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SD Humane Society returns from Poland after helping refugee pets

“The biggest challenge is getting the number of animals that are really with people safely to the Polish side of the border,” Gary Weitzman said.

SAN DIEGO — The head of the San Diego Humane Society has just returned from the Ukrainian border.

Her goal was to keep refugees and their pets together, but it’s certainly a job that’s getting harder and harder.

Gary Weitzman has just returned from a 10 day trip to Poland where he saw it all first hand. Ukrainians devoted to their pets, in some cases they have been pressured to leave them behind and now the problem is to reunite them with their owners.

“I’m still processing it, and I think everyone is on to what’s going on,” Weitzman said.

As part of Greater Good Charities, Weitzman, a veterinarian, partnered with the International Fund for Animal Welfare where they built transporters, stocked up on medicine and offered body exams to pets of Ukrainian refugees who were able to transport their pets across the Polish border.

“I think it helps a lot that the third stop across the border is the vet tent, to make sure their animals are okay,” said Weitzman, president and CEO of the San Diego Humane Society.

CBS 8 followed Weitzman’s humanitarian effort as he left San Diego on March 27 and headed for Poland with antibiotics and supplies in hand.

A few days later, we spoke to Weitzman while he was deep in a small Polish town that borders western Ukraine, known as Medyka, where they are setting up a vet tent.

Weitzman says that at first Ukrainians were able to carry as many pets as they could.

But now Polish authorities are overwhelmed with animals and are limiting two animals per person, banning large dogs from crossing the border, leaving thousands deserted and tied to fences.

“Family members split up and bring at least two of their animals to pass their pet,” Weitzman said.

Their efforts are usually not wasted. Weitzman has handled and rescued numerous pets under pressure and in need of leashes and exams, including a stray pup who wondered in the rain and snow presumed to be from Ukraine, whom they named Salva, which means “Glory” in Ukrainian.

“We tried for a long time to get this dog out of the rain and snow,” Weitzman said.

Although life remains uncertain, Weitzman says adoptions are generally not a possibility at the moment, they just need to be able to help Ukrainians with their pets and reunite them if they have been pressured to drive them away across the border.

“The biggest challenge is getting the number of animals that are really with people safely to the Polish side of the border,” Weitzman said.

RELATED: ‘The Hardest Part Is Seeing How Completely Stressed These Animals Are’ | SDHS President helps Ukrainian refugees and their pets

RELATED WATCH: Ukrainian households refuse to leave pets behind, San Diego Humane Society urges people to help (March 2022)


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