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Noah-like mission: B.C. dog rescue saves 9 lions from war-torn Ukrainian zoo

Raincoast Dog Rescue Society leads daring mission showcasing commitment beyond canine companions
Raincoast Dog Rescue Society founder, Jesse Adams, stands outside a lion’s cage, as he helps rescue nine African lions from a conflict-ridden zoo in Ukraine. (Contributed photo)

In the realm of animal rescues, Raincoast Dog Rescue Society’s endeavors soar beyond the norm, with its recent mission marking a Noah’s Ark-like rescue of nine African lions from a conflict-ridden zoo in Ukraine.

Primarily known for their commitment to canine companions, the society’s Vancouver Island-based founder, Jesse Adams, recently took on an extraordinary mission in June 2022 that involved relocating nine African lions from a zoo in Ukraine that was in the line of fire amidst the conflict.

That Noah’s Ark-like assortment of great and small creatures now includes the lions that Adams assisted during one of his two trips to war-torn Ukraine.

“I’m part Ukrainian, and consider it an honour to assist people and animals there,” Adams said. “During one of those trips, we extracted nine lions from a zoo from an area that was under attack.”

Adams worked with Breaking the Chains, a non-profit of ex-military members from the U.K. specializing in extracting animals from danger. Another non-profit also assisted with the effort Worldwide Vets, which works with charities and organizations that help animals by providing funding, support, and equipment.

“They’re a great organization that was also a big part of the rescue and their expertise with big cats was invaluable,” Adams noted. “We were told it was the biggest big cat extraction they’d ever seen from a conflict zone. It was a real group effort.”

The team moved the lions from the zoo in Ukraine to Moldavia and then to Romania in preparation for the trip to their final destination, a wildlife sanctuary in South Africa run by Warriors of Wildlife.

“It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Adams said. “I’ll never forget the looks we got pulling into a gas station, and two people turned into 45.”

Although Adams plans to return to Ukraine in the spring or summer, there’s no shortage of rescue work closer to home for the Otter Point resident.

He was heading to Victoria after the interview with Black Press to assist a woman undergoing treatment so she didn’t have to lose her “beloved” cat.

Adams and five volunteers with the registered charity have helped support and relocate 4,000 dogs and other animals since he launched the society in July 2013.

“We’ve also helped 500 cats get adopted and helped support and relocate hundreds of other animals,” said Adams, a former member of the Canadian Armed Forces who recently re-enlisted with the military reserves. “We’ve worked with other organizations like heavenly Hooves in Duncan to relocate and support hundreds of other animals.”

The society primarily assists 23 Indigenous communities in B.C., most of which are on Vancouver Island.

“Right now we’re a purely foster care-based organization that relies on the love and compassion of community members to help us help animals,” he said. “There’s no shortage of that in Sooke and across the Island.”

He also works closely with the SPCA, animal control agencies, and the RCMP.

“We’ve had rescued dogs referred to us by RCMP members from as far North as Resolute Bay,” Adams added.

Funding is raised by charging adoption fees, holding fundraising events, and providing generous support from local companies and individuals.

“We could not function without them,” Adams said.

Adams also manages the Raincoast Pet Project, which helps low-income families, people in supportive housing, and those experiencing homelessness with free pet food, supplies like leashes and collars, vet care, and education.

If you want more information, volunteer or donate, visit

ALSO READ: Animal rescue group in Victoria helps out SPCA

A captive African lion stares out from behind cage bars, a powerful image from Raincoast Dog Rescue Society’s daring mission led by Jesse Adams to rescue nine lions from a war-torn zoo in Ukraine.

About the Author: Rick Stiebel

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