Millions of Ukrainians have fled their homes since the Russia invasion began, taking all the personal items they can carry from the war-torn country.
Roughly 6.5 million people embarked on the daunting journey to seek refuge from the war, with many leaving their beloved pets behind.
Despite the ongoing war and grim images of destruction from Ukraine, Greater Good Charities, a nonprofit on a mission to help people, pets and the planet, answered the desperate pleas for help from Ukrainians.
The organization has given more than $400 million in cash and in programmatic support to around 5,000 groups helping to achieve their mission in 121 countries across the globe. And now, in Ukraine.
With boots on the ground in neighboring countries – Poland, Romania, Chechnya, Moldova, and more – the group’s chief operating officer Noah Horton says the war is a humanitarian crisis that pets are embedded in.
“The Ukrainian people really love their pets,” Horton said. “You’re seeing refugees who are predominantly women and children and many of them have pets. To not be able to care for their pets is just another layer of trauma.”
Greater Good Charities has funded more than 6 million meals for Ukrainian refugees and over 3 million meals for pets, so far, in coordination with the network of organizations corralled to help.
“Hundreds of pets have been found dead in Ukraine since the crisis began,” the organization said on its website. “Many of them were found trapped in a shelter and died of hunger and thirst. This is the heartbreaking reality for many displaced pets in Ukraine and neighboring countries.”
Domestic pets are not the only animals that have benefited from the organization's efforts.
“We’re really focused on providing support both to refugees and their families and their own pets, but then also homeless pets and other types of animals that are unfortunately in really tough situations in Ukraine,” Horton said.
During a rescue mission with Warriors of Wildlife to relocate a circus bear named Masha the Eurasian, volunteers learned of a lion, Mir, trapped in a western area of Ukraine. Of course, they could not leave him behind.
Mir was rescued and entered into a temporary zoo, where he will remain until his forever home is ready at Simbonga Game Reserve & Sanctuary.
Horton says that donations are the greatest need for the organization to continue its efforts in Ukraine, and all donations will go directly toward the group’s efforts including distributing pet food, providing meals to refugees through food banks, veterinary support, and more.
“Right now, if you can go to greatgood.org and make a donation, it will definitely help in a very tough situation to a lot of people and their pets,” Horton said.