Exotic animals are now housed alongside regular pets at the “Home for Rescued Animals” in Lviv, which was left behind in the rush of refugees fleeing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

In its enclosure, a milky-eyed wolf prowls. Boris the goat is bathing in the spring sunshine, his bedraggled face. From the perches of their sheltered roost, a parliament of owls looks out.

A dozen Kyiv cats are housed in a separate building. Volunteers arriving to exercise the dogs around neighbouring parkland hear dogs yowling from an industrial barn.

“Migrants who arrive from Kharkiv, Kyiv, Mykolaiv and travel to other countries via Lviv leave animals en masse,” said Orest Zalypskyy, a 24-year-old shelter manager.

According to him, his hilltop shelter in the 13th-century town of Lviv was once a “haven” for unusual animals. “We’ve become more engaged as a result of this war.”

Left Behind

Since the conflict began a month ago, the UN estimates that over 3.7 million Ukrainians have fled the nation.

Over two million of them crossed the border into Poland, where animal lovers ferried dogs, cats, parrots, and tortoises to safety, according to the AFP news agency.

Lviv, approximately 70 kilometres (45 miles) from the border, has served as the penultimate halt on Ukrainian land for those fleeing the conflict zone.

Some would-be refugees felt they couldn’t take their pets any further.

Since the fighting began, Zalypskyy estimates that his sanctuary has taken in 1,500 animals from migrants and shelters in “hot zones” to the east.

Between ten and twenty people were taken from the train station in Lviv, which had been a hotbed of disorder in the early days of the war, with carriages and platforms crammed with desperate travellers.