4 March 2019 – International animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS successfully transferred former baiting bear Laska to BEAR SANCTUARY Domazhyr near Lviv on February 28. Until then, Laska had lived for years in unacceptable conditions in the rundown Pokrovsk Zoo near the town of Donetsk. Previously, she had been kept as a fighting bear and abused to train hunting dogs. In her new home, she can now rest in an environment suited to her species. A court decision has yet to confirm whether Laska can stay permanently at BEAR SANCTUARY Domazhyr, as the confiscation is temporary for now.
FOUR PAWS had intended to bring the approximately five-year-old bear to her new home by the end of 2018. However, lengthy procedures on the part of authorities in connection with her confiscation delayed her rescue until early 2019. Finally, after more than 1,000 kilometres and 22 hours of travel, Laska arrived safely at her new home.
"We are glad that after a long wait, we finally got the green light from the Ukrainian Ministry of Ecology. In the meantime, Laska had been brought to another private zoo with some other animals. Although she was cared for better than in Pokrovsk, the circumstances were still not ideal. BEAR SANCTUARY Domazhyr specialises in the care of baiting bears, so it is the best place to take care of her.”
FOUR PAWS bear expert Carsten Hertwig
Hertwig continues, “Laska is doing well, the transfer was carried out without any further delays. Our team thoroughly examined her before leaving, and she will now receive the veterinary care she needs at the bear sanctuary. Her teeth, in particular, are in poor condition and need treatment.” Laska was already released into her enclosure the day after her arrival.
Court ruling in March to decide Laska's future
Currently it is unclear whether Laska will be able to stay at BEAR SANCTUARY Domazhyr – an official court decision is pending. But since Laska's owner, who also owns the zoo in Pokrovsk, is currently in prison for other offences, it is unlikely that the court will rule in his favour. “The legal situation regarding the private keeping of wild animals in Ukraine is absolutely unacceptable. But we are optimistic and assume that Laska will be allowed to stay in the sanctuary. She has experienced nothing but suffering in the care of her owner,” Hertwig says. In the past, FOUR PAWS has temporarily taken in bears that were subsequently allowed to remain in the sanctuaries permanently.
Eleven rescued bears at the Ukrainian sanctuary
BEAR SANCTUARY Domazhyr was officially opened for visitors in October 2017. Including Laska, eleven bears rescued from catastrophic conditions now live on the 7.7 hectare site. Over the next few years, the bear sanctuary will be further expanded to cover a total 20 hectares of land with space for up to 30 once suffering bears. With the construction of BEAR SANCTUARY Domazhyr, FOUR PAWS has created a species-appropriate home for rescued bears, helping the Ukrainian government to enforce the country-wide ban on keeping bears for training hunting dogs. In this form of 'training', the dogs are set on chained bears that are scarcely able defend themselves.