A British veterinarian who has returned from delivering essential veterinary supplies to the Ukraine-Poland border this week has related horrendous accounts of horses being maimed or killed, while grooms and carers risk their own lives by refusing to abandon them.
» Listen to a podcast from BEVA’s David Rendle on providing aid to Ukraine:
British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA) president-elect David Rendle delivered essential veterinary supplies from the UK including antibiotics and pain-relieving medications and worked with British Equestrian and World Horse Welfare to help treat and to relocate horses from Ukraine.
While there he received pictures and testimony of several attacks being carried out by Russian forces on stables in Bucha, Irpin and other equestrian premises north of Kyiv.
Ukraine vet Anatoly Levitsky, who is working in Kyiv, told of a small stable near Borodianka where the horses were used for equine-assisted services for children. When the war started, the owner and her child emigrated to Poland and her husband was conscripted into the Ukrainian army.
“When Russian bandits in army uniform came to the village, they set fire to the stable and started shooting the horses that tried to escape,” Levitsky said.
“Some horses ran away, others were wounded, and some were burned. After the building was burned, Russian soldiers went away and horses that escaped were wandering around the village and trying to find the feed. Step by step, people living in the village collected the horses and are keeping one or two horses in their yards.”
He said veterinarian Zhenia Verbinets came to the village to remove several bullets from an injured horse. “She obtained information that horses have nothing to eat. The next morning a truck with hay was sent to this village. Maybe this action will save lots of other animals.”
Levitsky said they were thankful to the people who were looking after horses in their yards. “Now we are at the stage when food for horses is more important than the medicine, but everything is connected.” Levitsky said that while he wrote, another veterinarian, Zhenia Gorpinich, was treating a horse with colic “and of course needs medicine or even surgery”.
Rendle struggled to understand the motivation for the deliberate acts of cruelty being inflicted on the region’s horses.
“Random shootings, stabbings and burnings are widely reported and pictured on social media, we have no idea how many horses are dead and how many injured, but it has to be a significant number.
“Some of the lorry drivers I have met coming out have been shot at, shelled and beaten up, evacuating surviving horses. They are taking risks that we would consider totally unacceptable to move animals out and supplies in; I have nothing but admiration for the bravery of the Ukrainian people,” Rendle said.
“Ever conscious that there is an equal humanitarian need you feel very small and rather cowardly that you aren’t permitted to go into Ukraine to help the people and animals that require treatment.”
The British Equine Veterinary Association and American Association of Equine Practitioners are working together to support vets in Ukraine whilst they are not permitted to provide direct practical help.
There are dire shortages of medicines and materials in the areas where they are needed, and the collaboration is doing what it can to get veterinary and humanitarian supplies to the vets they are in contact with.
They are working to establish safe stables in the west of Ukraine to get horses and their owners away from likely areas of combat in the east. Previously people have had no option but to turn horses into the woods before fleeing or they have stayed to look after their animals despite the risks to themselves.
BEVA, in association with the British Equestrians for Ukraine Fund, is calling for urgent support to help fund veterinary treatment, supplies and the safe relocation of Ukraine’s endangered horses.