RANCHO SANTA FE, Calif. — A local animal shelter announced Thursday it is donating $50,000 to the Ukrainian animal welfare efforts and asking animal lovers to match the pledge for a total of $100,000.

The Helen Woodward Animal Center, a nonprofit organization in Rancho Santa Fe, is looking to help both the animals and people of Ukraine amid a Russian invasion.

“Both the bravery of the Ukrainian people and the stunning desperation of those who wait in border lines with only a few minor belongings are stirring reminders of how fragile and devastating life can be,” the animal center said in a press release. “Movingly, furry friends often accompany these soon-to-be homeless Ukrainian citizens. With little in the way of possessions, they take with them the most dedicated friends, on leashes, in carriers, in pockets and scarves.”

However, some pets have been lost as many attempt to escape the war-torn country, the animal center said.

In 2019, the animal center forged a friendship with Tallinn City Government Chief Specialist Hellika Landsmann, of the Estonia Animal Welfare Society, when the group traveled to the country in response to a request for training from eastern European shelters. Helen Woodward Animal Center President and CEO Mike Arms reached out to Landsmann Wednesday to help struggling animal welfare groups in Ukraine, as well as the pets of the Ukrainian refugees in Poland, Latvia and Estonia.

“The European people are incredibly supportive of the Ukrainians,” Landsmann said. “Our countries are opening up hotels, apartments and spare rooms to these people and their pets. But there are millions coming and the process takes time. In the meantime, the people and animals are suffering and hungry and the cold spell is making things worse.”

To help or for more information head to www.animalcenter.org/ukraine. You can also call 858-756-4117, or visit Helen Woodward Animal Center at 6461 El Apajo Road in Rancho Santa Fe.