Crisis for animal shelters in Ukraine

What is happening with pets in Ukraine today? Animal welfare heroes continue to work under impossible circumstances to help pets and their people. First Street Pets interviewed a shelter director in Kyiv to learn what is going on and how we Americans can help.

When Russia invaded Ukraine in early 2022, we all watched in horror as events unfolded. Night after night on the news we heard the terrible reports of atrocities inflicted on the Ukrainian people and their homeland. Americans put up Ukrainian flags outside their homes and sent “thoughts and prayers,” but for the most part felt helpless to do anything. 

Animal lovers like myself wondered how Ukrainians with pets were managing. When infrastructure is destroyed and there is no shelter, water, or electricity for people, how can they care for their animals? When people flee their homes and become refugees, what happens to their pets? 

A few stories came to light in the news, including one in my own city where a Ukrainian family was sponsored and a great effort was undertaken to save their cat and bring her to their new home in the U.S. That and some other efforts to help Ukrainian animals made the news, but the attention of Americans shifted as other conflicts and crises filled their TV and internet feeds.

More than two years later, the invasion continues and the brave citizens of Ukraine fight to save their country. I did some research and couldn’t find any current updates regarding pets or animals. The most recent articles were more than a year old. So I decided to reach out and discover for myself what is going on and how we can help. 

I was able to get in touch with the director of a large shelter in Kyiv. Her name is Oleksandra Mezinova and the shelter is called Sirius. I was hoping to record a live interview but that isn’t possible under the current conditions as you will see. I so appreciate her taking the time to communicate with me so I can share the information with fellow Americans who want to help the plight of Ukrainian animal lovers. 

Now I will share with you what I have learned about the pets and people of war-torn Ukraine as well as how you can directly help the efforts of shelters like Sirius. I encourage you to watch till the end as all proceeds from this video will be donated to Sirius. 

Interview with Oleksandra Mezinova

O: Good afternoon Thank you very much for your understanding. Forgive me, it’s very inconvenient for me that you wait so long. There’s a lot of work, I’m constantly busy with some urgent matters. I’m already sitting, writing you answers.

Today we have no power, they turn it off periodically, because the Russians hit an energy facility that is important to us. I will send you answers in parts. I don’t know how quickly they will come, since the Internet is now bad due to the lack of power.

B: How many animal shelters are in Ukraine? How many animals are in your shelter at any one time?

O: There are no statistics on shelters in Ukraine, I can only say approximately 400 shelters.

B: Tell me about the kinds of animals you see on a daily basis. 

O: There are currently 3028 animals in the Sirius shelter.In the Sirius shelter there live 181 cats, 6 hedgehogs, 15 quails, 6 peacocks, 3 pheasants, a sheep, 2 geese and the rest, about 3 thousand animals are dogs. Together, these animals are rescued and have sad stories of their lives. About 1/3 of the animals in the shelter includes animals from places of hostilities and from occupied territories.

Many animals are brought to us by volunteer rescuers or the military, and sometimes we ourselves go closer to the front line, bring the necessary things or cars to the military and take animals and birds from there. We rescued some of the animals during the occupation of the KRGD; the shelter was in complete isolation and miraculously survived, so There were no food supplies at all and we had to get it somewhere, buy it, ask for it.

B: How has life changed for pet owners because of the war? 

O: Since the beginning of the war, animal owners have faced great difficulties. Animals are constantly under stress, they are very afraid of explosions, shelling, flying missiles, airplanes, and shrapnel falling on them.

Our Ukrainian animal owners are faced with the problem of evacuating animals from places of hostilities. If they travel by public transport or transport that is provided for evacuation – public buses, trains, cars, they are almost always not allowed to take animals. Therefore, people are often forced to remain under fire, because they are not ready to leave without their four-legged friend, they are not ready to betray him and live with this betrayal all their lives.

People sometimes leave without their animals, because they do not take them with them and ask for volunteers then bring the animals to them. In this situation, the owners of the animals suffer greatly, they worry about their charges, and the volunteers are already risking their lives and taking out the animals under fire (this is often already a zone of active hostilities). My colleagues and I believe that this is completely wrong actions on the part of the leadership of the country and the city. If you save people physically, then you should not forget about their pets, about their wellness. In addition, you cannot bring danger to other people (volunteers).

Animal owners encountered at the beginning of the war, in the first year, that it was not allowed to enter a bomb shelter with an animal and we all had to defend this right. Now it is allowed after our active protests.

With great difficulty we managed to allow animals to cross the border using a simplified procedure, since we had to leave very quickly. Now we have to go again with a full package of documents.

The owners are faced with the problem that neither here in Ukraine nor in other countries people with animals are welcomed, and animal owners often cannot find housing where they can take their animal, or it turns out to be very expensive.

Since the beginning of the large-scale invasion, various products and things have become more expensive, utilities have become more expensive (water, electricity, gas) and animal food has become more expensive. This is also a problem for animal owners.

Dog owners cannot let her walk without a leash so that she can run well, because air raid raids are constantly being announced and you need to quickly get out of the street, and for this it is better that the dog is always on a leash so that you can quickly run to a bomb shelter.

B: Every animal welfare organization has problems they are working to solve in their communities. What are the biggest obstacles your organization is facing today?

O: The huge problem at our shelter now is the lack of food, finances, and people to care for the animals. The shelter has more than 1 million UAH (roughly $25k U.S. dollars) of debt to suppliers for cereals, for treatment in clinics, for vaccines) All this is now happening because we used to work with animals of Kyiv and the Kyiv region, and now, due to large-scale hostilities, we are forced to accept, treat, house animals from all over Ukraine, from deoccupied places and places where fierce fighting is taking place.

We cannot refuse refugees who have nowhere to go take the animals, because they have lost everything, the military and volunteer rescuers who risked their lives in order to save the animal. We need 1.5 million UAH per month to maintain the shelter, and we, unfortunately, collect only 600- 750 thousand, we borrow everything else. Now we have a debt of just over 1 million UAH and it’s very difficult for us. We are very grateful to the organizations and volunteers who periodically come to us with food and medicine and try to support us, but we have much more needs.

There is a very cruel, bloody war going on in Ukraine and we must help both animals and people. We also faced the problem of workers caring for the elderly. A lot of men went to war and we were left with practically no workers.

Another big problem Ukrainians have now is a constant power outage. Because of this, there is no water. It is very difficult to work in such conditions, because we need light and a lot of water.

Another problem that our organization, our Sirius shelter, faces is the construction of objects that we cannot build in any way due to lack of money. During the occupation, our animals received enormous stress, they were afraid of flying missiles and planes, they were afraid of mortar attacks , so they tore their enclosures, injuring themselves and got out of them, running around our territory. We now really need to build new enclosures for dogs, because they are very destroyed and animals can periodically injure themselves, plus they can injure each other when they meet on the territory. Such sad cases have already happened.

The shelter announced a project that stipulates that an organization or family can allocate money to build a new, spacious enclosure (an enclosure costs 43 thousand UAH to build), and we hang up a memorial plaque that says, that this enclosure was built by this organization or family) and we periodically write about this on social networks. Also, families or organizations periodically take charge of an enclosure and pay either for one dog, or for a cat, or for an enclosure or a room with cats, about this We also write and hang signs. We are very grateful to such people, because they support our animals and help them survive.

B: Most Americans only see the news that is shown on TV and the internet which may be limited. What do you wish foreigners knew about what you do? What are we not aware of that is happening with animals in your country?

O: I think that the most important thing that our friends in America need to know is that it is very difficult for shelters now, many Ukrainians have now lost their jobs, their homes have been destroyed and some have left the country. Many enterprises have closed, many people have gone to defend our country. All decent people who love their country, who want to see it independent, who feel sorry for them, have a feeling of compassion for the people, for the people who are grateful to our courageous soldiers, all these people already have practically no money to help. It’s very difficult There are fundraisers even for the army, but for animals it is even more difficult to collect the necessary amounts. For shelters, support from other countries is now very important – moral, food, financial. The evacuation of animals is also very important.

B: Americans care about what is happening to Ukranians and their pets, but we feel helpless. What can we do to help? 

O: We would be very grateful if they would help spread the information about this about our animals and would also help families in other countries. We have very few shelters in Ukraine that are not particularly in need. in support, those who do not have problems. The Sirius shelter is the largest shelter in Ukraine, it accepts a large number of animals from war zones, helps refugees with animals and is in great need of support. Our plans are to build new enclosures instead of destroyed buildings e for puppies, a full quarantine and a clinic for our animals and for animals from rural areas, since there is no veterinary clinic within 50 km and everyone turns to us anyway. So we really want to hire a dog handler and another veterinarian and paramedic.

We are planning We also try to find families for our animals as much as possible and thus reduce the number of animals in our shelter, since it is difficult to survive such a huge shelter, even during the war. We try, despite the war, to engage in educational activities (we conduct excursions, lessons on kindness), free sterilization for volunteers of animals and animals that have owners.

We are trying to hold on, but we really need support. We want the war to end as soon as possible, for Ukraine to liberate its territories, for our prisoners to return home, for our stolen children to return, so that they stop killing us, raping us and destroying what is dear to us. We really want our nature to recover after such a difficult, bloody war; we want our innocent animals to no longer suffer or die.


The people of Ukraine are resilient and will fight till the last man to save their homeland. Supporting animal welfare organizations like Sirius helps not just the animals but their people. We know as animal lovers that our pets are important to wellness, mental health, and quality of life. I encourage you to support Sirius. All proceeds from this article and video will be donated.