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Ukrainians won’t be separated from beloved pets as residents shelter from Russian attack with cats and dogs

The Independent logo The Independent 07/03/2022
People shelter with their pets in Khmelnytskyi, Ukraine - Bel Trew © Bel Trew

People shelter with their pets in Khmelnytskyi, Ukraine

- Bel Trew

Animal charities have been helping refugees bring their pets to safety as Ukranians face the “impossible decision” of whether to leave their beloved animals behind.

Some people are refusing to leave without their pets, while others are taking their animals with them as they flee Russia’s invasion.

Several countries including Poland, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia have eased rules on taking animals across borders so refugees don’t have to abandon their pets, animal rights charity PETA said.

It said it has been working on Ukraine’s border to “shepherd animals out safely”.

Meanwhile, as missiles fall on their homes and cities, many Ukrainians have turned to pets for comfort – bringing dogs and cats with them to air raid shelters.

In Kyiv, where people have been taking cover from Russian airstrikes in underground stations, platforms are lined with pet carriers.

At first, authorities stopped people bringing animals, but then turned a blind eye. Pets have been huddling alongside their owners in the capital’s Pecherskaya station.

Across Ukraine there have been stories of people deciding to stay put to protect their pets.

Animal shelter owner Andrea Cisternino has been dubbed a “hero” for refusing to leave the 400 rescue dogs, cats, sheep and goats he looks after in Kyiv.

Video: ‘How’s this for a sanction against Russia’: Cats with Russian owners banned from competition (Sky News Australia)

‘How’s this for a sanction against Russia’: Cats with Russian owners banned from competition

Cisternino, from Italy, said he would “rather die” than let the animals face the war alone.

One stranded student refused to return home to northern India without his pet dog.

Rishabh Kaushik and rescue dog Maliboo are reportedly now in Hungary and set to board a flight home after the Indian government also relaxed rules to allow people fleeing Ukraine to bring their pets with them.

PETA said it had been “deeply moved” by accounts of refugees walking great distances with their animals in their arms.

It said: “Many already traumatised people were being faced with the impossible decision of leaving their beloved animals behind due to the protocol for non-commercial movement of companion animals into the EU.”

“The current regulations for bringing companion animals into the EU and the UK are impossible for refugees to follow in a state of war.

“They require that animals such as dogs and cats be vaccinated and microchipped and have a titre test for rabies – and many animals don’t meet the criteria.”

The charity said several countries have made the process easier for refugees, and it is urging the government to relax the UK’s rules.

It has provided advice for Ukrainians arriving at border crossings with pets.

The Independent has a proud history of campaigning for the rights of the most vulnerable, and we first ran our Refugees Welcome campaign during the war in Syria in 2015. Now, as we renew our campaign and launch this petition in the wake of the unfolding Ukrainian crisis, we are calling on the government to go further and faster to ensure help is delivered. To find out more about our Refugees Welcome campaign, click here. To sign the petition click here. If you would like to donate then please click here for our GoFundMe page.

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