Local veterinarian returns from volunteering in Ukraine

Published 11:25 am Thursday, October 19, 2023

Dr. Sarah Brown helps care for pets in war zone


LANDRUM—Veterinarian Dr. Sarah Brown of Lake Lanier recently returned from a trip to Lviv, Ukraine, a city of 700,000 near the border with Poland, where she was part of a surgical team spaying, neutering and treating the four-legged victims of the current invasion by Russia. 

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Born in Tryon, Dr. Brown and her family have long made a positive impact on animals in our communities. As the granddaughter and daughter of veterinarians, one might even say she was born to be a veterinarian. Her father, Dr. Harry Brown, was the first veterinarian to practice in Polk County, arriving with his wife Tippy in 1958 before leaving for Camden in 1970 and returning in 1978. He retired in 1992. 

For twenty-plus years, Dr. Sarah Brown ran a practice in Mills River, which she eventually sold before returning home two years ago, taking up residence on Lake Lanier . 

“The goal was always to get back here to the Tryon area,” she says. 

One of the Ukrainian volunteers holds one of Dr. Brown’s many patients. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Sarah Brown)

While she still works part-time, Dr. Brown uses her extra time to make a positive impact internationally through volunteering. She has taken several overseas volunteer veterinarian trips to the Andes in Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands and has now added Ukraine to the list.

Her trip was organized by Greater Good Charities and its Good Fix Program, which is working to help pets in the war zone. The charity brings a team of expert veterinarians and vet techs to participate in a 5-day clinic, where they sterilize and provide wellness care for nearly 750 pets. It is providing critical care to help and humanely control pet overpopulation in communities that have seen an uptick in dog and cat populations since the Russian invasion began. 

“They are a wonderful organization. I’ve never dealt with a more organized group,” Brown says. “The logistics of getting to Lviv were challenging since the airspace is closed. We flew into Warsaw and then spent several hours crossing the border with a group of 15 vets and vet techs. Then we set up a field hospital at a home for rescued animals.” 

While the military presence was sparse in Lviv, there were air raids, and the city had been hit by a pair of attacks two weeks before their arrival. The vets and the techs would work 10 to 12 hour shifts treating one animal after another. 

Dr. Brown and her colleagues treated roughly 750 pets in 4 days. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Sarah Brown)

“We mostly did spaying and neutering since there were a lot of cat colonies, along with other surgeries when needed,” Brown adds. “Thankfully, I have an unusual skill set. I’m a fast surgeon, which is effective in that area. So how could I not do it.” 

She described the Ukrainian people as defiant. “They are moving forward and surging ahead with their lives. I met many refugees, which was sobering, and a group of older orphans assisted us.” 

Dr. Brown’s sense of volunteerism is inspiring. She does this work out of what she calls a full-circle approach. “Communities need to have healthy pets because they can spread disease to people and wildlife. And volunteering like this helps your worldview. I like traveling with a purpose.” With a similar trip already planned to the Dominican Republic soon, she is looking forward to adding to her resume of good works and stamps on her passport. 

For those looking to learn more or donate to help the pets in Ukraine, visit greatergood.org/good-fix. 

A young girl sits with her dog, waiting to see one of the veterinarians. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Sarah Brown)