As one Ukrainian volunteer tells of the devastation they are facing
Crufts has today (24 March) thanked supporters of its Ukraine appeal, launched at the event running from March 10-13, which has raised more than £151,000 to help pets and owners impacted by the conflict and desperately in need.
Dog lovers, owners, and Crufts competitors and visitors are among thousands who have given to the appeal, which saw hundreds of donation points set up across the four-days of the show at Birmingham’s NEC, as well as an online fundraising drive. Patrick Oware, owner of Baxer, the Flat Coated Retriever who was crowned Best in Show 2022, has generously donated the £100 prize winnings to the appeal.
The Kennel Club, which runs Crufts, alongside its Charitable Trust, donated £50,000 to kick off the fundraising and help those affected by the tragic conflict, and all money donated to The Kennel Club Charitable Trust between 4 March and the final day of Crufts 2022 was ringfenced specifically for the Ukrainian appeal.
Over the four days of Crufts, competitors and visitors, both two and four-legged, donned yellow and blue, in solidarity with Ukraine, and many organisations, including clubs, groomers and traders from the event continue to pledge donations and set-up their own fundraisers to support the appeal, showing support for those pets and owners who are facing devastation and starvation, and those who have been forced to flee their homes in Ukraine.
Michael Levy, of the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club which displayed at Crufts 2022, donated £15,250 to the fund – raised through a collaborative effort with partners, a direct club donation and through fundraising activity. He said: “We cannot even imagine the heart-breaking situation that people and their animals are going through. We just want to do whatever we can to help those in need.”
Amongst the other efforts by dog lovers at Crufts are those by Jackie Mavro-Michaelis, Secretary for the Pennine and Scottish French Bulldog Club, who raised funds for the appeal by making and selling yellow and blue neckerchiefs for dogs, and ribbon badges for owners, and Woofters Dog Groomers, based in Wales, who have organised a fundraising dog wash day in April in aid of the appeal.
To ensure a swift response to the emergency, £100,000 of the appeal funds has already been sent to the FCI’s (Federation Cynologique Internationale) Solidarity with Ukraine fund, with the appeal remaining open for anyone who wishes to donate. This fund helps to provide vital medicines, food and transport for the tens of thousands of animals and owners in Ukraine, or those who have escaped to neighbouring countries, through the FCI’s network of Kennel Clubs on the ground.
The appeal was set up to help people like Yuliya Strizhkina, who has been volunteering in the underground shelters 20 kilometres outside the capital city of Kyiv. The 39-year-old dog owner had to flee the Kyiv family home with her father after it was reduced to rubble, but is refusing to leave her homeland until all the animals there are safe.
“There are thousands of animals who need help, they have no food and it’s cold,” commented Yuliya. “We will not leave our dogs.”
Yuliya also told of one Doberman owner who had sat in his cellar with a gun loaded with two bullets – telling her one was for him, and the other for his dog. Thankfully a passing home army convoy rescued the pair, but according to Ms Strizhkina this is just one of many traumatic events in the Ukraine.
She said: “I was woken up by a phone call from my father at five o’clock in the morning. He said ‘Yuliya. Your house has been bombed. We have to leave.’ I got our dogs out and found myself walking down the street in tears.”
Once they were moved to safety she set about working with around 40 other Ukrainians helping stricken animals – many of whom are in shelters which have run out of medicine, and are fearful that the situation will become even more untenable.
“There are lots of animal shelters which have been set up,” she said. “One shelter has nearly 4,000 dogs, and another near Kiev has 1,000 animals. There are lots of new shelters but what we desperately need are medicines and food. To the people of the UK and The Kennel Club, to the FCI, to everybody who is helping, we are so thankful. Your support makes us stronger.”
Yuliya featured in a specially-made video, shown in the Crufts main arena to thousands of dog-lovers, to encourage visitors at the event to support the appeal and to raise awareness of the devastation facing those pets and owners in Ukraine, and how the fund will help on the ground. The video can be watched at youtu.be/iCcCssJ1M8g
Mark Beazley, Chief Executive of The Kennel Club, said: “As an organisation focussed on animal welfare, we wanted to do something practical to help those affected by this tragic conflict in Ukraine, and we are incredibly moved by the generosity and empathy shown by the UK public in supporting this appeal at Crufts. The donations and commitment from those pledging support have surpassed our expectations and we are enormously grateful to all those who have contributed in order to help the people and animals in Ukraine, who are suffering so much. Thank you to everyone who has donated and is supporting the appeal, and standing in solidarity with Ukraine.”
Spear-headed by The Kennel Club Charitable Trust, the fundraising drive was launched at Crufts, which began on 10 March, and welcomed nearly 132,000 visitors and more than 20,000 dogs, culminating in Baxer (INT CH Almanza Backseat Driver), a Flat Coated Retriever being crowned as Best in Show on Sunday 13 March, which was watched by more than 2.4 million on Channel 4.
Donations to the Ukraine fundraising appeal can still be made at kennelclubcharitabletrust.org/support-dogs/Ukraine