In a world filled with challenges and uncertainties, one constant remains: our duty to protect and care for the vulnerable among us, including the animals in our care. In Ukraine, we are fighting an ongoing battle to save the lives of countless dogs and cats roaming the streets. With the war, thousands of animals have been abandoned across the county as their owners moved abroad, went to war, died in bombing or struggled with the cost of pet ownership as the economy weakened.
The solution? Sterilization. In this blog, we'll explore the critical role of sterilization in saving animals in Ukraine and how it is making a significant impact on the country's animal welfare.
**The Stray Animal Crisis in Ukraine**
Ukraine, like many countries, faces a significant stray animal problem. Dogs and cats, abandoned or born on the streets, often suffer from hunger, disease, and harsh weather conditions. They struggle to find food and shelter, leading to a life filled with hardship and suffering. They can be a risk to human health, spreading parasites, or infectious diseases like rabies. Uncontrolled breeding only exacerbates this crisis.
**Our Ongoing Work**
We have a permanent team on the ground in Ukraine, led by our CEO Dr Gemma Campling, and a team of Ukrainian vets, nurses, and support staff, joined on the regular by international vet volunteers and working together with charity Tiernothilfe Ukraine e.v. and 12 Вартових. Last week we headed over to the west of Ukraine to assist with a huge overpopulation of dogs around the border towns. This area is where many crossed into the European Union and having brought their pets from home, made the heartbreaking decision to leave them behind. This occurred for many reasons. Financial difficulty, fear of moving with an animal and how it may affect their chances of refugee status, or not being allowed to bring animals on public transport that was crossing out of Ukraine.
First impressions on arrival, yes, dogs everywhere. Hundreds were roaming the streets. Everywhere we drove we saw dogs wandering around, lying on the roadside or sitting hopefully waiting for some scraps next to local cafes and restaurants. These animals were clearly were once loved pets. Huskies, Spaniels, Shepherds, Pugs crosses, Labradors, and many others, as well as a huge array of mixed breeds that had been born from uncurbed breeding of these dogs.
We wasted no time and at 6pm we whipped out the surgical tools on arrival and sterilised our first 12 animals. The next day, a team of dog catchers headed off to bring out the next patients. Some dogs were friendly and could be approached. Some are scared, some aggressive, so a range of techniques were used to capture them, including darting them with a blowpipe. We hope to have a dart gun in the future, so reach dogs at a further range, but for now, we will make do!
With the dogs safely loaded in crates, they were brought back to base, where we completed their surgery. Field surgery is challenging, but with the Worldwide Vets trailer providing running water and power, everything was much easier and since we were a team of 5 surgeons, consisting of Gemma, Orla, Natasha, Irena and Paulina, we operated both in the trailer and just outside of it, in the large garage where the trailer was parked.
Throughout the day, animals were recovered in their cages, given their first meal on recovery and carefully monitored. The dog catchers would bring us more dogs, then load and return the animals from the previous day. Not only were the dogs sterilised, but they were also vaccinated for Rabies, Leptospirosis and the DHPPi vaccine (Canine Distemper, Hepatitis, Parvo virus, Parainfluenza), microchipped, dewormed, and given a Bravecto Spot On which has been donated by MSD Animal Health, to prevent flea and tick infestations for 3 months. It goes without saying that preventing the spread of rabies and leptospirosis to people is important from a one-health approach and fleas are also a human health risk, spreading Bartonella and a range of other diseases, to people who are bitten. Overall our work is not just helping animals but also preventing zoonotic disease and keeping people safe too.
With some hard grafting and long hours from each dedicated member of our coalition, this system allowed us to sterilise a credible 420 animals over the course of just 6 days, most of which were females. If each of those females had a litter of 6 puppies or kittens twice a year, in 2 years time there would be 10,080 more animals, and that is before the offspring start to breed!
At the end of the outreach, it was great to see almost all of the animals on the street sporting one of the ear tags we had applied. The ear tags are identifiers (since leaving a collar on a dog can cause entrapment or strangulation if caught on a fence, or if the dog grows). The tags let the community and future animal welfare groups know the animal is vaccinated and sterilised, and they can identify which organisation has done this, and reach out to us for the case history if needed.
**The Power of Sterilization**
Sterilization is a humane and effective solution to the stray animal problem. It not only prevents unwanted pregnancies but also offers numerous benefits:
1. Reduces Overpopulation: One of the most immediate effects of sterilization is the reduction in the number of stray animals. When fewer animals are born on the streets, it becomes more manageable to care for those who are already there.
2. Improves Health: Sterilization can significantly improve the health and well-being of animals. It reduces the risk of reproductive-related diseases and behavioral issues, leading to healthier, happier animals.
3. Enhances Behavior: Sterilized animals are often calmer and less prone to territorial aggression, reducing the risk of injuries and conflicts among strays.
4. Promotes Responsible Ownership: Encouraging pet owners and those who care for the stray dogs to sterilize their animals helps curb unintentional breeding and encourages responsible pet ownership.
The positive impact of sterilization in Ukraine is undeniable. With fewer animals on the streets, resources can be directed towards improving the quality of life for those that remain. Communities become safer, and the burden on local shelters and rescues is reduced. Moreover, sterilization encourages a culture of compassion and responsibility towards animals, fostering a brighter future for Ukraine's pets.
**How You Can Help**
If you're passionate about animal welfare and want to contribute to our ongoing efforts to save animals in Ukraine, there are several ways you can make a difference:
1. **Donate**: Financial donations are always valuable in supporting sterilization campaigns and veterinary care for strays. You can head here to donate: Donate to help animals in Ukraine
2. **Volunteer**: If you are a qualified vet or nurse and want to join us in Ukraine next year you can head to the “Contact Us” page and reach out
3. **Send Supplies**: We are looking for disposable items like sutures, drapes and swabs, so if you are able to provide these items, please reach out and let us know. We will link you up with a UK or USA address for posting or possibly a volunteer who is due to come to us in the near future.
Ukraine's struggle to save its precious animals from suffering is a battle that requires collective effort. Sterilization, with its numerous benefits, plays a pivotal role in this endeavor. By supporting sterilization initiatives and advocating for responsible pet ownership, we can make a meaningful impact on the lives of countless dogs and cats, ensuring a brighter future for them and for Ukraine's animal welfare as a whole. Together, we can save lives, one sterilization at a time.
***Want to volunteer with us in Thailand, Peru, India, Zimbabwe or Tanzania? We have a number of projects for vets, nurse,s and animal lovers with no prior qualifications to assist our work abroad. Head to www.worldwidevets.com/volunteer