The war in Ukraine isn’t just a catastrophe for humans

By Ingrid Newkirk

Ingrid is president/founder of PETA. She’s changed the way we all view companion animals, farm animals and wild animals – locally and globally.

Animals don’t wage war, yet they — along with innocent civilians — are often among those most affected by battle. The events unfolding in Ukraine bear this out.

Last month a team from PETA Germany was at the Polish and Romanian borders with Ukraine, helping as many animals as they could to reach safety. That’s where they met a cat named Crimsee. Her worried guardian had tucked the cat under her jacket and carried her on foot more than 37 miles in the bitter cold to escape the war zone. The poor woman was so exhausted that she could barely stand, but now she and Crimsee are safe and receiving support from PETA Germany.

PETA Germany’s team also responded to a call for help about several dogs who were crossing the border with their human guardians and needed urgent care. All involved were debilitated and frightened, but they, too, received the assistance they needed.

In an undertaking fraught with obstacles, PETA Germany has coordinated the delivery of blankets and 44,000 pounds of dog and cat food. Stores in Ukraine are closed, and supplies are almost exhausted, so the group is doing everything in its power to move urgently needed goods into the country to provide relief. With hundreds of thousands of people on the move — many with their beloved animal companions and little else — and with lots of red tape at the border, the task is daunting.

Some refugees don’t even have the comfort of their animal companions, because they were forced to make the heartbreaking choice either to stay in the war zone or to cross the border to safety, leaving their dogs, cats and other animal family members behind to starve or die in some other horrible way. It is wrong, but in war, that’s reality.

At first, health restrictions made it nearly impossible for Ukrainian residents to enter other countries with their animal companions. Unless animals were microchipped or tattooed and vaccinated against rabies, they weren’t allowed to cross the border into the European Union or the United Kingdom. But PETA pleaded for a policy change on humanitarian grounds, and now Poland, Romania, Lithuania, Mexico, Hungary, India and other countries — though still not the U.K. or Germany — have relaxed those requirements. PETA will keep pushing all the holdout countries to allow people to take refuge with their animal companions, who face death if left behind.

Dogs and cats have no political affiliation, and they don’t start wars. They love unconditionally. Humans created this crisis, and we must not turn our backs on animals in the midst of it. If you wish to help animals suffering as a result of war and other disasters, please consider making a gift to PETA’s Global Compassion Fund, which has supported lifesaving rescue work around the world, from the current war in Ukraine and floods in Australia and the devastating earthquake in Mexico in 2017 to the eruption of Taal volcano in the Philippines and the explosion in Beirut in 2020. Animals need all the friends they can get at the best of times.

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