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San Diego nonprofit helps pets in Ukraine

Slava, a stray dog sits in a kennel in Poland's border with Ukraine. Slava was saved by volunteers including Dr. Gary Weitzman, the president of the San Diego Humane Society.

"What a good good girl," said Dr. Gary Weitzman, as he steps inside a room housing Belle, a German Shepard up for adoption.

It’s just a typical day for Weitzman, a veterinarian and president of the San Diego Humane Society. Caring for pets and making sure they get a good home is his mission.

Recently that mission took him to Poland’s border with Ukraine. When he saw images of people fleeing from the war, with their pets, he knew he had to help.


"For these people who have lost everything it’s often one of the two things they’ve got in their hands: Their dog or their cat and a suitcase on the other side. They need these animals. Those kids need these animals," he said.

Weitzman took medicine, medical supplies and he worked at a makeshift animal shelter set up in a tent. His goal was to help as many pets as he could in ten days

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"We did physical exams. We dried up soaking wet dogs and cats. We took care of birds that came in and we gave people food and leashes and coats and carriers for their cats."

Saving a stray dog they named Slava, after the Ukrainian victory slogan, was one of the small victories for the team. Weitzman said he will forever be haunted by the pets he couldn’t help.


"That’s the heartbreaking part. Many animals had to be left behind, many had to be leashed to the border fence."

But said he finds hope in the other people who came from all over the world to lend a hand.

"The goodness of people that are at the border giving assistance that reassures me for the future for humanity."

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Weitzman hopes to return. But he won’t forget those he comforted through helping their pets.

"I think what I did was very, very little, with the scope of what’s happening," he said. "The real heroes are the Ukrainian people, honestly."