As we arrived in Sarajevo after a 3 hour drive from Mostar, the scale of the stray dog problem was immediately apparent as we spotted a dog on the side of the highway scavenging for food. We met Dzenana, our contact here and headed straight to the pet shop to stock up on dog food for the 500 dogs we were due to meet. We purchased 145kg of dry food and 48 cans of wet food, once we eventually managed to squeeze it all into our little hire car we drove 50km outside of Sarajevo to Prâca, one of the five public shelters surrounding Sarajevo. As we approached the shelter I was overwhelmed by the size of it, there were many dogs wondering around outside the gates of the shelter, I soon realised that these were the lucky ones.
I would have imagined that being greeted by around 30 stray dogs at once would be quite intimidating but in fact it was the opposite, they all had waggy tails and were desperate for human attention. There were so many lovely dogs in this outside area, almost all of whom you could imagine being a family pet. These dogs roamed around outside and slept in little outdoor kennels, they were far more fortunate than the dogs housed in the indoor kennels. Within minutes of arriving I noticed several dogs with health problems, the first dog we saw was limping around and many had dermodex or eye infections. These were only the visible health problems, from the condition of the dogs it was apparent that many more had dreadful diseases or parasites.
In the end kennel in one of the blocks was a gorgeous German Shepherd. The poor thing was so traumatised it was continuously running in circles biting its tail. The end of his tail was red raw from where it had been bitten and the rest of the tail had barely any hair left. This repeated motion is a sign of extreme distress, luckily this dog will be taken to the vet by a volunteer. Without the hard work and dedication of the small handful of volunteers returning to Prâca each week, dogs like this would not survive. Believe it or not there are actually people employed to run this shelter, however, they simply sit around drinking beer, smoking and mocking the volunteers for caring about the dogs.
To my horror, the worst part of this public shelter were the 4 rows which were privately rented. These cages were far smaller with up to 20 dogs crammed into each cage. What shocked me the most was the fact that this lady thought she was doing a good thing by locking these dogs up and keeping them off the streets. The fear on many of the dogs faces made it apparent that they had only ever associated human faces with pain and torture which was heart-breaking to see.
We distributed the vast amount of food we purchased which only provided one small meal for the dogs of Prâca, although it was significantly more nutritious than the stale bread and chicken bones the workers were feeding them. We spread the food out so the dogs didn’t fight one another. I have incredible admiration for the volunteers who visit Prâca each week to feed the dogs and clean the pens. I spoke to a lovely Italian lady who visits as often as she can between her work shifts, she has been struggling to eat and sleep as the dogs are constantly on her mind. I have joined a group on Facebook to follow the work these amazing volunteers do, I have since found out that every few months 200 dogs or more go missing from the shelter and mass graves have been discovered surrounding the shelter. Thanks to these people a small handful of dogs are taken out of the shelter each week where they are taken to foster homes. Unfortunately, these foster homes are bursting at the seams, each with up to 30 dogs in. We have several of these dogs available for adoption which will be posted later in the week. Once a dog has been adopted, the space is then free for another dog to be rescued from this hell hole.
Since leaving Prâca I have been unable to erase these horrific sights from my mind. It is devastating to think that Prâca is only one of the five shelters surrounding Sarajevo which is only one city in Bosnia. I feel more determined than ever to help reduce the worlds 600 million stray dog population. To help alleviate the suffering of man’s best friend please donate by clicking here and marking your donation as ‘BOSNIA’.