West Vancouver retiree heading back to Ukraine to help abandoned animals

When Dan Fine returned from his first trip volunteering at animal shelters on the Polish-Ukrainian border in late April, he immediately felt compelled to return to continue helping pets that have been left behind in the war.

“It was on a whim I was there last time, to really see what I could do to help. And I felt good about that, we did walk a lot of dogs and help them heal. But I realized it was just a drop in a bucket, and there is a much bigger problem,” said Fine, the founder of the Ukrainian War Animals Relief Fund.

That problem is overpopulation. “Ukraine did a great job of spaying and neutering before the war, they had a great program. But since the Russians invaded, they stopped that program. So we are going over to to try to help,” said Fine.

For the second trip, the retired West Vancouver tech executive has recruited an international team of veterinarians, veterinary technicians, behaviourists and other animal care experts.

“While we are there we want to do 1,000 animals – spay, neuter and vaccinate, microchip, flea treat, tick treat, clean their ears, clip their nails,” said Fine.

It will be the first trip to war zone for Seattle veterinary technician Kim Morgan, who has run spay and neuter clinics in Mexico for years.

“It scares me of course. I think it would be ridiculous if I said it didn’t bother me. But I do believe every effort will be made to keep us safe, and I do believe helping these animals is a huge calling. It’s needed,“ said Morgan.

Fine said having people like Morgan, who have experience in pop-up international spay and neuter clinics, is crucial.

“She’s used to working in weird circumstances, uncomfortable circumstances as well as the other vet techs that are coming. So we are all collaborating on the best way to do this,” said Fine.

While the nine people heading to Ukraine are all volunteering their time, the Ukrainian War Animals Relief Fund is collecting donations for much-needed supplies through GoFundMe.

“Please donate,” said Morgan. “The only way that these non-profit, these humanitarian projects happen is through donations.”

Fine knows this trip will be more complicated and riskier than his last one.

“This time instead of the Polish border, we will be in Kyiv and north of Kyiv, a little bit of danger,” he said, adding his family doesn’t want him to go.

“They think I can do it from here. I think I need to be there to show that this can be done, and I wouldn’t ask someone to do this if I’m not willing to do it myself,” said Fine. “I’m a dog guy and I love cats, I love animals. It’s something that I feel I’m good at, organizing a team.”

He admits he’s nervous as he prepares to leave for the month-long trip to Ukraine on July 4, but is ready to help.

“It’s going to be challenging, but we have got some smart people, we will figure it out, we will make it happen,” Fine said. “Game on.”

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