FORT COLLINS, Colorado (CBS4) – As millions continue to flee their homes in Ukraine, many are taking their pets with them. Last month, a Fort Collins veterinarian was among countless people who stepped up to make it possible, on the paperwork side of making sure animals are healthy.
Dr. Jon Geller leads the Street Dog Coalition, a non-profit organization that provides veterinary care for pets of the homeless and those at risk of becoming homeless.
“It’s called street medicine,” Geller said. “We have to use our hands and our brains and talk to people about what’s going on with their pets to make our best guess.”
For seven years, Geller’s nonprofit has focused on the United States, but last month footage from Ukraine compelled him to do something about it.
“I realized that these Ukrainian refugees were a lot like the people we work with,” Geller said. “It’s women and children and their suitcases and they’re dragging their pets.”
Soon he was thousands of miles away setting up a veterinary clinic along the eastern tip of Romania, just across the Danube from Ukraine.
For 11 days, Geller and veterinarians around the world dewormed, microchipped and vaccinated refugee pets before helping to obtain European Union pet passports. The group also cared for abandoned animals and even people.
“The pets were pretty healthy, and the people were pretty healthy as well,” Geller said. “There was certainly a lot of stress in the pets, but I was really impressed by the stoicism of the women and children in the face of very hard and biting wind, difficult conditions and an unknown future.”
While the temporary clinic was far from a war zone, Geller saw both fear and resilience. Now back home, he would happily take that leap of faith again.
“These pets are for many people providing a purpose. They certainly provide companionship, even in some cases maybe protection,” he said. “If things escalate and there could be a million refugees heading in that direction… Yes, I would welcome the opportunity to turn back.”
The temporary clinic is still functioning and volunteers from all over the world are still helping Ukrainian refugees.
Typically, the nonprofit would apply for a grant and seek donations before starting a project, but in this case, it was very urgent to get started. You can donate to the effort on the coalition’s website.