Andrea Cisternino runs an animal shelter in Kyiv, Ukraine in the company of over 400 dogs, cats, goats, sheep, cows, horses, and pigs. On February 24th, he informed his Facebook followers that the Russians had invaded, and that he would rather risk his life than abandon his animals.
“Except the bombing this morning at 5:00 and the artillery shots a little ago,” he wrote, “now there is silence, you can feel in the distance some plane engine or a helicopter passed over the shelter now. Whatever the noise we should be careful, we live with anxiety but we try to be positive.”
Amid shaking walls and the smell of gunpowder, Cisternino remains in place, thankfully with a stockpile of resources he started gathering years earlier. No one is able to reach the physical site at this time.
Originally a fashion photographer in Milan, the Italian native moved to Ukraine over a decade ago, married, and dedicated his time to providing shelter and care for the country’s strays. He is unfortunately no stranger to the hardship of these efforts, having been targeted by citizens seeking a government-offered reward for killing stray dogs. In the years since, locals seem to be more accepting and respectful of his work.
For now, he provides regular updates to his Facebook page, with photos of himself and various shelter residents, and currently believes he is as safe as possible with all his four-legged guests, his wife, and three shelter volunteers.
BARK has partnered with IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare), a global animal welfare organization that is working hard with partners on the ground to keep Ukrainian refugees & their pets safe as they seek shelter. We’ve seen how people are fleeing with their pets or choosing to stay in dangerous areas if they can’t bring them, and we understand. Our pets are family.
With that, BARK has pledged to donate up to $25,000 in immediate matching funds to aid IFAW with their work in Ukraine—you can donate here if you wish to help us amplify this impact!
We also urge you to share this information verified by IFAW to help people and pets in danger stay together. They’ve collected a list of resources for families fleeing Ukraine with their pets (details verified as of March 1, 2022).
To quote IFAW directly on how to use this info: “Please share this information with anyone who may be trying to evacuate with their pets. Several countries have plans to accept pets at border crossings.“