As the war in Ukraine rages on, a Bay Area drone operator and a group are working together to rescue dogs and cats stranded in the country.
When Oakland resident Doug Thron saw the devastation in Ukraine, he packed up his drone and headed to the war-ravaged country to help.
“What I was basically was doing was flying the infrared drone over the cities and bombed-out villages and looking for any signs of life, cats, dogs, people,” he said.
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Using infrared technology, Thron said he was able to pick up the heat signature of animals trapped in bombed buildings, marked their GPS coordinates and then, go in and find the dogs and cats that survived the blasts.
Working with ASSERT Drone Animal Rescue, based in the Bay Area, Thron and his team rescued 30 pets, including a mama cat and her kittens, who were stuck on the eight floor of a building.
From the CZU Fire in the Santa Cruz Mountains to Marsh Harbor after Hurricane Dorian, Thron has traveled around the world rescuing animals. But he said his mission in Ukraine was by far the most dangerous, requiring him to wear a bulletproof vest.
“When we go into buildings, the soldiers would tell us be on the lookout because the Russians would have out trip wires attached to grenades in the buildings,” Thron said.
Some of the pets were reunited with their owners in Ukraine. Others are now headed to new homes in the Bay Area and Thron even adopted a cat and kitten himself.
Thron said that his quest is not over. He’s headed back to Ukraine in a few weeks to try to rescue even more animals. Thron said that he hopes to use his drone and infrared technology to help search for people, too.
Ryan Okrant with ASSERT Drone Animal Rescue also went on the Ukraine animal rescue mission with Thron and will be returning to Ukraine for a second mission in a few weeks.