LOS ANGELES - A British Army veteran has spent the last few months rescuing animals in war-torn Ukraine. Now he's in the U.S. to raise awareness for his non-profit to help save more animals across the globe.
It's one of the largest and most dangerous animal rescue operations in history. The man behind the mission is the 35-year-old who for security reasons goes only by Tom.
"Animals are pure," Tom said. "All they do is love and they treat us all of the time the way we should treat each other just part of the time, and we did it and showed them that love they give us a little bit, the world would be a far better place."
With tactical gear and a small team, Tom has helped save more than 10,000 abandoned animals from the most volatile parts of Ukraine since the onset of the war.
"Quite frequently we have to go in between the Ukrainians and Russians to get the animals, which means while we’re extracting the animals all of the artillery and bombs are just basically going above us, so we’re just in the middle basically of a massive firefight and we’re just getting the animals," Tom said. "We’ve been in shelters that have been bombed we’ve been in buildings that have been bombed and still on fire and extracted animals from the building. No matter what’s going on we’ll go in there, and we’ll get them."
Tom said his team has even rescued lions and bears left in cages at a zoo behind Russian lines. "It was interesting and it was a great feeling," Tom said.
Most rescues are dogs that are either stranded, starving, sick, severely burned from bombs or all of the above.
"The animals are living on the street because their owners have been killed or forced to evacuate the only way you can describe it is atrocious, it's an all-out war. It's like nothing we've seen since World War II."
Tom's focus right now is the impending winter in Ukraine, but he's saved animals around the world through his non-profit Breaking the Chains. It all started because of his struggles with PTSD during his service in Afghanistan and Iraq.
"I went and rescued a dog from the Army who used to be an Army search dog called ‘Gypsy’ and him being him saved my life so when I got better I wanted to repay the favor to animals around the world."
Tom's built a permanent animal rehabilitation shelter and veterinary clinic in Ukraine and brings over supplies to last months at a time. He has no plans of stopping any time soon.
"They saved my life so I want to save as many of them as I possibly can, and hopefully inspire others to do the same. They're living beings."
Those wishing to support Tom can do so through his GoFundMe campaign.