Vet visits Ukrainian border to help provide animal care

As a World Vets volunteer, Marty Becker, DVM, worked with local organizations in Romania and Moldova to assess the unmet needs of war-affected pets and help facilitate free veterinary services to care for them. of them.

A mother and her 2 young daughters, refugees from war-torn Ukraine, have arrived at a shelter in Romania, each with a pet: a muzzled dog, a cat carried in a backpack and a hamster in a small cage. Marty Becker, DVM, a volunteer with the international non-profit veterinary aid organization World Vets, watched the trio reunite with the girls’ father, from whom they had been separated for about a month. Along with the humans’ excitement, the dog greeted the man by jumping up on its hind legs and licking him furiously.

“He was happy to see the dog. The dog was happy to see it,” Becker said.

One of the girls had told Becker that the hamster was her “best friend”. Seeing her father, she held the cage up to proudly show off her pet as the man knelt down to watch him.

“That human-animal bond, for her, I think, was a lifeline,” Becker said in an interview with dvm360®.

Many people are leaving Ukraine as refugees, seeking shelter from the violence that accompanies Russia’s continued invasion. The humanitarian crisis has also displaced countless pets, according to World Vets. Many of these animals need food, shelter, and veterinary care to survive.1

Volunteers like Becker, founder of Fear Free and a dvm360® and its peers at World Vets help displaced dogs, cats and other pets across Ukrainian borders. Becker recently traveled to Romania and Moldova, the 91st country he has visited, to help assess unmet needs and facilitate free veterinary services for animals arriving from Ukraine.

“Moldova, Romania and Ukraine come together at this place, right next to the Danube,” Becker said.

According to World Vets, Becker’s mission was to coordinate efforts with the organization’s existing partners in Romania and Moldova.1 Cathy King, DVM, PhD, founder and CEO of World Vets, said Becker has spent time in the clinic and on the front lines of the border. “His first-hand accounts helped guide our strategy for prioritizing aid in the region. He has also done a tremendous amount to raise awareness of the situation and to direct funding to local groups helping refugees and their pets, especially in Romania,” King said, in an email to dvm360®.

Becker also met with the head of Romania’s veterinary medical association to discuss what local vets were seeing and where help was needed. “The only thing you don’t have to worry about is animals needing to find love and attention,” Becker said. “I met people there who walked 20 miles carrying a dog to safety.”


Sava’s Safe Haven in Galati, Romania was one of the partners Becker worked with during his trip. The non-profit family shelter is dedicated to caring for homeless and stray animals in poor rural areas of the region.2 World Vets knew it had a capable and dedicated partner through an established working relationship with Sava’s Safe Haven, and provides free veterinary services to pets of Ukrainian refugees as well as veterinary supplies to the shelter, King noted.

“We are helping to financially support their aid station located at the entry point where refugees cross the Ukrainian border into Romania with their pets. It is expected that the need for veterinary services will continue in the long term in the region and therefore we also plan in the longer term to recruit a veterinary team in the coming months to travel there to provide medical campaigns , surgical and additional preventive. for refugee pets as well as abandoned pets that are brought into the shelter,” King said.

Sava’s Safe Haven is also working to find new homes for displaced pets in need and to send food and other supplies across the border to Ukraine. According to statements made by the organization on social media, these essential supplies are being shared with people who have chosen to stay in Ukraine, many of whom are elderly and include people who feed street animals.

In a social media post, Becker said he saw Sava’s Safe Haven send 2.5 tons of dog food to a ferry between Romania and Ukraine to feed shelter-owned pets living in shelters. , even though the organization was running out of dog food. . A similar run is run “at least every other day”, he wrote on Facebook.

At a partner clinic in Chișinău, Moldova, World Vets previously funded veterinary service costs for pet owners struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to King. “We now offer free veterinary services for all Ukrainian pets at this same clinic,” she said.


World Vets advisory board member Becker said one of the biggest lessons from his experience near Ukraine is the strength of the human-animal bond and the resilience of people and pets. “If you get tested you will really see what you can do,” he said.

He recalled a Ukrainian woman who had lost her husband and her home to war. She arrived at the border aid station in Moldova with a young girl and a dog who had been injured. Although the dog was limping, he started running after he smelled the shelter. “He has a fight or flight response,” Becker said.

Mourning the death of her husband, the woman said the dog would now be her constant companion, according to Becker. “Beyond that bond of affection and the healing power of pets, I don’t know what else she would do. There’s nothing [for her] to go back there. His house is gone,” Becker said.

Another woman, he said, crossed a border from Ukraine with 10 dogs on leashes. She had walked in freezing temperatures, pulling a cart with food and supplies to care for her pets, but nothing for herself.


Becker noticed during his trip that veterinary technology in the area he visited is generally lacking compared to modern American facilities, although not as primitive as he has seen in other country. A clinic in Moldova had only one X-ray machine, for example. Becker said the staff used oven gloves rather than the safer, lead-lined gloves American vets typically use to operate it.

Overall, he said, there is a need for more modern veterinary technology and equipment, as well as basic food and supplies to care for displaced animals. He brought with him to the border region of Ukraine 3 large suitcases filled with toys for the animals he was going to serve.

“There are things we can do to help,” Becker said.

According to World Vets, many members of the organization’s community are interested in helping pets and people in Ukraine. To this end, World Vets is asking for financial contributions to support its efforts to assist in the veterinary care of Ukrainian pets. Donors can visit to make a monetary donation to the World Vets International Disaster Response Fund to help pets in Ukraine.1


  1. World veterinarians. Help pets of Ukraine. March 30, 2022. Accessed April 27, 2022.
  2. Sava’s refuge. A family refuge in Galati, Romania. 2022. Accessed April 27, 2022.

Benjamin M. Yerger