We have arrived in Romania for the first time with mixed feelings of excitement to arrive in a country we have long read about and trepidation at what we might discover about the horrors of Romanian’s stray dog situation.
Late last night we (Danielle, our volunteer and me, Nadine) arrived in Bucharest to a warm greeting from our amazing Anca and her mother. Anca is our resident volunteer, rescuer and trainee vet in Romania. We travelled over with two experts… Alison, founder of Paws2Rescue and Andrea, founder of Wet Nose Animal Aid. The three hour plane journey was a bit like an interrogation from me and Danielle… asking Alison and Andrea a hundred questions about what they have learnt about the situation in Romania over the last five years on their travels to Romania.
Today we visited the infamous Odai Public Shelter – a dog shelter run by the local police housing 600 dogs. It has a dreadful reputation for overpopulating kennels, starving dogs, allowing dogs to mate and continue to have puppies and leaving injured and ill dogs to get worse. We saw some evidence of this today. The smell from the shelter was palpable from almost 500m away from the entrance. As we entered the shelter, the sound of barking dogs was overwhelming – some barked in fear, others with aggression, yet more hid at the back of the kennel in terror. We spoke to the resident vet who said that he has an impossible job; no one envies him. He said his job is made hopeless because of a huge lack of time and resources to improve the health of the dogs. Much veterinary equipment is broken and many cages are in need of repair. He said the dogs are too ill to be treated – there was a clear sense that healing these dogs was a futile exercise.
In recent months Paws2Rescue and K9 Angels (two UK charities committed to rescuing and rehoming Romanian dogs) starting working with Odai officials to improve conditions at the shelter and raise funds. They even managed to get the comedian Ricky Gervais in on the action – his tweet managed to increase donations three-fold raising over £18,000 and ensuring that the news made headlines in national papers. The money raised will be spent on food and beds for the winter, but conditions still remain unacceptable and animals are still suffering and dying every day.
While here we have also seen and heard about horrific cases of animal cruelty – a dog having its tail cut-off with an axe done for a Facebook film, another dog which had its leg cut off with a knife, many dogs with lameness on one or more legs after being hit by cars or beaten. Mange, disease and malnutrition are prevalent among many many dogs.
More news tomorrow… after we visit other shelters and speak to more local vets.