We travelled over with Nadine Kayser and Danielle, a volunteer from Wild at Heart Foundation, Alison Standbridge, founder of Paws2Rescue, and me, Andrea Gamby-Boulger, founder of Wetnose Animal Aid. It was so nice to talk to the others about all the different problems in Europe and the other Countries, but we all came to the same conclusion; the only answer is more funding, and to Trap, Neuter and Release these dogs to reduce the population but does the Government listen… NO, sadly not.
Up early, we drove with others to collect food from a supplier. Bucharest is such a big place, it can take 3 hours to get anywhere, especially if the traffic is bad. It’s such a big country and the roads are not very good so driving can be a bit of a challenge to say the least. We eventually got to visit the infamous Odai Public Shelter in Bucharest – a dog shelter run by the local police - housing 600 dogs. It has a really bad reputation for overpopulating kennels, starving dogs, allowing dogs to mate and continue to have puppies, and leaving injured and ill dogs to get worse. (Some of the food we delivered)
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 of the 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. (Sick puppy coughing and so thin, would have died within a week)
We saw two dogs - one a puppy and another dog that were extremely unwell and needed treatment fast. We took them both straight to the vets. The named the little puppy Danny – he was coughing and very sleepy; the other, called George, had no hair and was so very thin. This of course was another good 1.5 hours journey just to get to the vets on time.
George needed four injections with vitamins and antibiotics; the food they get is very poor and some weeks they are not fed for two or three days at a time, which is why their health suffers.
We went to a place we have been to before to see Marius who runs the Asociatia Pentru Protectia Animalelor Kola Kariola. This centre is fantastic and just shows what can be done with a little money and better organisation.
Marius and his wife Elena have worked 14 hours a day for the whole of this year to get this shelter finished in time for winter, but sadly still more needs to be done - but new buildings are going up and bigger kennel space is fantastic progress. As you can’t lay concrete in the winter, all the building work has to stop apart from putting in new doors and windows.
These dogs have so much freedom and exercise and when it’s hot in the summer (it can be as high as 35 degrees) the dogs have a swimming pool to play in, how amazing is that? At last some good news; maybe the attitude is just ever so slightly changing.
Today we went to another shelter, Fundula. By the time we had bought food and taken it there it was nearly dark, but at least the dogs were fed that day (one car load of food to feed 80 dogs).
How can this problem all over Europe be solved?
The best method quite simply is to have Trap, Neuter and Release programs; this is the only way to get the population reduced. Less puppies and kittens means less dogs getting run over; less dogs means more help for the ones that are left behind. Many studies have been done and it has been proven - but Governments do not want to listen.
Without Charities going in to private shelters and sterilising these animals, the situation will never change. The problems have been building up for the last 50 years, when flats were built in the cities and people left the mountains and countryside to get work and live there. Since the ‘70s things have become more difficult and now totally out of control. We need to focus on addressing the root problem, which is neutering both stray and private owned dogs.
Fact: One female dog can have around 12 pups in one year – that’s over 60 dogs in her lifetime… multiply 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, ONE dog can produce well over 50,000 dogs.
We are still a long way off getting the answers we want to hear and see, but we mustn’t give up hope. We must remember there are some wonderful people doing amazing work like Marius and Elena. Please help by sending a donation to help pay off a vets bill or food bill; we support many centres, but will always try and help the ones we know. (Andrea, Alison and Marius)