Visit to Romania

As I indicated in the last Newsletter, I and my wife accompanied Alison Standbridge, the founder of PAWS2RESCUE on a short visit to Romania in late May.

The purpose was to see something of welfare conditions in Romania and of the hugely difficult rescue and rehoming efforts of Alison and her helpers.

It is difficult to describe the appalling suffering of the thousands of stray dogs in Romania. I thought I had some acquaintance with such scenes from our work in Spain. I can only say that what I saw in Romania will haunt me for the rest of my life.

Our first port of call was to a compassionate dog rescuer near Bucharest who cares for about 50 strays in his own home, many of whom are seriously injured or sick. Some little way away he owns and runs what is known as a “private shelter” which contains 500 dogs and puppies. Most of these are healthy but some badly injured by traffic accidents and maltreatment. The task of caring for this number of dogs must be overwhelming, especially since there is very little money to spare. The requirement for dog food alone amounts to 200 kilos a day. This requires regular visits to a local pet superstore where helpers and staff have to beg shoppers to buy them a bag of food.

It will be difficult for people in UK to visualise a country which is a member of the EU, where one can easily come across 20 stray and feral dogs in one street, never mind those wandering the open roads. Of course this results in a huge number of deaths and injuries of dogs, especially at night. Our journeys were regularly brought to a sudden stop to rescue these wretched strays. This situation was brought about by the actions of Romania’s brutal communist dictator Ceausescu who brought thousands of peasants into the city as industrial workers who were housed in the brutalist soviet style blocks still to be seen today and prohibited from keeping their dogs. This resulted in many being cast out on the streets where, predictably, they have hugely multiplied. Periodic slaughter by the authorities has, of course, done nothing to help the situation which can only be attacked by mass sterilisation. Efforts in this direction are being made by charities, including Paws2Rescue, but the task is immense.

Next, we drove to Ploesti some 35 miles north of Bucharest, to look at a “public shelter” supported by local government, where we found 1000 dogs kept in truly horrific conditions in an establishment meant to house no more than 600. The dogs and puppies are kept in overcrowded enclosures, most without shade in a region where temperatures rise to over 40C. It appeared that no attempt at clearing up faeces had been made for a long time resulting in an obvious risk of infection and an overpowering stench. Despite denials by the staff, it is clear that dogs must be being destroyed and, almost certainly, by barbaric methods. Certainly the insanitary conditions must give rise to disease and death.

The authorities lay down that dogs in public shelters must be made available for adoption and there is a sign to that effect on the gate. However, we made two such requests and were refused on clearly trumped up grounds, such as “that puppy is undergoing treatment” and another is “reserved”. Our friends arranged for local people to make similar requests; all were turned down.

Since the shelter receives government funding on a per dog basis, the conclusion must be that the numbers are being corruptly kept as high as possible.

We met some German women who said they were from a German charity which “supported” the shelter. If so, their efforts seem to have no beneficial effect.

Perhaps the most distressing aspect of the treatment of dogs in Romania is the frequent sight of dogs in dire distress owing to sickness, injury on the roads and straight barbarism, who are past any available treatment but are not put down because, we were told, of religious objections. I will not attempt any detailed description but, as I have said, these sights will remain with me, and with all other compassionate witnesses, for life.
Some years ago the appalling treatment of orphans in homes in Romania came to light. We are told that great strides have been made in bringing this tragic situation to an end. Now is the time for “man’s best friend” to be made free from imprisonment and torture.

One would hope that the European parliament would concern themselves with such blatant disregard of all humanitarian principles in a member country. Judging by their complete failure to act in Spain, this seems a distant prospect.

Of particular interest to GIN supporters is the strong probability that greyhound racing is either actually taking place or is planned. Websites of the Greyhound Club Romania and others indicate strong support for racing. I am trying to run down firm evidence. Rumour has it that Irish dogs have been imported via other countries. If this turns out to be the case, hopefully it may be possible to obtain firm evidence from tattoo numbers.

Meanwhile, with the assistance of Paws2Rescue, GIN has imported two lovely dogs from Romania for rehoming. One, Sofia, is beautiful and very friendly, she is approximately 8 months old and was found abandoned on the streets. The other, Allegro, a fine upstanding friendly boy, approximately 2 years old. They are both greyhound crosses. These dogs are now in our care and have been checked by our vet and are now waiting to be adopted. Their photos and details are given below. It is our hope that this start may lead to more GIN action to help these maltreated dogs.

Martin July 2017

Our Patron, Peter Egan, meets Allegro and Sofia Sofia
Allegro Martin with Allegro and Angela with Sofia