150 animals and counting: Visiting Ukraine's Patron Pet Center
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150 animals and counting: Visiting Ukraine's Patron Pet Center

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Recently, Veterinarians Without Borders North America's (VWB) Ukraine Program Manager, Daria Kuznetsova, visited the Patron Pet Center located in Kyiv. The shelter is one of VWB's on-the-ground Ukrainian partners, and currently home to approximately 150 abandoned, stray, and injured animals. Since the launch of the full-scale invasion, the Pet Patron Center has significantly grown, and many of its staff have relocated from frontline areas where they once worked in animal health services. Many animals have arrived at the Center, and continue to arrive, from frontline areas where infrastructure has become near non-existent, including access to veterinary care.

dog at pet patron center

"The animals [at the Center] are really kept in great condition, and have enough personnel to care for them," said Daria, adding that the shelter staff are also brimming with ideas for improvement as the shelter's needs change. The protocols for feeding, dog walking, and visitors, are all carefully monitored, and Daria also noted that, despite the ongoing war, adoptions continue to be facilitated. 

Although stray animals existed in Ukraine prior to the start of Russia's full-scale invasion, ongoing attacks and the inevitable impact on the nation's economy have created significant new challenges in the animal health sector, including for pet guardians and veterinary professionals. As Europe's second largest country, studies estimate that prior to the war, approximately 5.5 million cats and 750,000 dogs were owned by Ukrainian families. The invasion has made a catastrophic impact on these owners and animals, with the number of animals in shelters, especially near the frontlines, increasing by an estimated 100%. Sadly, as the conflict drags on, these numbers are expected to increase, with little extra support accessible to meet this need.

While at the Pet Center, Daria met many incredible animals, however, two moving stories remained with her for days after her visit. 

Zara is a dog that was found in Kharkiv, one of Ukraine's frontline areas. She was brought to the shelter after experiencing a severe injury (most likely stepping on a landmine), which tragically left her without her two front paws. Fortunately, with the help of shelter and veterinary staff, she was nursed back to health and now has a wheelchair that she can use to walk again.

"I also met an incredible family of dogs at the shelter that were rescued from Kherson after the Kakhovka dam destruction,"
 Daria added. "Their names are Vovchik and Kudlata. They were accompanied by their two puppies were rescued from the waters," explained Daria. The puppies have since found their families, however, the 'happy couple' still resides in the center. "They are a real couple, always together," said Daria.

As the war carries on, the Patron Pet Center urgently needs help to continue their life-saving work. Although they already have a makeshift vet clinic in-house, their need is growing. Veterinary teams are brought in each time the Center performs spay/neuters and other treatments; but, bringing in these teams is very expensive. Ideally, the Center will be able to set up their own clinic to provide expert veterinary care where and when its needed most.

You can help animals like Zara, Vovchik, and Kudlata access the urgent care they need to live healthy lives. 

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