Bear Vova before rescue

Animal Welfare Efforts Continue Even in Times of War

FOUR PAWS rescues former ‘restaurant bear’ in Ukraine


24 March 2022 – Global animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS has successfully rescued a bear kept imprisoned in a tiny concrete cage for all his life. Yesterday the 20-year-old Ukrainian ‘restaurant bear’ was moved to BEAR SANCTUARY Domazhyr near Lviv in the west of the country.

A fire destroying the restaurant in the Khmelnytskyi region, also in Western Ukraine, which bear Vova lived beside, was the silver lining needed for his eventual rescue. FOUR PAWS had been planning the intervention since last November but the bear’s fate was a court matter due to a change in the country’s laws surrounding the private keeping of bears.  

Whilst Vova was not harmed in the fire, his living conditions and safety became even more unstable. As a result, the owner handed him over to the authorities voluntarily and the rescue was finally possible.  

“After a long process, we are relieved that bear Vova has finally been rescued and transferred to BEAR SANCTUARY Domazhyr.  


“This mission has been even harder, but more essential, due to the volatile situation in Ukraine. Thankfully despite everything, we have still been able to successfully bring Vova to safety.  


“Bears like Vova need space, enrichment and access to trees and water to bathe. Far away from the restaurant, Vova can now experience a species-appropriate diet and access to acres of enriched and natural land.”  

says Sonul Badiani-Hamment, UK Country Director at FOUR PAWS UK

Recent emergency relocation of seven bears 

At the beginning of March, BEAR SANCTUARY Domazhyr already welcomed seven bears from White Rock Bear Shelter near Kiev, which is run by the FOUR PAWS partner organisation Save Wild Fund, in an emergency transfer.  

FOUR PAWS officially opened BEAR SANCTUARY Domazhyr for visitors in October 2017, creating a species-appropriate home for bears rescued from cruel and catastrophic keeping conditions. 34 bears, including new arrival Vova and the four recently transferred bears from White Rock Bear Shelter, now live on the 20-hectare site.  

FOUR PAWS is deeply concerned about the war in Ukraine, and closely monitoring the developments, especially as attacks have been reported in the western part of the country as well. The staff at BEAR SANCTUARY Domazhyr and the bears are currently safe and doing well given the circumstances. 

Bear Bodya in Ukraine

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Hannah Baker

Head of Communications UK 

020 7922 7954 / 07966 032 235

7 - 14 Great Dover Street, London, SE1 4YR


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