JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The founder of a local non-profit is back in Jacksonville after spending more than a week in Poland assisting animals and pet owners impacted by the war in Ukraine.
Mike Merrill said the situation in Ukraine is bigger than any rescue effort he’s undertaken before.
"You have language barriers, you have different rules at each border. So it’s quite challenging trying to put a plan together," explained Merrill, founder of the Florida Urgent Rescue.
His organization, Florida Urgent Rescue, typically helps animals in areas impacted by natural disasters.
After seeing war-torn communities in Ukraine, he wanted to help families and shelters get their animals to safety.
“For example, there’s a woman in Kyiv with an autistic son and 25 cats which she’s trying to get out, which she doesn’t want to go on her own and you can only cross the border with 5 animals," Merrill said.
He’s back in Jacksonville after spending 11 days in Poland, making 5 trips into bordering Ukraine. The biggest challenges are transportation across the border, navigating border patrol regulations, and finding shelter once animals arrive.
“You can’t just take them across the border and send them anywhere. They have to go through certain quarantine processes and we’re working on that as well. Finding a place to temporarily hold them, then move them out from that temporary holding spot," Merrill said.
He plans to go back in 2 weeks with a team to continue support efforts.
“When we go back we will bring more microchips and more scanners, we will bring some more medicine, but most of the product donations will be sourced and are being provided in Poland what we need really is the monetary donations," said Merrill.
Merrill is spending his time back in the state working to collect funds. Donations can be made online here.