Another 24 hours have passed and we have become more aware of the tragic situation here in Romania. There are hundreds upon thousands of dogs with no hope of a home; treated like vermin, abused and left for dead. It truly is a dire situation and the bleak reality has left its black mark on our hearts. Sadly no words can faithfully express the facts – you really need to see, hear and smell its existence for yourself.
We have visited one of Bucharest’s worst public shelters (see more here), a number of home rescuers, local vets, larger privately run shelters and seen first-hand the stray dog population out on the streets, in villages and forests. Sadly the situation in Romanian is like many others across the world where dogs are seen as a nuisance, a pest, a creature with no value and no soul. Their cultures are often very different from ours in the UK, where we see pets are part of our family - allowed in the house (on our beds!), fed regularly and affectionately cared for.
Because of this vast cultural difference, it is often difficult for natives in Romania to understand why we bother to help; we are laughed at and vilified – some volunteers have received death threats, others have been blackmailed by the police and yet more have had their dogs poisoned. Dog rescue in Romania is often a secretive affair for these reasons.
However, you can begin to understand why some people have no respect or care for dogs. The local media has long been reporting on the issues around stray dogs – how they spread disease, how they attack each other and people –sadly in some cases attacks have resulted in the death of the person. Within the last few years Bucharest’s stray dog population has definitely seen a decline, but severe problems still exist. The dogs that were once in the city are now in shelters and are still breeding while in there, so the numbers still grow albeit not on the streets. Dogs that escaped the dog catchers have moved to the outskirts of the city where they too continue to breed.
We absolutely believe that the problem should be dealt with. We recognise that stray dogs are a real and serious problem, but there is a more humane way to deal with it. A way other than simply leaving them to rot in a concrete cage or leaving boxes of puppies to be left on motorways to be run down by passing traffic.
What we saw (see photos below)
- Cages upon cages of weak, starved, sick and pregnant dogs in the Odai public shelter. The 600 dogs who stay at this shelter are not being neutered effectively and therefore the problem increases. This is just one public shelter and there are hundreds like this across the country.
- Remarkably dedicated Romanian men and women who devote their lives to helping stray dogs. We saw people living hand to mouth with rough built shelters for upwards of 40 dogs in their own homes and gardens.
- Streets and villages with small packs of roaming dogs left to fend for themselves, often unneutered and therefore breeding more pups.
- Dead dogs left on the roadside. Dogs walking freely around streets, homes, shops and fields.
- Larger private shelters, like the one run by Asociatia Pentru Protectia Animalelor Kola Kariola and supported by Paws2Rescue, where they work tirelessly to rescue as many dogs as possible from the torture of the public shelters like Odai, so they can be rehabilitated and rehomed. They need your help to continue the incredible work they do (donate here to support Paws2Rescue).
- We believe that we need to focus on addressing the root problem, which is neutering both stray and privately owner dogs.
- One female dog can have around 12 pups in one year – that’s over 60 dogs in her lifetime… times that by all the pups that her pups will have and we are looking at least 50,000 – just from one dog! Let me say that again, 1 dog can produce well over 50,000 dogs.
- Our aim by 2020 is to neuter 100,000 dogs, therefore preventing over 5 million unwanted dogs from being born.
- We have to start somewhere… and we will begin in Romania… in the next few days we will devise our plan to run our first neutering campaign… more news coming soon.