This is the heart-breaking moment a hero former British solider rescued terrified puppies from devastation during the war in Ukraine.
Tom is part of a British and US ex-military animal rescue team that have built a state-of-the-art shelter that will help wounded Ukrainian soldiers recover from PTSD alongside their dog and cat comrades.
As fighting intensifies in the summer offensive every village liberated yields more wounded and sick animals and former British soldier Tom and his team from Breaking the Chains are the first on the scene.
Tom and fellow Brits TJ, 48, Gaz, 58, John, 46, American Jason, 38, and Ukrainian translator “Jake” have been saving furry casualties from the frontline since the Russians invaded.
Every week the crack squad of ex-soldiers operate with military precision evacuating animals alongside Ukrainian forces fighting to end the occupation.
Entirely funded by donations, the brave volunteers cover nearly 2,000 miles a week searching for former pets, livestock and strays that have become victims of war.
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They have rescued thousands of animals since the war began, and not just dogs and cats, they also rescued nine lions in May last year.
Despite being in a warzone Breaking the Chains has managed to build an £80,000 ground-breaking animal shelter to house and treat more than 100 dogs and 50 cats at time, as well as employing local Ukrainian staff and vets.
Injuries to man’s best friend and our cat companions include gunshots, phosphate burns, double and quadruple amputations and a host of other issues, including abandonment anxiety and long-term health conditions.
Of course, the human suffering is immense in this conflict too and as veterans Tom and his team know all too well the long-term effects will be huge on the Ukrainian men and women fighting fiercely to defend their country today.
Tom, who served in “The Poachers” Royal Anglian Regiment, was medically discharged with PTSD after serving in both Afghanistan and the Middle East.
Now Breaking the Chains is planning to unite the injured and recovering Ukrainian soldiers with the rescued animals so that both can heal physically and mentally over time together.
The innovative plan will see the first Ukrainian veterans enter the shelter by the end of September, but donations are still needed to make everything wheelchair accessible and to feed and treat the animals.
Tom said: “We’ve got double amputee animals, we’ve got single amputees, we’ve got animals with damaged spines, we’ve got some who have been shot, fragged, burnt with phosphate, we’ve got animals that have got the same identical injuries as the humans we want to help.
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“It’s a no-brainer, animals are obviously fantastic at healing humans and these animals have been rescued from the same places the soldiers are coming from.
“There’s a way these soldiers can relate mentally, they can also relate physically resonate with these animals and see the dogs and cats are happy so they can be happy.”
Tom explained he had drawn on his own experience recovering from his time in the military to form a plan to help others in Ukraine.
He added that failures by rich nations like the UK and US governments in the past to support their veterans will seem like nothing in comparison to scale of the problem in Ukraine once the war is over.
Tom said: “To give you an example, America and the UK massively neglected their service personnel from conflicts like Iraq and Afghanistan, with a lack of medical treatment and mental health treatment and support during and after those wars.
“That is two of the top first-world countries that have been constantly in conflict for hundreds of years, and still in the 2000s they were severely neglecting their wounded veterans.
“Now think of the scale of casualties we and the Americans took then compared to Ukraine now, who have more casualties in a day than we did in the entire Afghan war.
“You are talking casualty rates far higher than the UK, and then what’s going to happen to these thousands of veterans whose minds are fried, and bodies are broken in a country that will be economically far behind the UK and the US?
“What we witnessed and saw in Afghanistan, yes it was s***, but these Ukrainian soldiers are seeing it multiple times a day.
“You could through your tours and have kinetic (combat) contacts, but you would really have a bad day and lose people may three or four times on a whole tour. These soldiers are having it every single day.
“This (shelter) won’t just be helping the veterans, it will be helping their families, their children and their local communities because a soldier with PTSD high on drugs or alcohol tends to himself or herself in a little bit of trouble.
“There’s never an excuse, but there’s always a reason. Having this established as the conflict is going on means you a catching people as close to the point of impact as you possibly can, is better than four or five years down the line.”
The shelter is already “the best in Ukraine” in Tom’s opinion and has been designed to be cool in the summer and warm in the winter.
It’s also home to a British and Australian volunteer and Tom says the charity is still looking for volunteers with veterinary experience, as well as people who want to work for the “ground team” extracting animals.
He said: “For me personally, for the level of care that the animals get and the living accommodation they have, I would say it’s the best shelter in Ukraine.
“We employ local Ukrainian staff, to walk the dogs, groom the dogs, take them in the large play areas in packs to socialise with each other. They go to the local lake too to swim there.
“We also have a Ukrainian veterinarian and a veterinary clinic on site so we can do minor surgeries and administer treatments.
“The attention on the Ukraine war is going down massively because other things are happening in the world, what people don’t realise is Ukraine is all-out-war so every single day the situation gets worse.
“Wherever it may be the situation gets worse, when a village gets liberated it means there will be sick or injured animals there.
“If a village gets taken by the Russians, the barrages are constant with the main offensive going on, so we get more and more animals being hurt.
“The longer an area goes unoccupied during the war, obviously you’ll get animals breeding and so you get more strays and that just keeps getting bigger and bigger.”
Breaking the Chains team need around £10,000 a month to feed and shelter the animals, and that’s without vet bills and other procedures, they also need further funds to convert the shelter to house veterans. To donate visit this link
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