Markham Ont. vet heads to Poland to help animals displaced by Ukraine war

Click to play video: 'Markham veterinarian heads to Poland to help animals displaced by Ukraine war'
Markham veterinarian heads to Poland to help animals displaced by Ukraine war
A Markham veterinarian is preparing to board a flight headed for Poland. His mission is to rescue and provide care for animals displaced by the war in Ukraine. Kayla McLean has the story – Mar 17, 2022

For Markham Ont. veterinarian, Cliff Redford, rescuing animals and rescuing family members is one and the same.

’Animals love you forever,’ Dr. Redford told Global News, choking back tears. “They are loyal, they are forgiving. They tug at my heart strings for sure.”

So when heartbreaking images started to flood in of refugees fleeing Ukraine, pets in hand — frightened animals caught in the war zone — Dr. Redford knew what he had to do next.

”I made the decision pretty quickly. It took me 24 hours,” said Dr. Redford.

It won’t be a solo mission. Dr. Redford will be joined by his daughter who is already in Europe. Both of them will work with animal rescue groups and animal shelters like the ADA Foundation, stationed at refugee reception centres by the Lviv border.

Story continues below advertisement

“These refugees are coming with their animals — furry members of the family.”

The animals need records of shots so that they can go onto neighboring countries that are safe, he said. That and medical aid.

”A lot of these animals are sick and injured, dehydrated, hungry, [they have] burn wounds, broken bones, some of these animals have been caught in the bombings and shelling just like people,” said Dr. Redford.

Then there are the injuries you can’t see, he says.

”There’s some PTSD from from the noises and the suffering,” said Dr. Redford. “The animals are recognizing what’s going on and they’ve lost loved ones as well.”

Some of the work may even take him into Ukraine. But concern for his safety is not top of mind.

Story continues below advertisement

“The way I look at it is, by making these animals safer and healthier in Poland, with these animals coming in from Ukraine, I’m also protecting the people too because it’s allowing them to take care of themselves and know that they are being well cared for and then they can focus on their children and parents,” said Dr. Redford.

“We all deserve to be loved and cared for and I don’t think anyone faults me for focusing on the animals,” said Dr. Redford.

Dr. Redford has been volunteering to care for animals for six years now, travelling to places like Jamaica, Egypt, India and Greece during wildfires last year, rescuing animals that had been burnt. But this will be his first time doing rescue missions in a country bordering a warzone.

“The challenges are going to be untold and limitless,” Dr. Redford acknowledged. “There’s going to be challenges with logistics, a lack of supplies, having to do with very little and kind of MacGyver things, which I’ve gotten very good at with the rescue work that I’ve done. But then I think the biggest challenge is going to be the emotional one.”

Dr. Redford’s departure flight from Toronto is booked for Monday, March 21st, but the full extent of his trip is still up in the air.

Story continues below advertisement

“I planned to go for two weeks,” he told Global News. He says his stay could end up being longer, especially if he and his team decides to bring orphaned pets from Ukraine, back to Canada.

“We’re already starting to talk to some people about potentially trying to bring some animals back, ones that are truly homeless and the families can’t recover them, or the families are gone,” said Dr. Redford. “So we may stay a little bit longer, whether that’s a couple of days or another week, to (work out the) logistics of bringing these 40 or 50 animals back to Canada.”

He’ll stay as long as needed — until he feels good about what he’s done and then return safely to his family.

A gofundme page has also been set up, Dr. Redford said, for those looking to contribute to his rescue efforts in Ukraine.

Sponsored content