Casualties of war: Saving wounded, forgotten dogs – and cats – of East Ukraine

Sign Up For Our FREE Daily eNews!

One of thousands of dogs abandoned or left behind in war-torn Ukraine.
One of thousands of dogs abandoned or left behind in war-torn Ukraine.

AlmGabby Dogost forgotten among the war victims in Eastern Ukraine are the homeless or wounded pets — dogs, like Herda and Jennyfer.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare, based on Cape Cod, is trying to help save them and as many other pets as possible, according to Shannon Walaijtys, by sending food and medical equipment to Eastern Ukraine shelters.

Walaijtys estimates thousands of dogs and cats, ill-equipped to survive on their own, need help. Only a couple thousand have been taken in by rescues, she said, and “many more thousand” have been lost, injured or killed during the fighting.

The shelters receive daily reports of pets left behind when their families fled. Some have been tied up; others are running loose. They’re starving, and they’re freezing.

“So many of the abandoned dogs and cats do not know how to survive on the streets, especially in such harsh winter conditions,” she said. “Injuries come from not knowing how to avoid traffic or just being a nuisance begging for food or attention. Of course, there are the violent reminders of the war — injuries from artillery fire, shells falling all hours of the day and night.”


Jennyfer, for example, survived a bomb that killed her family.

“Jennyfer’s physical wounds have healed,” Walaijtys said. (The dog suffered shrapnel wounds and hearing loss.) “But she is still struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder.” Shelter Pif in Donetsk provided weeks of medical care and now hopes to find a new family for her.

Herda, 2, lived at the Donetsk railway station until the station came under artillery fire.


“Herda’s physical wounds are not quite finished healing,” Walaijtys said, but she is going to be reunited with her family at the railway station, who “are excited to have her back with them.”

Walaitjys, manager of IFAW’s Disaster Response Program, said Ukraine shelter workers are doing their best to care for the injured pets. As one volunteer put it, “we take one day at a time and do our best for the dogs and for one another.”

So far, three shelters in the Ukraine have asked IFAW for assistance, Donetsk’s Shelter Pif, the Berdyansk Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and Gorlovka’s “A Dog and a Cat” shelter.

One shelter only has dogs; the other two rescue dogs and cats and “continue to receive dogs and cats abandoned in their respective cities,” she said. “Sometimes, one every other day — or several at one time — are dumped off or reported on the phone.”

For example, Shelter Pif took in 15 dogs from Kramatorsk when the city was being bombed, she said.

Bubus, when he was found.
Bubus, when he was found.

One of the 15, Bubus, the German Shepherd, came in with a “life-threatening” skin disease but left healthy. He went home in January with his new family.

People in the U.S. can help save other dogs and cats, she said.

“Keep following our work,” she said by checking updates at

Spread the word about the Ukraine pets. And consider making a donation.

From its Cape Cod headquarters, IFAW operates six different campaigns, including whales, companion animals and cats and dogs, as well as disaster rescues, according to communications director, Kerry Branon.

Bubus, after some TLC.
Bubus, after some TLC.

The Gabby Dog asked Branon why an international animal welfare organization decided to call Cape Cod home.

Turns out the reason’s nothing to do with dolphins and whales, she said, although the marine mammal group does train about 200 local volunteers to help with strandings.

IFAW started in New Brunswick, Canada, she said, with a small group of animal advocates. The group moved to Cape Cod for the same reason lots of people relocate — to be near family, she said.

Have a tip or story idea? E-mail Margo Ann Sullivan at and Follow @The_Gabby_Dog on Twitter.

Margo Ann Sullivan
Margo Ann Sullivan

Margo Ann Sullivan is a pet columnist who has written for ZooToo, and numerous publications in New York and in New England. She’s had pets all her life, starting with a rescue collie named Lollypop. The Gabby Dog column chases the news that helps pets and people. It also chronicles the adventures of Gabby, the peke-a-poo, and Asia, the tabby cat, and their many pals, hitting the high spots between Providence, RI, and Manchester, NH.


email box

You’re one click away! Sign up for our free eNewsletter and never miss another thing


Subscribe Now and Never Miss Another Thing!

About this Author