We visit our rescuers and their dogs, we help them with cleaning, or walking or playing with the dogs, we buy them dog food, and strengthen our relationships. We fully assess dogs that are adopted and will travel to the UK or other countries and we feed strays – so many strays. Often, we go alone or with our rescuers as they are called to an emergency for a dog that is seriously injured or abused – (this still occurs at least on a weekly basis, if not more). On some visits, we join our neuter campaigns, we talk with locals, vets and the Romanian national TV. Yet, on every visit, always the low point of our visit, we go to the public shelters.
The local authority paid dog catchers will capture the dogs using dog poles, traumatising the dogs, and bring them to the local public shelter. The dog is then left there. Conditions at public shelters vary: few have kind workers, the cages are kept clean, and the dogs have water and food (even though the food is like cardboard). The public are allowed to visit and adopt a dog, and the dogs are not euthanised. These are the basic conditions that the Romanian law states a stray dog should have.
However, shelters like this are rare to find: most shelters that we have been to are rancid – you can smell them hundreds of yards before your each them – the excrement, and the smell of fear and despair. Workers are hard to find, many do not care about the dogs, and the money allocated by the local authority for the dogs doesn’t always appear to reach the dogs bowls (actually, most don’t have bowls either). Dogs will stay in cramped, dirty, disease ridden cages until they are euthanised. The shelters are supposed to keep the dogs for 14 days, but we have known shelters that kill the dogs within 3 days of arrival. Sadly, the nature of euthanasia is not a kind injection, like the one used in the UK, a range of methods have been used over the past few years – sickening, agonisingly slow and painful deaths, or harsh blows and even injection of illegal substances such as Furidan (even illegal by Romania’s standards).
We visit these shelters to at least take a few dogs out. Do not ask how we choose, because we have no idea, but each time, we do. We have worked with our rescuers to expose many of the worst public shelters, taking TV crews with us, and closing two shelters down last year. We made an arrangement to work with one shelter, to bring food, to improve the dog’s living conditions. Our rescuers in Baia Mare have taken over the running of their public shelter, bringing improved conditions and workers who at least love the dogs. We will help these shelters in neutering the dogs – because they are breeding inside the cages too! Anything that we can physically do to improve the lives of the dogs, we have done, and will do. We continue to speak out for those who have no voice – every day of the year.
Until the government, and each local authorities attitude changes towards the stray dogs, sadly, there is little more that we can do at these public shelters.
To turn back and look into the dogs’ eyes as we walk away and leave them behind breaks our hearts every time, and as long as we live, we will never be able to forget the eyes, and the screaming.