A pair of women from the Bay Area are taking their compassion for canines overseas by rescuing dogs from war-torn Ukraine.
Their passion for pups was sealed in partnership after Mandy Allen witnessed firsthand the horror of Ukraine's homeless pet population during a 2017 visit.
"I just love animals, so it broke my heart to see cats and dogs in the street," Allen said.
She said the lack of shelters and sterilization programs in Ukraine forced many neighbors to take in more abandoned dogs than they could handle.
"People were working to pay for rescue animals and sacrificing their own lives, like they didn't have enough food to eat for themselves," Allen said.
So, she and Jena Dzitsiuk founded Transform a Street Dog in 2018. The Pacifica-based nonprofit saves Ukraine's homeless dogs. Private donations fund medical care, foster care and adoptions.
Before COVID-19 restricted travel, Dzitsiuk and her husband would regularly visit her family in the Ukraine, and they and various volunteers would bring home healthy dogs for adoption.
"We saved them from poisoning, from bad neighborhoods. And there were some dogs in the shelters that did not get much care," Dzitsiuk explained.
And after Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022, Allen said the situation got worse for the dogs in war-torn neighborhoods and the people who've taken them in.
"Some people died because they wouldn't leave their animals," Allen said.
So far, Transform a Street Dog has rescued hundreds of pets from Ukraine. Before and after photos show the transformation.
Many have gone to Europe. About 60 dogs have found new homes in the US and Canada, like Shunka, a stray dog that got hit by a car and lost a leg.
Alyssa Marey of Union CIty adopted him in 2021. She and her fiance are thankful for Allen and Dzitsiuk's program.
"It's amazing," Marey said. "It's inspiring that they're continuing to go into this country and give these dogs a chance at a life they never would've had without them."
Transform a Street Dog is caring for about a hundred pets. About half are in foster homes. The rest are at its shelter in Kyiv. Some of them are available for adoption, and their photos are on the group's website.
"They give you so much love, and I appreciate the people who understand that and are ready to take this challenge and make the dog happy," Dzitsiuk said.
Allen added, "That's the mission of this organization: to give animals hope and animal rescuers."
This year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention temporarily banned importing dogs from countries with a high rabies risk. But there are exceptions, so Transform a Street Dog is still able to bring rescue dogs to the US, but it takes a few months.
And Allen and Dzitsiuk are only doing it for people who request dogs from Ukraine, but they do not want to contribute to the overcrowding already happening in Bay Area animal shelters.
The pair relies on private funds and welcomes donations at www.transformastreetdog.org
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