Bear Vova before rescue

Animal welfare efforts continue even in times of war

FOUR PAWS rescues former ‘restaurant bear’ in Ukraine


MARCH 24 2022 – FOUR PAWS, the global animal welfare organization, has successfully rescued and transferred a 20-year-old Ukrainian ‘restaurant bear’ to its BEAR SANCTUARY Domazhyr near Lviv in Western Ukraine yesterday. FOUR PAWS had been planning to rescue male brown bear Vova since November 2021, but his fate was a court matter prior to the outbreak of the war.

Vova endured years of isolation, living in a barren concrete cage near a burned-down restaurant in Western Ukraine. The bear’s living conditions and safety deteriorated in recent years forcing the owner to hand him over to the authorities voluntarily. A FOUR PAWS rescue plan was taking shape when fighting began earlier this year.

Once able to proceed, the transfer of Vova to FOUR PAWS’ BEAR SANCTUARY Domazhyr was done by an external transport partner. A local veterinarian accompanied the transfer to check on Vova’s well being.

Although attacks have now been reported in the west of Ukraine as well, the team at the bear sanctuary continues to provide the best possible care for all the bears and the sanctuary continues to offer a safe place for bears in need.

“Vova has arrived safely at our sanctuary. We are grateful that the authorities finally made his rescue possible. Bears need to roam around, dig, and swim, not pace back and forth on the same few square metres all of their life. Vova’s stereotypical behaviour shows that he has been bored and unable to live out any natural behaviours. Our team at BEAR SANCTUARY Domazhyr will now make sure Vova receives all the care he needs to recover and live a species-appropriate, bear-worthy life,”

-Magdalena Scherk-Trettin, responsible for bear projects at FOUR PAWS.

The keeping of bears in private captivity is still legal in Ukraine, however, due to the changes in the Ukrainian Law “On the protection of animals from cruelty” in November 2021, the keeping of bears and big cats for leisure and entertainment purposes became illegal. For this reason, Vova’s keeping became illegal and his fate became the subject of a court decision, however, the court rejected the case twice. After the war broke out in Ukraine, FOUR PAWS was contacted by the responsible authorities and asked to take him into its care as soon as possible.

FOUR PAWS began working in Ukraine in 2012 helping stray animals. FOUR PAWS’ Stray Animal Care team has delivered veterinary care to 30,000 stray dogs and cats in over 60 municipalities within the last decade. Then, with the development of a FOUR PAWS office in Kyiv, and the construction and opening of BEAR SANCTUARY Domazhyr in 2017, FOUR PAWS created a species-appropriate home for rescued bears, while also supporting the Ukrainian government with enforcing the ban on the cruel practice of bear baiting.

FOUR PAWS, in collaboration with local partners, is also currently helping care for Ukrainian refugees fleeing with pets. Specifically, FOUR PAWS helps with vaccinations, microchipping and medical treatments, provides transport boxes for pets, food, leashes and harnesses, temporary accommodation and resources for anyone in Ukraine who needs to cross borders with their pets.

Bear Bodya in Ukraine

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FOUR PAWS is the global animal welfare organization for animals under direct human influence, which reveals suffering, rescues animals in need, and protects them. Founded in 1988 in Vienna by Heli Dungler and friends, the organization advocates for a world where humans treat animals with respect, empathy, and understanding. FOUR PAWS’ sustainable campaigns and projects focus on companion animals including stray dogs and cats, farm animals and wild animals – such as bears, big cats, and orangutans – kept in inappropriate conditions as well as in disaster and conflict zones. With offices in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Kosovo, the Netherlands, Switzerland, South Africa, Thailand, Ukraine, the UK, the USA and Vietnam, as well as sanctuaries for rescued animals in eleven countries, FOUR PAWS provides rapid help and long-term solutions. 

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