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South Florida-based Big Dog Ranch Rescue has packed its bags and traveled to Eastern Europe to help displaced dogs from war-torn Ukraine find safe and loving homes as their owners were either forced to flee or killed by the ongoing Russian invasion.
“We just felt for those dogs, we felt what was going on…when you’re bombed and your house is in rubble, sometimes you just have to get yourself and your kids out. Sometimes you just don’t ways to be able to take your pets with you, ”Lauree Simmons, founder and CEO of Big Dog Ranch Rescue, told Fox News Digital via Zoom from a shelter in Poznan, Poland, which is used to house many dogs. moved.
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The dogs were separated from their owners amid the war sparked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine nearly three months ago. Simmons’ group will attempt to reunite them with their owners and find homes for those now without owners.
“A lot of these people are very, very compassionate and caring about their animals,” Simmons said.
Big Dog Ranch Rescue has opened and will operate the shelter in Poland which is expected to be needed for at least four to six months.
Big Dog Ranch Rescue has been rescuing dogs in distress since Simmons founded the group in 2008, and she’s helped reunite pets with owners after natural disasters, works with veterans to prepare rescue dogs to become service dogs and pairs older animals with seniors who need companionship. The group celebrated the rescue of over 50,000 dogs earlier this year and became a global voice for animal rights. Along the way, Simmons has been targeted by liberal media for hosting events at former President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club in Florida, but she doesn’t think politics should impact the issue of know if these dogs are set aside.
“Animals bring all walks of life [together] and whether you’re conservative or liberal or democrat or republican, it really doesn’t matter right now,” she said. “What matters is helping these people who have lost everything and running for their lives and to help these poor animals that are left behind.”
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Simmons said the number of dogs left homeless by the Russian invasion is “more than you can count”, and she estimated the total could be in the “hundreds of thousands”. Big Dog Ranch Rescue specifically identified about 300 displaced dogs in a specific “small town” in the war-torn nation. She saw a variety of breeds and sizes, ranging from purebred sheepdogs to mixes of all types.
“Many, many animals have been left behind,” Simmons said. “Big Dog Ranch Rescue used to help with hurricanes, floods. It was a little harder because it’s halfway around the world and we don’t speak the language, but see the photos dogs with their legs blown off and dogs out there trying to find water and food and ghost town areas where everyone is left behind and dogs with burns on their backs, and we said that we had to help. We had to go.
On Sunday, the first truck carrying dogs from hard-hit regions of Ukraine such as Mariupol and Dnipro arrived at the shelter in Poland. The first 20 dogs to arrive at the shelter were part of a four-day trip inside a cramped van that included everything from car trouble, fuel supply issues, paperwork and documentation issues . However, for the group of Ukrainian women who helped transport the dogs to safety, overcoming obstacles has become a daily routine since Russia invaded their country.
“One of the Ukrainian women that we house here who goes to work here on a daily basis in this shelter, helping to take care of the dogs, has been living in a bomb shelter for over 30 days with her dogs and people would like to be in the bomb shelter and they would have pets and they would leave without them. So she ended up with several dogs to care for that weren’t even hers,” Simmons said.
“It was every day, more and more dogs were being abandoned in this area who had no way to find food, find water, find shelter. They flew several feet and had tremors and a brain injury because of it,” she continued. “He’s recovering, he’s only a four-month-old puppy, but he’ll have permanent damage because of it.
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Other dogs were dehydrated, and Simmons said they were “all very skinny”, and many needed vital fluids and treatment. Big Dog Ranch Rescue had hired a full-time vet to look after them, stocked the Polish shelter with scales, medicine and everything the dogs needed to survive, and received a food donation from Royal Canin. Next, she will travel to Romania to help another shelter that has received an influx of pets as Ukrainians fight for their lives.
Ukrainian dogs won’t be available for adoption for several months, as they must be quarantined and found to be 100% healthy before going anywhere. Many of them will likely end up at the Big Dog Ranch Rescue, and Americans who want to help the cause can simply adopt one of the pets Simmons and his team have already rescued.
“We have 702 healthy, ready-to-adop dogs in our facility right now,” Simmons said. “Creating space for our rescue allows us to have space to save another life.”
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Big Dog Ranch Rescue doesn’t just help the animals, it also hires now homeless Ukrainians to work with the dogs.
“Giving them a home and giving them a job and a purpose for something they love, which is animals, and helping them get back on their feet is almost as rewarding as saving the animals,” Simmons said. .
Big Dog Ranch Rescue has also partnered with Planting Peace, a global non-profit organization that focuses on humanitarian and environmental initiatives. Simmons thinks it’s important for Americans to know that it’s extremely difficult for Ukrainians to reach the border safely. She has already heard tragic tales of devastation and chaos from people affected by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine.
“Horror stories of people who have lost loved ones and family members and their homes are in shambles and their lives are destroyed because of a very cruel and selfish man,” she said. “It’s sad to see so much grief, not only for the animals, but for the Ukrainian people.”
When the first truck carrying displaced Ukrainian dogs arrived in Poland on Sunday evening, it didn’t take long for Simmons to know she had made the right decision to fly halfway around the world and help.
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“Just to see this change from when they got out of that van to now and playing and it’s so rewarding,” Simmons said. “I think dogs know when they’re rescued and they’re in a safe place and they have loving arms around them, food and shelter they know.”
Big Dog Ranch Rescue accepts donations and has a mission to “rescue 5,000 dogs each year, care for them and place them with loving families, and educate people about proper dog care and the importance of sterilization,” according to the organization. website.