They’re arriving with dogs on leads, cats in their arms, or struggling to carry animals in baskets, not wanting to leave any family member behind. PETA Germany is currently working at the border between Poland, Ukraine. It has never seen anything similar. The conditions are terrible. People who have travelled long distances have faced 30 hour queues with their animals in the freezing cold and snow. These refugees consider their animal companions family and are unable to leave them behind.
Many thousands of people are fleeing Ukraine by foot, car, train, or bus. They’ve lost almost everything except each other. After such long journeys they have to feed their animals and themselves with whatever they can. It would be cruel to separate them.
Many EU countries have relaxed the requirements for animals to enter the country. They must be microchipped and vaccinated. However, the UK does not have this requirement. Refugees who want to come to the UK to stay with their families would have to give up their beloved animals. Many would not do this, leaving these families without a home. There’s enough inhumanity in this dreadful war without the UK adding to it.
One Ukrainian woman, Crimsee, and her cat companion stumbled to the border, huddled in her arms. He was her world, and she couldn’t leave him behind to fend for himself as bullets and bombs rained down. So she’d carried him every step of the 37 miles to the Polish border.
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PETA Germany staff found her barely able to stand when they arrived. She was still holding on to Crimsee, who was wrapped in her coat. The team provided her with food and water, as well as a bed to rest in. They also assisted with paperwork so that they could all stay together in Poland, as they embark on uncertain futures as refugees.
PETA urges anyone who leaves their home to bring their animal companions. They are dependent on their human family to survive and secure their future. Our partners in Romania offer to vaccinate dogs, cats, and carry out blood tests. They also provide food and veterinary treatment. This is a time when many countries are taking action. with similar offers. PETA Germany, a non-governmental organization, managed to cross the border into Ukraine this morning with 20 tonnes of food, and other supplies for shelters. There, brave workers refused to leave, but ran out of everything.
Animals are not like human civilians. However, they are often the most affected. This is why the UK must include them in its humanitarian response. The UK could eliminate any risk of spreading rabies by allowing non-microchipped and vaccinated animals to enter the country under controlled conditions. After a period, the animals could be returned to their families.
It would be unconscionable to refuse refuge in the UK for entire families and their animal companions in these extremely difficult circumstances. Not doing this is not only risking the lives of other animals, but it also risks human lives. Last night, I heard from a woman desperate for her mother to join her in the UK, but she is refusing to leave without their family’s dog.
Extraordinary circumstances require extraordinary and swift action. The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs must act Now to temporarily suspend legal entry requirements in order to help save as many lives as possible.
Mimi Bekhechi, vice president, UK Europe, Australia and Europe, PETA UK.