Ukrainian families with pets stay with German animal lovers

Woman holds black cat in her arms, animal news
Antonina Pavlenko, 58, who fled Chernihiv holds her cat at the train station in Lviv, Ukraine March 22, 2022, photo: Reuters/Zohra Bensemra

German animal protection organization TASSO is trying to find accommodations for Ukrainian refugees with pets. Many official refugee shelters in Germany do not allow animals.

In the German city of Mülheim an der Ruhr, Hermina Demmler and her family have provided accommodation for Vladmiir Maslyuk, his family and their dog Sindy and their cat Shelly.

Maslyuk explained that leaving their animals behind was not an option for the family: “No way! This is my responsibility. If you’ve tamed an animal, you should take care of him until the very end.”

His daughter Lisa Hyzianova started looking online for any accommodation which would accept their pets and found Demmler.

The trip out of Ukraine was difficult for the animals, Hyzianova said. “They were kept in a pet carrier for three days and were let out only a few times. It was a very hard journey for the animals, but they managed to cope with it.”

Roxana Andalitska fled Kyiv with her mother and two dogs. “When we had to get out from Kiyv, people don’t want to help people with animals because there are so many lives to save. People prefer to help kids, and to get animals in is really hard,” she said.

Pets left behind
Some people left their animals behind when they fled the country. The Home for Rescued Animals in the city of Lviv has taken in animals who were left behind.

“Migrants who come from Kharkiv, Kyiv, Mykolaiv and go abroad via Lviv leave animals en masse,” the 24-year-old shelter manager Orest Zalypskyy told news agency AFP. He estimates his shelter has taken in 1,500 animals since the war with Russia began.

“There’s been no system,” Zalypskyy said. “We just have many volunteers who head out and fetch them. We are all bitten and scratched. The animals are very stressed.” One dog from a war-torn region in the east did not leave his cage for two weeks. 

The locals of Lviv have adopted around 200 animals. The rest of the animals are taken by volunteers to Germany, Latvia and Lithuania.

The shelter is full of friends and families arriving to borrow dogs for a weekend stroll. “Ukrainians really adore animals,” 36-year-old Kateryna Chernikova said. “It’s just in the DNA.”

She fled Kyiv with her family a week before the war broke out. The family and their two guinea pigs Apelsynka and Lymonadka (Orange and Lemonade) now live in Lviv, which has been largely untouched by violence.

“We’re not in the war conditions itself, but it’s psychologically very hard,” said Chernikova. “When you have a walk with a dog, it just feels as if you’re living a normal life.”

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