enough money to care for the animals
In some cases, aid has been collected, but it is not possible to provide it. I would like to mention the volunteers who were shot by the Russian army while transporting animal feed to Bucha. The Sirius shelter in Dymer is also blocked to this day. The occupants do not accept any conditions to help or evacuate the animals. The same situation is found at the Hostomel refuge.
As I know that people who have fled to neighboring countries do not have [had] problems and difficulties in obtaining help and care for animals. European countries allow crossing the border even without animal documents for Ukrainians. Animals are examined by veterinarians and governments provide the necessary assistance and shelter.
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.
In defense of animals, an international animal welfare organization, provided Matviichuk with $5,000 to help with medication and equipment. The group raises funds for Ukrainians who help animals. (You can donate to help Matviichuk and animals in Ukraine across the group.)
The group has a list of supplies vets like Matviichuk need, including antibiotics and antiseptics, syringes and surgical instruments.
“The brave Ukrainians who are suffering tremendously right now are showing the world how important animals are to them and that they are also a huge and important part of this humanitarian crisis,” said Fleur Dawes, director of communications for In Defence. of Animals.
“We are grateful to our supporters whose generosity allows us to offer help at such an important time and hope Dr. Matviichuk’s story inspires more people to keep giving.
Offer help on many levels
Veterinarians and animal welfare groups around the world have also stepped up to help refugee animals, vets and pets left behind.
The Federation of Veterinarians of Europe (FVE), a non-profit umbrella group for veterinary organizations from 39 European countries, has called on countries to relax veterinary requirements for people entering other countries with animals from company.
The group also created Vets4Ukraine, a website to help coordinate help from European vets to their Ukrainian counterparts and their families. This includes offering shelter in their homes to veterinarians fleeing the country and providing informational links for people who wish to donate to relief organizations targeting animals and pets.
The American Veterinary Medical Association Charitable Foundation is directing $100,000 from Merck Animal Health to support veterinary and animal welfare groups providing relief. The foundation matched the grant with its own donation of $100,000.
“Many organizations, including veterinary medical facilities, animal shelters and animal rescue groups in Ukraine and neighboring countries, are courageously providing care to people and animals affected by the crisis,” the official said. president of the AVMA, the veterinarian José Arce. “But they can’t do it alone.”