vagabond1.jpg

Everyone always asks us, "why Romania?" Romania is home to hundreds of thousands of stray dogs, nicknamed ‘vagabonds’, with an estimated 65,000 dogs on the streets of Bucharest alone. Animal lovers and authorities identify the same reason for the large number of stray dogs: a lack of effective programs to neuter dogs compounded by a constant practice of abandoning unwanted puppies and adult dogs. Animal protection and animal rights associations most often complain of cruelty against dogs by both citizens and employees from state authorities. Cruelty cases of stray dogs are widely publicised by the media and include stoning, beatings, mutilation, arson, shooting, stabbing, poisoning etc.  To this day in Romania it is allowed for the public shelters to euthanize the dogs after 14 days in the shelter, if they are not claimed or adopted. Unlike those in the UK, conditions in the majority of Public Shelters of Romania are barbaric and the dogs there are not protected by animal rights laws. When they arrive at the shelter, the dogs are thrown into dirty, overcrowded pens full of sick and traumatised dogs. The conditions at most of these government-sanctioned establishments are truly shocking. Dogs are left half-starved, dirty and without veterinary aid.

Most are not neutered. Males are kept with females creating more unwanted puppies. Some pets are taken to the shelters and thrown in with the street dogs, big and small together. Many are killed in fights over food. Fresh food and water is not provided daily. Some shelters don’t feed the dogs at all, and they are left to starve even when there is donated food in the cupboards. Often, food provided to the Shelter is stolen and sold on. Many are kept in a compound outside, have no shelter and some die in the harsh winters.  

International animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS published a disturbing report in 2014 detailing widespread illegal activities in Romanian public dog shelters. The report revealed that dogs are left without food or water, with no shelter in freezing conditions, infested with rats, living in urine, excrement and blood. Dogs injured during capture are left to die slowly of their injuries. Dead and dying dogs are eaten by live dogs and this major health violation not only puts the health of dogs at risk, but also staff, volunteers and local population.

Corruption in the Romanian stray dog business is unfortunately extremely common. The tiny amount of money occasionally provided to the shelter by the government is rarely spent on food and care. The government turns a blind eye to this, as well as to the bad practice and casual cruelty of many of the staff. For example, instead of using the government’s funds to purchase humane sedative drugs to euthanise dogs, shelter owners use inhumane methods such as shovels or rat poisoning and pocket the money for themselves.

Shelter employees care little for animals and see dogs as vermin. The hiring criteria for an employee is based on a political agenda - the dominant political group in the town hire their own supporters in exchange for political support. The workers are untrained and paid an inadequate wage, which means there is no incentive to look after or care for the animals in their charge. Bad practice and cruelty occurs too often and there is no adequate supervision. The dogs become sick with malnutrition and attacked by dominant ones. Injury and death is commonplace. Untrained workers do not implement basic hygiene rules and disease and viruses are rife. Kennels are filthy, the concrete floors covered in excrement with no doghouses or dog beds. Some dogs have lived in these squalid conditions for years with no hope of adoption. Their short lives only ever knowing cruelty and fear.

We know it’s not possible to rescue every dog from the public shelters of Romania. However, we are making a real difference to the stricken dogs in this small shelter in Adjud, a small town in a rural area of east Romania. The drive from Bucharest to Adjud is a sad one. Many abandoned dogs and strays form groups, and line the roads hoping for food to be thrown from cars, or scavenge through street rubbish. Dogs that were once pets; Chihuahuas, Pekinese, Labradors are now abandoned for being sick, too old or just tiresome to their owners. Small dogs, bewildered and unable to fend for themselves are killed on the roads, die of starvation or are mauled and killed by other larger dogs.

 

At Adjud Public Shelter, 350 dogs are living in captivity. Young pups, nursing mums, sick and injured, elderly all crammed into kennels where the poor-quality chipboard had soaked up water, disintegrated or been gnawed away by the hungry dogs. Dogs have nothing to lie on but filthy dirt floors, which are covered in excrement and ice or snow in winter. Sadly, without volunteers dogs can be left without food and water for days, and if they are fed, it is usually scraps of rotting putrid meat completely unfit for any living creature or dried food occasionally. Without food bowls, the meat is thrown on the ground and becomes further contaminated with excrement or urine. The lack of food results in dogfights and often starving dogs are killed or badly hurt. No veterinary treatment is ever sought so they die from their wounds. It is hard to imagine that these dogs are the same breeds as those we treasure as beloved pets here in the UK. The story of Adjud Public Shelter is heart breaking, but you can help us offer a glimmer of hope to the poor dogs imprisoned there. 

 “It’s terrible to see the utter desolation of some of these souls that have only ever experienced cruelty, never a kind word or gentle hand. All they feel is fear.” 
 
Diane Bowman
Annie’s Trust 

Every day, beautiful and intelligent dogs are dying an unbearably sad, painful and lonely death in these Romanian shelters.


We believe that all dog-lovers, regardless of where they live, should consider the situation in Romania an emergency.