Returning recently from “deployment” to Poland to help stranded Ukrainian pets, San Diego Humanitarian Association president Dr. Gary Weizmann said the best thing San Diego can do to support the humanitarian veterinary effort is to help existing charities already there.
“I was desperate to find a way to go and see if I could help,” said Weizmann, who had just returned from 10 days in Przemyśl, Poland on a mission to provide veterinary care, where he helped set up a border crossing. Veterinary Clinic. “We heard from a lot of people who thought about animal welfare, and an attempt to minimize what was happening to them. We were all shocked by what was happening.”
Weizmann noted that SDHS has partnered with Greater Good Charities based in Tucson, Ariz, along with other non-animal groups to help Ukrainian pet refugees in Romania and Poland.
“Gritter Good wanted to go and asked if my team and I could help in any way,” Weizmann noted, adding, “We had to get the land, so we wanted to do a reconnaissance trip first to find out what might be needed in this long and horrible experience.”
Greater Good Charities works to help people, pets and the planet by mobilizing in response to the need and empowerment of the good.
SDHS’s chief veterinarian said his team had run into problems from the start after landing in Warsaw, the capital of Poland. “The team was attacked at COVID, though there was not much sign of it with fewer people hiding more and without social distancing,” Weizmann said. “A lot of these people ended up being tested positive and were in quarantine in Romania for a week. I stayed in touch with them on the phone.”
Weizmann encounters two subgroups of Ukrainian animals overseas. “The first was animals who were lucky enough to have owners who took good care of them and carried them by hand across the border,” he said. “The second group was much more tragic, animals having to be left behind, not because people did not want to bring them in, but because in the last two weeks the authorities have stopped the migration of large dogs across the border.”
Weizmann added that “some dogs remained tied to the border fence,” while other wanderers “took care of themselves. Some rescue teams set up temporary shelters for animals and I worked with them.”
When asked if refugee animals are available for adoption in the United States, Weizmann said an alternative was not, and probably never will be, available.
“The problem is that these animals have to go back to their people who were forced to leave them behind,” he said. “Our hope is that their families will come back to take them. San Diego is far from the front of that war, and it will be a very difficult journey for these animals.”
However, Weizmann noted that “Europe is flooded with animals and put them in shelters until they enter a new home.”
The vet said he already wanted to return, even though he was exhausted from his recent trip to Poland. He added that SDHS’s current game plan is to continue working with major charities to determine what really needs the veterinarians of countries that receive pets of Ukrainian refugees.
“We will wait until we see what the veterinarians need there, and then we will help them (live) wherever they go, which can definitely be back on the Ukrainian side of the border,” Weizmann said.