The founder of a Jacksonville animal rescue group has joined the "loosely organized mayhem" in Ukraine.
For ten days, an animal rescuer from Northeast Florida traveled to Poland to assist European shelters and rescue groups in transporting pets from war-torn Ukraine to Polish NGOs.
Mike Merrill, the founder and executive director of Florida Urgent Rescue Inc., or FUR, was part of repeated group missions that crossed the border into Ukraine and rescued a total of 44 dogs and six cats before returning to Poland. He claimed he was never afraid of being attacked. His attention was drawn to the creatures.
While many Ukrainians with pets are bringing their pets with them when they flee, Merrill, who lives in St. Augustine, said, some animals are being turned away at buses and trains. They must choose between bringing their family to safety and leaving their pets behind. We all want to see these animals reunited if at all possible, as rescue organisations working in Ukraine try to get them to safety.
Many animals are also stranded in Ukrainian shelters, according to him, and rescuers are attempting to reach them.
What happens once they get them to the border? That's where we're attempting to assist he stated
Merrill planned to return to Florida this week and return to Ukraine in two weeks with reinforcements.
He became involved in the pet-rescue operation because of his nonprofit disaster relief experience, which includes hurricanes in Florida and the Bahamas, as well as tornadoes in Kentucky.
The issues are remarkably similar, he explained. People are fleeing, unsure whether they will ever be able to return home, and animals are destitute and in danger. The difference in a cyclone is that no one is bombing, and no one is preventing aid personnel from entering.
Merrill spent one day assisting rescue groups from France, Austria, and Portugal, among others.
He visited two Irish rescue groups who had taken many canines from Ukraine to Poland on another occasion. He took two of the dogs to a local nonprofit that managed a veterinary facility, Orodek Rehabilitacji Zwierat Chronionynch W Przemysl, or the Center for Rehabilitation of Protected Animals in Przemysl, because they were injured.
The conditions were described in a Tuesday post on the center's Facebook page, which also asked for public assistance.
"We're right on the border, and we're the ones that are closest to an armed war right now. We've been on the front lines of animal rescue since the beginning "as stated in the article "It is the most difficult situations that come to us; we provide first aid, administer immunizations, and assist in locating a safe location.
"So much of this turmoil is beyond our ability to handle. Every day, dozens of animals are adopted by us, and many of them must undergo mandatory quarantine "as stated in the article We don't want to turn anyone away who needs help. Please... assist us in saving the animals."
The rescued pups are unable to go directly to the United States due to a temporary prohibition imposed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on the importation of dogs from countries classified as high-risk for rabies, including Ukraine. However, Poland is not included.
As a result, rescue groups in Poland can send canines to the United States, freeing up space in Polish shelters for more arriving animals from Ukraine. Similar tactics have been utilized in Florida shelters to clear up room before and after hurricanes.
Pets from Louisiana are being evacuated to Jacksonville, and the humane society is looking for fosters and adopters.
Rescue organizations can also transfer dogs and cats from Ukraine's shelters to Europe and Canada, as well as bring cats from Ukraine to the United States.
"Given the distance, we'll need assistance from a charter business, private plane, or airline," Merrill added. "We'll do everything we can to collaborate with European partners in any case."
He claims to have met and been impressed by numerous dedicated animal rescue workers and volunteers from all around Europe.
Oksana, a woman who runs a temporary animal refuge in Ukraine, was one of them. She accepts animals from all across the country "and detaining them until they can be transported across the border It's a massive undertaking with a massive amount of work ahead of it Merrill explained. Everyone here refers to Oksana as an angel."
Yannick, a German architect who took a leave of absence from his profession to come to Poland and assist, was also present.
Here are some methods to assist Ukraine and its people.
Yannick has been a rock star, Merrill said, "traveling back and forth across the border numerous times rescue animals.He's working as a freelancer, donating his time and helping out wherever he can.
It can be difficult to get the animals out of Ukraine. Per individual, Polish legislation normally allows no more than five animals.
Unless they can find two more individuals to travel with them, a vehicle with 20 dogs and two persons will be turned back, Merrill added.
The Polish border crossing at Medyka amended its policy to allow five animals per car one day. Yannick was transporting a group of people, including Merrill, on a rescue operation at the time. Yannick switched to a different crossing at Korczowa after learning of the change before arriving at Medyka.
It was a lengthier journey each way, but there were no complications, and the animals were transported securely, Merrill added.
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This is a dynamic environment with a lot of moving components and frequent adjustments, he said. I'm constantly impressed by the number of people from all over the world that volunteer to help. With so many individuals running in so many directions and the sheer size of the situation, I can only describe it as loosely structured anarchy.
The continuous task, he continued, is to find the dogs the ultimate safe refuge.
He stated, There are a lot more creatures in peril. We'll continue to assist where we can, on both a tactical and strategic level. This is a major issue that, sadly, does not appear to be going away anytime soon.
If only Americans surrendering their pets because they are relocating could see Ukrainian families crossing the Polish border with their children, bags, and pets, he remarked.
Imagine that your life as you know it has come to an end. Everything you possess is packed into one suitcase or backpack, and you're not sure if you'll ever be able to return home he stated You wouldn't consider evacuating without your pet, though. The Ukrainian people can teach us a lot.