Jakub Kotowicz loves animals so much he decided he wanted to spend his life healing them.
But the Polish vet never thought he’d suddenly be inundated with animals rescued from a war next door.
Kotowicz is with the ADA foundation, a no-kill animal shelter in Przemysl, Poland, just 30 minutes from the border with Ukraine.
Since the bombs started falling in Ukraine, he and the other veterinarians and staff have not slept much at all because the need to find shelter for displaced animals isn’t abating.
ADA foundation staff members are risking their lives driving into Ukraine to help empty out shelters, and they are offering space and veterinary services for the animals that refugees cannot keep with them or carry over the border. The shelter animals are in danger of being abandoned and then starving to death as war surrounds them.
On a recent day, Dr. Kotowicz hoists a large German shepherd on the table. She was rescued from Ukraine. The tag on her collar reads ‘number 2,’ but the staff has named her Moon.
“She is in bad shape,” says Kotowicz, as he tries to draw blood.
Moon is dehydrated so it’s hard to find a vein.
But she has much bigger problems. An older dog, she has a tumor protruding from one of her mammary glands.
Another veterinarian holds her still while Dr. Kotowicz manages to draw blood from her dehydrated body. Then he starts on her ears, digging out a large amount of wax and dirt riddled with mites.
All the while, Moon is docile and still. But when the vet checks her temperature, Moon whimpers a bit. When he removes the thermometer, she relaxes and nuzzles her caregivers.
“We have to remove this tumor so she will need to have surgery,” Dr. Kotowicz says as he pets Moon’s head. “I hate to see them suffering like this.”
Down the hall, there are a whole host of dogs and cats, most of them brought in from a huge truck that has just come back from the war-torn areas of Ukraine.
In normal times, ADA Foundation provides care for any injured or abandoned animal – not just cats and dogs. The shelter not only offers medical care for the animals but also helps socialize them so the pets in their care can be adopted and the wild animals can be set free.
In yet another room at the foundation, more animal war stories. A little girl is holding a tiny goat named Sasha on a soft warm bed made for him. Sasha had a serious problem with his legs that the veterinarians at ADA mended. Sasha’s little front legs are bound with gauze tape. But he is rambunctious.
“A lady from Ukraine brought him with her. She wanted to save him,” Dr. Radosław Fedaczyńsky said. “He would have starved to death if he was left in Ukraine with no milk.”
The lady, Dr Fedaczyńsk said, dropped him off as she had fled the war in Ukraine. Cradling Sasha before she left, she said she didn’t have a place to take him because she was looking for a place to stay for herself first. But she left with one instruction. She will be back for Sasha.
“This lady [said], ‘I love so much this animal and this animal is part of the family. We want him back when war will end,’” Dr. Fedaczyńsky.
Officials at ADA foundation said they don’t need food – they have plenty of that – but they need just about everything else to help the hoards of animals they are saving. That includes medical equipment, medicine, and funds to pay for transport.
The Network for Animals, a charity with offices in London and Oldsmar, Florida, is one group trying to help ADA foundation and other shelters to secure funds but the number of animals and their needs are great. The veterinarians are working day and night with little sleep.
They feel strongly that the animals displaced by war should be cared for.
“They are part of the family,” Dr. Kotowicz said.