Summer is in full swing, bringing the events we look forward to all year: our adopter and fosterer get togethers. Throughout June, July and August, our supporters across the UK will have the chance to bring their much-loved PAWS dogs out to play with their fellow rescues. It’s a chance to catch up, put faces to the names and photos we see on our Facebook page and to share stories about the joys – and quirks! – of life with our beloved rescue dogs.
It’s particularly rewarding to share these tales during what has been an unexpectedly turbulent year. After finally coming through the other side of the pandemic, we – like every charity – were looking forward to “business as usual”. Sadly, this hasn’t been the case. We have been heartbroken for our lovely team member, Oksana, who moved to the UK from Ukraine and still has many friends and family who have been affected by the Russian invasion.
As a result of the harrowing events, we temporarily shifted our focus to assist in the crisis in Ukraine. We are so proud of the unbelievable courage shown by our Romanian team members, Alexandra and Raimo, who have delivered vans full of food and medicines donated by Paws supporters to areas torn apart by war. They visited shelters where brave civilians had stayed behind to car for abandoned animals and distributed food to the needy. As Alexandra put it, ‘This trip has left a dark stain on my soul, and at the same time has opened my eyes to the endless resource that is caring.’ We also worked closely with another NGO taking emergency supplies across the border into Ukraine. And thanks to the generosity of our supporters, we supported two monasteries in Sighet close to the border in Ukraine where hundreds of refugees have been housed. Alison and Kelly visited the monasteries on March 10th and stayed with the volunteers and displaced families. Many of the children had left all their possessions behind, so the teddies and colouring books were very welcome, alongside the desperately needed food and personal hygiene products.
The war has also had a severe impact on our partner shelters in Romania. Due to concerns about potential diseases, DEFRA imposed a blanket ban on the importation of animals from Ukraine, Belarus, Poland and Romania until May 14th, and then until July 9th. The knock- on effect has been devastating: the shelters, always overflowing, are bursting at the seams. Rescuers are struggling to find the resources to adequately care for the backlog of adopted animals in limbo. Adopters in the UK are waiting patiently for their new family member to arrive….All we can do is hope that the situation improves after July 9th.
Our visits to Romania and Moldova have continued this year with Alison, Kelly and Kerry witnessing some truly heart-breaking sights. Even after nine years of Paws2Rescue, the horror of seeing cruelty and neglect first -hand never diminishes, and neither does our admiration for our rescuers on the ground, who work tirelessly to ensure these neglected animals learn that humans can be trusted. There have been some triumphs in Romania: the Mayor of Moldova Noua, who banned our team member from caring for the public shelter dogs, has allowed her to return to feed and check on their welfare. In addition, long overdue changes in Romanian law have increased the penalties for perpetrators of animal abuse, and the creation of a dedicated task force within the police means these crimes can be properly investigated.
But in the midst of so much sadness and frustration, there have been many brighter moments. We are blown away by our young supporter, Ashely Owens, who has raised almost £10,000 for us by undertaking a sponsored sleep out in his tent for well over a year. £10, 000! What an incredible achievement; what an amazing young man. Thanks to Ashley’s fundraising efforts, the newly built sanctuary in West Romania is almost complete. Our #mission22 challenge has raised over £12,000 (and counting) in its first four months. In this time of economic crisis, when everyone is feeling the financial squeeze, we are humbled by the kindness of our supporters and their unending generosity.
It is this generosity that has enabled us to continue to expand our most important project: the neutering programme. As we always say, providing abandoned animals with loving homes in the UK warms our hearts, but in order to really resolve the problem of unwanted animals in Romania, we need to tackle the root cause by reducing their numbers and breaking the breeding cycle. Our 2022 campaign got off to a very strong start with 768 Romanian dogs and cats operated on between January and April. We broadened our horizons in March and April, with an international project in South America which saw 624 animals neutered in Peru and a further 50 in Venezuela. We have also been able to rehome a small number of dogs from Egypt.
As ever, we are grateful to our team members, all volunteers, both in the UK and overseas for their hard work behind the scenes. Above all, we would like to offer a huge and heartfelt thank you to all our supporters: none of this would be possible without you.