The escalating invasion by Russian forces has made Ukraine a very dangerous place, and countless citizens have been forced to flee their home country.
Now, one animal hero is getting involved in Ukraine, doing his part to make sure no one has to give up their pets.
Aaron Jackson, founder of the charity group Planting Peace, flew to Ukraine to provide aid to refugees. He was inspired to act after reading about Ukrainian refugees sleeping in a train station at the border between Ukraine and Poland.
“The story moved me enough that I bought a plane ticket two hours after reading it,” he wrote on Facebook.
“There I saw the true cost of war. Families fleeing their homes. Families separating from their loved ones. Families fleeing from the lives they knew. All this in freezing temperatures.”
Aaron immediately got to work making a difference. According to CNN, he helped one family — Donatien Tshikele Mubabinge, his wife Ngalula and their 2-year-old daughter Tushike — who had fled Ukraine amidst Russian bombing near their home, leaving everything behind.
After seeing them sleeping on the floor with nowhere to go, Aaron paid to get the family a hotel room and helped them search for permanent housing.
“It’s horrible why they’re leaving, but it’s inspiring at the same time — to see the human will and the human spirit and what they’re willing to do to save their own lives and the life of their child,” Aaron told CNN.
It’s small actions like that that can make a big difference for people caught up in this crisis. And lately, Aaron has found a new calling at the border: helping refugees who are fleeing with pets.
“Two million people have left Ukraine and the majority of those people are crossing into Poland, so housing has become an incredibly complex thing to find,” he told The Dodo. “It’s even more complex when you have a cat or dog, because there’s limited spaces and not every place allows animals.”
Too many people have to choose between getting to safety or keeping their beloved pet, and are even told to leave their dogs and cats behind so they can cross the border.
But Aaron and other volunteers at the border are helping refugees with pets, providing shelter for the animals until their owners can find housing.
“It’s really heartwarming to see families not give up on their pets,” Planting Peace wrote on Facebook, sharing a photo of a young refugee girl bundled up with her dog at the border.
“Escaping a war but not giving up on your dog is the most heartwarming thing.”
The charity has been working to secure pet-friendly housing for refugees, while also donating food and supplies to pets in need.
“Literally went into a pet store today and bought all their dog food and cat food for refugee pets on the border,” one Facebook post reads. “And all these dog and cat carriers that I’m holding in this pic. The food will be shipped out to all the border crossings so refugees can feed their pets.”
The refugees are grateful and eager for their help. As soon as Aaron mentioned that he had had “housing for any refugee that has a dog without housing,” a family from Ukraine immediately walked over to him and handed over their dog to the rescue.
“They don’t have any housing and they didn’t want to be homeless with their dog,” Aaron wrote. “Planting Peace put this wonderful family and happy little puppy into dog friendly housing. Now they don’t have to forfeit over their dog.”
The crisis in Ukraine is ongoing and more and more refugees show up at the border every day, many with their pets, but Aaron is committed to providing aid to them as long as it takes.
With everything the Ukrainian people have gone through in recent weeks, no one should have to give up their pet, too.
“You have these families who have traveled 100 miles, 200 miles, to get to the border and they’ve walked 50 of those miles with a dog on their back,” Aaron told The Dodo. “So if a person is willing to do that for their dog, I’m definitely not going to be the one to tell them, ‘You gotta get rid of your dog to find housing.’
“I’m going to try to do anything in my power to get them into housing with their pet — especially since they’ve already given up so much already.”
Our hearts continue to go out to the people of Ukraine. Thank you to everyone who has been helping these refugees — and their pets — during this ongoing crisis.
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