Two weeks ago, a Northern Virginia veterinarian overwhelmed with the urge to bring some relief to Ukraine packed her bags and flew there to use her abilities as a trained veterinarian to help animals and try to keep them alive in hopes of a reunion with their owners.
When Dr. Courtney Katsur returned home, she spoke to News4 Washington about the cats and dogs that she assisted.
One dog that stands out in her memory is a black and white canine survivor who wouldn’t leave home — even though that home had been shelled to pieces.
“There were some bombed homes where dogs just remained and actually stayed there and wouldn’t leave,” Katsur said. “I went to people’s homes, too, that couldn’t afford care at this time. [They] could barely afford their own food.”
Katsur, a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, took leave from Town & Country Animal Hospital in Fairfax, Virginia, to volunteer with a British-based organization called “Breaking the Chains.”
In Ukraine, she treated animals separated from their people, as well as those that had to be left behind as Russian forces pulverized the country.
The aim is to stabilize the animals and reunite them with their family, or adopt them out to loving homes.
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At one point, she treated four-legged patients at a bombed-out animal shelter filled with hundreds of dogs. There were desperately low resources.
“It’s scary, but they need the help, and the reason why even more so is because it’s getting harder to bring the pets into Poland and Romania to get them out of Ukraine,” she said.
The group drove hours every day, helping animals and delivering badly needed supplies of pet food.
Katsur’s professional composure breaks a bit as she tries to describe the enormity of the pain she saw, pain she had taken an oath to relieve.
“Seeing everything is very, very humbling. It was really devastating and it’s going to take a really long time to rebuild,” she said.
Before she had returned to the U.S., Katsur vowed to start a GoFundMe to send badly needed pet food and medicine to Ukraine. She also wants to build a new rescue shelter and fund the salary of a Ukrainian vet to permanently staff it.
Katsur said the need for volunteer vets remains urgent because some have lasted only a day or two before leaving, overwhelmed by what they encounter.