Former soldier Tom S-N has rescued more than 3,000 animals using his military skills. He said: “There is no situation I wouldn’t put myself in to rescue an animal. Animals have given me life, peace and love. Everything I do is for them.”
He embarked on his first rescue mission just six days after the war in Ukraine broke out on February 24, 2022.
Mr S-N, who previously served in Afghanistan and Iraq, entered the conflict zone from the Romanian border with a friend to rescue 70 dogs in a shelter near the frontline, east of Kharkiv.
Speaking about the mission he said: “A one-vehicle military escort guided us to the shelter.
“We drove through the city which was derelict, like a scene from a zombie apocalypse with only wild boars roaming the snow-covered streets.
“When we got to the shelter, we were 500 metres from the Russian frontline.
“Bombs were dropping either side of us, rounds whistled overhead and shells were dropping 10 or 15 metres from the walls so we had to move quickly.
“In the end, we got all 70 dogs evacuated within an hour.”
His rescue team, known as Breaking the Chains, is now made up of four members, supported by a 20-strong team of veterinarians and animal shelter staff.
Breaking the Chains even once rescued a 600kg bear named Bolik, and a wolf named Elza.
The team also helped two wildlife organisations extract nine lions from a zoo in Odessa.
The animals are now in Romania awaiting relocation to a sanctuary in South Africa.
Mr S-N joked: “Yeah, the lions were a good one.”
He added: “I’ve been in charge of some huge weapon systems in my time, but I have never ever felt anything as powerful as having a lion’s head in my hands.
“Of course, just like the military, you don’t think about what might happen, you just make your plans and get the job done.
“Plus, there is no greater feeling than seeing the animals you rescue getting a second chance in life.
“This is why we do what we do.”