British Army veteran’s mission to save abandoned animals in Ukraine is one of the largest and most dangerous animal rescue efforts in history.

Breaking the Chains was originally set up in 2020 to help rescue dogs around the world. Founder Tom, a 35-year-old from Yorkshire, served in the army for 16 years. 

When Russia invaded Ukraine, he mobilised a team of fellow former soldiers willing to go into the warzone to rescue the forgotten animal victims of the war. They also partnered with animal charities War Paws and DogBus to resupply and rebuild shelters that had been left with no access to food and medical supplies and even reunited pets with refugee families.  

In the first eight weeks it was estimated that Breaking the Chains – which is set to become a registered charity this month – and the team have helped rescue 3,000 animals from horrific conditions. 

Tom, from Hull, said his previous training alongside the British Military has helped with logistics as well as building up trust amongst local military in Ukraine to allow him access to difficult to reach areas.

“I can get into areas that other people can, we have specialist off-road vehicles because of the terrain we go into. But it’s not just that, it’s our driving capabilities, understanding the battlefield, the intelligence that we get, the connections that I’ve got. It’s hard work, experience and knowledge built from being in the military so long.”

In Ukraine, the team working on the ground consists of Tom, Gaz Latus, director of ground operations, seven Ukrainian shelter workers, four external volunteers from around the world, four permanent ground team members and a full time Ukrainian vet. And the mission has expanded into a wider operation including saving horses and zoo animals including lions, bears, wolves, and chimpanzees.   

“At the start of the war, we saw, time and time again, shelters and zoos getting caught behind Russian lines with little food, water and supplies. It broke my heart,” says Tom.

He adds: “There is no one doing what we do and we will stay there as long as we need to be and also help with dealing with the aftermath. We aim to give animals the same level of protection that humans get.”