BURNT HILLS, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Dr. David Chico, a Veterinarian from Burnt Hills Veterinary Hospital, took a trip to the Poland/Ukraine border in April. He is helping those fleeing the conflict, some with nothing more than the clothes on their back. NEWS10’s Steve Caporizzo spoke with Dr. Chico about his efforts.

How close were you actually to the border, and what town was it, in Poland?

“Probably 100 feet in the town of Przemysl, the Medyka Border Crossing. It’s about a quarter-mile from the border processing area to where refugees got on buses for the next leg of their journey. That whole quarter-mile is lined with humanitarian groups from all over the world.”

How did families get their pets out of the war zone?

cat in plastic container with holes poked in the top, families leaving Ukraine
A cat saved by a family leaving Ukraine. Dr. Chico was able to facilitate getting the cat a new carrier.

“People did arrive on buses, many people were traveling on foot for days. They were exhausted, the animals were absolutely exhausted. You know a lot of them left with anything they could put their pets in. A young man had a bird in his coat for days. There was a mouse in a take-out food container, there were turtles and snails. One of the sadder ones, there was a cat, someone had taken a plastic storage box and duct-taped it shut. They put the cat inside and just poke holes in it. It was so tight, that the cat couldn’t lift its head up. So to be able to just get the cat out and put it over here and let it rest and to get and get a new carrier. Just the smiles on people’s faces. It was amazing. We gave them food and triaged them for medical care. We gave them leashes, harnesses, portable bowls, whatever they needed.”

I’m sure that meant the world to them. The people that came over, their faces must be etched in your mind. The look of fear and confusion.

“I saw a man pass out in front of our tent, an elderly man that had been walking for days-just collapsed right on the ground. It is the realization of what these people are really going through is really what sticks with me. I can’t get it out of my mind. Now when I read the news every day, where there is a new bombing or missile strike, I know what that means, more people needing help.”

Sometimes helping Ukrainians and their pets was a bit difficult with the language barrier.

“They hired Ukrainian High School students that were displaced as interpreters. My interpreter was Leo, he was 17. His mother and father were still in Ukraine. His dad was a sailor, and his mom worked at the port. They sent him out of the country for safety. He’s 17, and he’s on his own in Poland.”

Dr. Chico’s first trip internationally was to the Philippines after a typhoon hit in 2013 to help with rabies.

“One of the core missions that we did on that trip was to go neighborhood to neighborhood in the affected areas and have vaccine clinics for dogs and cats. We also gave out pet supplies and pet food to support them.”

In 2016, he was off to Lebanon to help with the Syrian refugees, he’s done this six times now.

“I went over as a veterinarian to provide some medical care, and then we brought some animals back to the United States and Canada to relieve some of the burdens from the shelter infrastructure in that country.”

In 2018, Dr. Chico Recieved the American Humane Award for a Veterinarian. One of his true passions is helping the Damien Center and those living with AIDS and HIV. He offers free wellness check-ups for their pets and does personal visits to make sure they are well. If you want to help the pets in Ukraine, the group that Dr. Chico works with is the International Fund for Animal Welfare.