By Rostyslav Averchuk
Lviv, Ukraine, Aug 11 (EFE).- Since the beginning of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Home for Rescued Animals in the western city of Lviv has helped save over 4,000 animals from the country’s war zones.
To host the pets rescued from the frontlines, the team at the shelter had to build enclosures overnight.
Orest Zalipski, manager of the Home for Rescued Animals, tells Efe that before the war, the center used to care for exotic and wild animals.
It took in foxes rescued from illegal hunter training centers, injured storks and raccoons whose owners would turn them in after realizing they could not be kept in an apartment.
However, when Russian bombs began to rain down on Kyiv, Kharkiv and Dnipro, Zalipski began to receive calls from people who could not take their pets abroad or to the temporary shelters that had been set up in schools and sports centers.
“This is Galia,” he says, as he introduces a white-tailed eagle that arrived from Kharkiv in the early days of the invasion.
“Her owners used to charge people in tourist areas to take pictures with her. When everything turned upside down in February, they sent her to us on a train across Ukraine,” he explains.
But not all the animals could be transported that way, and although most people did not leave their pets behind, the number of those that were abandoned reached into the thousands.
So Zalipski decided to go on risky missions to save as many of the animals stuck on the frontlines as he could.
Together with his team and several Polish friends, he drove five times to Irpin, Kyiv, and to the cities of Kharkiv and Donetsk in the east, closer to the frontlines.
“What we saw in some places were dead cities with not a soul left, apart from stray dogs and cats. We took as many as we could,” he says.
“They were in good condition, but it was too risky for them to stay there,” Zalipski says, pointing to a lemur, several monkeys and a parrot rescued from a zoo near the embattled city of Kharkiv.
The rescue missions put his team at risk. A 14-year-old volunteer was killed by Russian artillery in Kharkiv, he says.
Many of the more than 4,000 pets that have passed through the shelter are experiencing anxiety.
“Some dogs are aggressive, some try to run away every time they hear thunder because it reminds them of shelling,” says Zalipski, whose team provides veterinary treatment and care for the animals and tries to rehome them as soon as possible.
They also prepare documents for the animals that will be transported abroad.
Viktoria, a young woman visiting the shelter, takes a dog for a walk and explains that her 13-year-old pit bull died after her family fled a bombing in the southern city of Mykolaiv.
When she returns, she hopes to get another one, she says, but in the meantime, she tries to help the dogs in the shelter.
“Just like all of us, they need love,” she says. EFE