SAN DIEGO — Ukrainian refugees facing the uncertainty of war continue to cross the border into Poland while holding on tight to their beloved animals.
“They’ve lost everything in their lives. We want to make sure they don’t lose their animals too,” said Dr. Gary Weitzman, President and CEO of San Diego Humane Society, before boarding a plane Sunday.
He is now at the Ukrainian border, joining a big humanitarian effort to provide care to refugees and their pets.
“It’s really stressful, there’s no question,” said Dr. Weitzman. “What these people have been through is really unbelievable. It’s hard to even imagine this happening in our lifetimes.”
Dr. Weitzman brought medical and veterinary supplies to the busiest border crossing in western Ukraine in the Polish town of Medyka. He has teamed up with IFAW, the International Fund for Animal Welfare, an organization that has tents set up at the border to provide veterinary care.
“It’s just heartbreaking. It’s just absolutely devastating,” said Dr. Weitzman. “The hard part is seeing how completely stressed those animals are. They don’t know what’s going on and this is just so difficult.”
Inside the IFAW veterinary tent, they’re well-equipped for any situation. “Our pharmacy is right over here and it’s fairly well-stocked,” said Dr. Weitzman. “Fluids and pain medications.”
ADA Foundation, a vet clinic 30 minutes from the border in Przemysl, Poland, has been treating animals and pets in need of serious care before being moved to other shelters in Poland and throughout Europe.
“We want people to be able to keep their families together,” said a spokesperson for Humane Society International. “The trauma that everyone is going through in this situation is just horrific and unimaginable and if they have to be further traumatized by being separated from their animals, we want to do everything we can to keep them together.”
Meanwhile, at the border crossing in Medyka, Dr. Weitzman is helping any way he can. While it is a dire situation, he’s grateful that these people are not leaving their pets behind.
“They need everything from basic supplies and carriers and flea treatment. The animals are stressed as you can imagine and some of them are sick and vomiting,” said Dr. Weitzman. “But you know, I’m so happy to see that most of the animals are in really good shape which is a huge relief.”
Watch Related: SD Humane Society President traveling to Poland to help pets (Mar 27, 2022)