One year on: Ukrainian refugees reunited with their pets

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Ukrainian dog Betty and her family
Image by Steve Bardens.

As the Russian invasion of Ukraine began on 24 February 2022, hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian people were faced with a difficult choice: to stay in their homes, or to flee along with their families – and their pets.

Within days, the European Commission told EU Member States to relax veterinary paperwork requirements for the dogs, cats and other companion animals travelling with Ukrainian refugees; soon afterwards, the UK also announced that Ukrainian refugees would be able to take their pets in the UK without pet passports or health certificates, with all costs covered where quarantine was necessary.

Some of those pets in need of quarantine stayed at stayed at the Blue Cross Hertfordshire animal rehoming centre. A year after the start of the invasion, the charity shares the stories of some of those pets, who have since been reunited with their owners and settled into their new lives.

Dmytro Kubov and his wife Iryna are from the Donetsk region of Ukraine, the city of Mariupol. They fled with their two cats, Mars and Tor, and dog Bulochka after spending over a month sheltering from the raids. When their home was destroyed, they were forced to find shelter in the streets, taking just their pets and essential documents with them. Finally, with their car also gone, they left on foot with their cats and dog to walk the 70 miles to another town. After weeks travelling with their terrified animals they got the visas they need and space for the cats for quarantine at Blue Cross, their dog was sent elsewhere.

Dmytro said, “Our cats Tor and Mars were so well cared for. We were constantly sent reports on their condition, mood, photos and videos. We saw that they have a lot of toys, beds and very good care.  We are very grateful to Blue Cross for such a good attitude towards our animals. When we came for them they recognized us. They are a part of our life and we can’t imagine our life without them”.

Betty at Blue Cross. Image by Steve Bardens

Labrador pup Betty was only two months old when her previous owners were forced to leave her behind when they fled Ukraine at the outbreak of war. Adopted by Viktoriia and her two children, Betty gave some joy to pupils at the school where Viktoriia worked – some light relief to the anxious and terrified children who had waved goodbye to their fathers conscripted to the army. Soon it became too dangerous for Viktoriia and her own children to stay, and a kind sponsor stepped in to offer them all a home in the UK. Betty was taken in by Blue Cross for quarantine, before being finally reunited with her family.

Viktoriia said, “I just imagined, like in Ukraine, that my dog would be sitting in a cage. And when I saw the picture, she was in a lovely room and they’ve got her lovely toys. In the video she was happy, jumping and playing. I don’t feel sad that my dog was here. They didn’t just walk her. They spent a lot of time with my dog and gave a lot of love.”

Owner of two cats, Sonya and Marsh, Alina Fadeeva was fleeing Ukraine with her pets when she met Liam Stratton. Liam is a British man who was studying at university in the city of Dnipro. Liam had adopted rescue dog, Lucy, from a local centre; sadly she had already had a terrible start to life when she was blinded during an acid attack when she was very young.

Lucy and Liam

For Liam it was love at first sight and he was determined to bring her back to Britain with him for the life she deserved. Alina fostered Lucy while he was away getting the necessary documents and vaccinations for Lucy and a visa and paperwork for Alina and her cats. They travelled out of the country and across to the UK together and all three pets were quarantined at the Blue Cross in Hertfordshire before being reunited with their owners.

Anna Wade, Blue Cross Public Affairs Manager, commented, “The war is having such a devastating effect across Ukraine and of course our thoughts are with all those suffering and struggling at this terrible time. As a pet charity, we immediately stepped in to help wherever we could. Both in providing quarantine for those who managed to flee with their pets and for those who have stayed with their pets and rely on support from charities. We are also helping the charity partners to care for hundreds of pets without owners fending for themselves in sub-zero temperatures.

“It is such a happy ever after for those pets reunited with their loving owners in the UK but there is still so much work to do overseas. The compassion and dedication of the charity partners on the ground, heading into Ukraine to rescue pets and care for them day to day is overwhelming. We are so grateful to anyone who can donate to our Fund which really is helping so many vulnerable pets in need.”

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