Growing number of Ukrainians find their way to Belgian animal aid
The number of Ukrainians fleeing their homeland is increasing. Many of them do so in the company of their pets. While Belgian cities and municipalities offer the refugees the necessary help, the Prince Laurent Foundation takes care of the pets that travel with them. As more people find their way to the Foundation, it becomes a challenge to provide the necessary help as quickly as possible.
"Helping people through their animals" is the mission of the Prince Laurent Foundation. While the organisation of Prince Laurent, brother of Belgian King Philip, helped the victims and animals of the floods in Wallonia last summer, it is now assisting Ukrainian refugees and their pets. "More and more refugees and foster families find their way to our foundation," says spokeswoman Patricia Rutten. "Every day we receive a wide range of questions by e-mail or telephone, not only about the compulsory rabies vaccination and regularisation, but also about urgent medical assistance and other animal-related questions."
Those who travel to Belgium from Ukraine with their pets can contact the Prince Laurent Foundation for free curative care, food and pet supplies. Through the Foundation, pets can also get the mandatory rabies vaccination, because despite the many vaccinations of both pets and wild animals, Ukraine is not free of rabies.
"Through the page 'My pet needs care' on the website info-ukraine.be, everyone can consult our flyer. It contains all the relevant information to help people with pets on their way as quickly as possible. The flyer is not only available in Dutch and French, but also in English and Ukrainian."
In addition to providing the necessary information, the Prince Laurent Foundation has six centres spread across Flanders, Brussels and Wallonia where refugees with pets can go by appointment. While in 'normal' times it is people who are struggling financially who find their way to the centres, the arrival of the Ukrainian refugees has created extra pressure.
"Especially the centre in Brussels is running at full speed. The planning for the next two weeks is full. Yet we try to help everyone as quickly as possible, by referring them to another centre. We do provide the necessary margin for emergencies," Rutten assures.
Because dogs and cats travelling within the EU must comply with certain rules, the foundation works closely with the Federal Agency for the Safety of the Food Chain to ensure that these animals comply with European regulations. This involves identification with a microchip and the necessary vaccinations. In certain cases, a rabies test is also required. Thanks to cooperation with Sciensano, the federal scientific institute for human and animal health in Belgium, this analysis will be exceptionally free of charge.
Moreover, the Foundation cooperates with the National Crisis Centre, where refugees arriving in Belgium have to report, and with the Red Cross, who organises the emergency shelter. This way, people with pets can be referred directly to the centres of the Prince Laurent Foundation for the necessary first aid.
The website www.info-ukraine.be offers more information for residents of Belgium, Belgians abroad, cities and municipalities, Ukrainians already living in Belgium and people on the run. People fleeing Ukraine can find information about their rights upon arrival in our country, the steps they should take and how reception is organised. Belgian citizens can also find more information on the website about how they can help. In addition, the federal government has opened a general information number that can be reached daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on 02 488 88 88.
Prince Laurent of Belgium and Prince Aymeric pictured during a press moment at a shelter for homeless people with dogs, organized by the Prince Laurent Foundation - ©BELGA PHOTO BENOIT DOPPAGNE