Feel Good

Drone Pilot Heads To Ukraine To Rescue Pets Trapped In War Zone

Doug Thron has used an infrared drone to find animals displaced by forest fires, hurricanes, and tornadoes across the globe – but his latest adventure was unlike anything he has encountered.

Thron has been using his drone to find cats and dogs that have been left for dead since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24. His drone detects body heat and pinpoints an animal’s location.

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Thron told PEOPLE, “It is my scariest mission so far, who lives on a houseboat in Miami. It’s mind-boggling. These towns look like they’ve been ripped apart by a combination of a hurricane and a wildfire.”

Thron – with Ryan Okrant of ASSERT Drone Animal Rescue and military security personnel – travels at night through landmine-scoured roads in Kyiv.

After Thron arrives at his destination that night, he uses his camera-equipped drone to find dogs and cats likely never to be found otherwise because of the level of destruction.

Thron says, “So many people had to flee so quickly that they weren’t able to take their animals; who is working with local veterinarians to care for the animals he helps rescue with his drone.”

As Thron points out, a drone recently spotted a flock of cats roaming around a bomb-scarred apartment building – resulting in the deaths of 40 people.

Thron says, “We had a feeling there were more kittens, who left an infrared trail camera in the apartment overnight and spotted three more kittens hiding in the kitchen the next day.

Even Thron, who has seen plenty of destruction over the years, finds it difficult to stomach the conflict’s toll on animals and humans.

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Thron says, “These are people’s pets, and most of them are super, super sweet, and warm right up to us the second we get on our knees and put our hands out.”

Thron – whose docuseries Doug to the Rescue will debut on Curiosity Stream on June 16 – admits that the look of gratitude he glimpses in the eyes of the animals he rescues makes all the risks worthwhile.

He says, “I’m not afraid of dying. It doesn’t worry me so much.”