I want to adopt an animal from the shelter that survived hostilities and occupation. How to prepare for this? What can go wrong? Will it love me or miss its owners? Important and detailed instructions

Oksana Rasulova
Yuliana Skibitska
I want to adopt an animal from the shelter that survived hostilities and occupation. How to prepare for this? What can go wrong? Will it love me or miss its owners? Important and detailed instructions

Kateryna Bandus / «Бабель»

Not just Ukrainian people suffer from Russians, but also animals. Due to hostilities and occupation, many of them remain alone: some of their owners were killed or deported, some were lost during the evacuation, some simply could not be taken care of, and some were abandoned. Because of this, many cats, dogs, and other animals ended up in shelters, others were taken by animal volunteers or simply indifferent people. Now the animals can find new owners. But itʼs necessary to carefully prepare for this. "Babel" together with Kateryna Gordiienko, who has been helping the "Sirius" shelter for nine years, explains the medical nuances, what behavior can be expected from the animal, and whether it is necessary to be afraid that the old owners will want to take it back.

I want to adopt an animal that has survived hostilities or occupation. How to understand that my desire is correct?

Adopting a pet is a very serious step. Like the birth of a child. A mature person prepares, calculates, reads literature, asks friends who already have animals about their experiences.

People often call and say that they spontaneously want to take a rescued animal. They succumb to emotions, especially if they saw a touching post on social networks or in the mass media, but the next day realize that they arenʼt ready for the adaptation process.

When I hear about a spontaneous decision, I explain how much it costs to care for the animal, the problems and specifics that may arise — then people usually say that they will think about it, but eventually they donʼt come back with their request.

That is, your decision will be truly responsible if you realistically calculate the impact of the animal on your life — and not only positive one.

I see animals from the war zone end up in shelters, but sometimes they are given away by animal volunteers or locals who have left and taken them with themselves. Where is it better to find a new pet?

Each option can be suitable. In the shelter, the animal is examined by doctors and washed. You can take the animal from animal volunteers, and take it out of the danger zone by yourself, but it is important not only to save it, but also to ensure proper conditions afterwards.

How and in what condition do animals get to shelters?

They can be passed on by animal volunteers and people who just found them on the street. For pets, coming to the shelter can be very stressful, because they are not used to so many other animals.

Often the animals are burnt, injured, exhausted. They must be examined by a veterinarian, because first of all they need to be given help. And then caregivers find out whether they have owners.

How to understand that the animal no longer has owners? And whether they search for it?

According to Ukrainian law, there are two months to search for the owner or hostess of an animal found on the street. At the shelter, we first make an announcement, and if no one responds, then we can pass it on to new owners. That is, if you want to take a pet found after deoccupation of, for example, Bucha, you may not worry — two months have already passed.

However, even shelters donʼt always wait for two months. In fact, it takes a few weeks [for the owner to appear] if the animal is really wanted. I can say from my experience that this happens very rarely.

It happens that people left the animal in the chaos of the evacuation. In the first days after the deoccupation of Kyiv, Chernihiv, or Sumy oblasts, they returned and looked for their pets, but they were already taken abroad by volunteers — it was too fast. I know stories about how people still found their pets in Poland.

Sometimes the owners return, find those who took the animal, and threaten or blackmail them. However, even in this case, it is necessary to act in the interests of the animal — perhaps it will be better with its owners. Each situation must be decided separately.

Two months have passed, no one is looking for the animal. I think my decision has been made, and I will take my pet home. What should be there?

At home there should be things that belong to this particular animal. The first ones is bowls for water and food. It is more important for dogs to have their own place to sleep than for cats. But cats should have a toilet with a special filler, not newspaper or sand.

For dogs, it is important to have means to treat ticks, fleas and worms. They should be applied monthly. And the more expensive they are, the more reliable they will be. Also prepare special food. For some animals, it is precisely the medical one that is needed.

You can wash the animal with a flea treatment, for example, but you should not do this unless you have the experience. Cats can become almost rabid during bathing, and dogs can also become frightened. Animals from the combat zone may be afraid of the sound of water flowing from the faucet, so you need to fill a basin with water and wash the animal carefully. If you do not have such experience, contact a groomer or friends who own animals. You can also call a zookeeper or shelter to ask for advice.

This is a basic set, but donʼt skimp on it.

How to draw up documents for an animal that I take from the shelter?

Just like in any other case. A veterinary passport is issued at the clinic. Some institutions cannot issue it, instead they give documents with a list of vaccinations and treatment. With it, you can get a vet passport at a state clinic.

Each animal must have a passport with information about its vaccinations, diseases, sterilization, microchip, and owners. This was the case until February 24. Without this document, you cannot move around the country or go abroad, some veterinarians do not accept animals for treatment without vaccination records. This document does not indicate whether the animal experienced combat.

Can the animal develop special diseases due to the experience they had?

It depends on it and what it has experienced. In any case, you should take it to the doctor, even if the animal was at the shelter and doesnʼt look sick. Often animals have experienced exhaustion and dehydration, have problems with the digestive system, because there was no normal nutrition.

Diseases can be different. For example, catsʼ emotional state and health are closely related. Therefore, if a cat is in stressful conditions for a long time, it will almost one hundred percent get sick. Kidneys or heart will be affected, for example. Frightened cats usually burrow into holes, hide when they feel danger. Instead, dogs behave differently — they run out into open space, run after their owners, look for food. Therefore, they often have wounds from shells, fragments, burns. Dogs were more visible to the invaders, so they were often shot on purpose.

We must be prepared for operations and expensive treatment. A blood test, a general examination will help detect the disease, even if the animal looks healthy. If you saved an animal yourself, you can open a crowdfunding campaign for its treatment — people respond to this.

And if the animal suffers from some infectious disease? Maybe something else didnʼt show up during the incubation period? Do I need vaccinations?

Any decisions about vaccination are up to the doctor, it can be different in each case. Animals must be vaccinated against rabies and against viral diseases. If you have adopted an animal about which you have no information, the doctor must analyze the situation. Even if the animal has already been vaccinated before, it will not get worse from another dose. In addition, there may be individual problems due to the epidemiological situation in the occupied territory.

I am afraid that because of the experienced stress, the animal will behave badly. What should I expect?

The most common fear of such animals is loud sounds. They probably heard a lot of explosions. So the sound of water, thunder, the roar of a closed door, the sound of lowered curtains, loud noises from the street, firecrackers or fireworks can be frightening. They may also be afraid of men if they have been in contact with occupiers who have hurt them.

However, the most important thing is not what the animal is afraid of, but how it behaves when frightened. There are those who simply wait out the fear, and there are those who have physical problems — for example, the animal constantly wants to go to the toilet. There may be a defensive reaction to fear that looks like aggression. This is natural behavior.

How not to scare it even more?

First of all, carefully observe how the animal behaves and what it reacts to. The triggers you have noticed should be avoided. You have to be ready for a compromise or discomfort — for example, go out for a walk earlier, when there will be no animals and people there at all. Whether to decide what to do if the animal is afraid of the sound of a hair dryer or an air conditioner. You will have to change something in your life.

If you notice a problem, contact a specialist.

Do I need to consult an animal psychologist when I adopt an animal that has survived combat operations?

If you see a problem you canʼt solve, yes. The animalʼs reaction to triggers may or may not fade over time. It is important to know who you can turn to and not think that these are just whims.

Is animal combat stress lifelong?

Of course, over time, the impact of the experience will weaken, the animal will get used to a different life. But the experience does not pass without a trace, although it is very difficult to predict which consequences are short-term and which will not pass soon. We must be prepared for the fact that the problem is for life, and it will not be easy to deal with it. Although this may not happen.

Inbred and outbred animals seem to experience stress differently. Who is better to choose then?

In fact, choosing according to this criterion is not entirely correct. For pets, the experience can really be more stressful. But as for the breed, it is simply certain characteristics of the animal, and not a guarantee of stress resistance. Many people believe that outbred animals are more enduring and get sick less, but this is not entirely true. They can also become seriously ill, have a hard time coping with combat or evacuation, and need special nutrition.

Instead, it is important to pay attention to the characteristics of different breeds. Often purebred animals can have genetic problems. For example, pugs have a weak heart and snore. Some purebred dogs can eat only one type of food. If you decided to take a purebred animal, it is your experience with a specific breed or really good knowledge about it that is important. Especially now.

What should I do with the animal if hostilities start again or I have to flee?

You need to have a "survival backpack" for it. Everyone can collect it, based on their own experience about their pet. You should already have a supply of fodder, for example, and you should take enough fodder for the journey. A carrier, if the animal needs it, must also be prepared. For cats, you need to have a supply of filler. It is important to have all the necessary vaccinations, chip and passport by that time.

If possible evacuation with an animal scares you, then do not take it from the shelter or animal volunteers now. It must be understood that hostilities are with Ukrainians, perhaps, for a long time, just like the threat of evacuation. Therefore, if you are afraid that you will not take the pet out, it is better not to take a risk.

I dare to take the animal home. I am not afraid of the costs of medical care, possible behavioral problems and a change in the rhythm of life. But Iʼm afraid it wonʼt love me the way it loved her former master.

This is a common fear. But itʼs not justified. Indeed, you can walk down the street with your dog in 10 years, it will see its old master, remember him and run to meet him. But that doesnʼt mean it wonʼt love you.

Dogs show sadness in a more pronounced way than cats. Animals may not be interested in games or walks, they may remember their former life for a long time. Their behavior may change over time, and they may show less appreciation for you taking them home. But they appreciate and love those who love them, care for them, do pleasant things and donʼt offend. Animals are grateful and faithful creatures. They appreciate the chance for a new life that is given to them. Especially adult animals.

The animal will be able to love you as much as the first owner. Just donʼt expect incredible feedbck right away, because you too may not live up to someoneʼs expectations, and thatʼs okay. You just have to love the animal and give it a chance for a happy life, especially after what it went through during the war.

Translated from Ukrainian by Anton Semyzhenko.

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