What they witnessed shocked everyone in the team and heightened the urgency of why the country desperately needs support and new legislation to protect its animals
On the 29th January 2017, three leading animal welfare campaigners from the UK made a mercy mission to Romania.
Anneka Svenska, 43, Wildlife TV Presenter and Conservationist who had previously rescued 300 dogs from Romania and dog meat trade. Anneka is the founder of Green World TV; an online TV channel she created solely to support animal welfare and conservation. She is also director of Angels for the Innocent Foundation. (AFI)
Nicky Stevens, 41, Founder of charity International Aid for the Protection and Welfare of Animals (IAPWA). Nicky has previously received a British Citizen Award for international achievement for her work in Borneo and won the Ceva 'Charity of the Year' Award in 2015.
Amanda Leask 46, animal rescuer and author from Scotland. Known for the famous "Miracle" the dog who ‘refused to die', saved from the illegal dog meat trade in Thailand. Amanda is trustee for IAPWA with ambition to make change for animals on an international scale.
The reason for the trip was to film the plight of the Romanian street dogs and to bring their terrible suffering to a wider global audience. What they witnessed shocked everyone in the team and heightened the urgency of why the country desperately needs support and new legislation to protect its animals.
In Romania today there are around 64,000 feral dogs in Bucharest alone. The dog population arose as a result of systematization, a policy imposed during the Communist regime that ruled Romania for decades. Systematization forced people to move into apartment blocks and abandon their dogs.
On the second day, the campaigners visited a charitable vet practice Dog Rescue Romania headed up by husband and wife vets Garofita and Rudi Hofman. It was clear that the couple devoted their life to providing free vet care for as many of the Bucharest street dogs as possible. They stand by their word that no dog is ever released back onto the streets and if it cannot be treated and adopted, it would be cared for in their own sanctuary.
During the visit, the campaigners witnessed dogs with heart-breaking injuries, paralysis and medical conditions. Two men burst in with a dog who had been tragically run over and the vets fought for over an hour to save the dog before he died on their table.
But nothing was to prepare them for what was to come next and shortly after a female German Shepherd was rushed into the practice with some of the worst injuries ever seen - a victim of the most harrowing and extreme torture. The gentle old street dog had been beaten, partially dismembered and sexually abused with a knife. Even her teeth had been cruelly extracted. The vets fought hard and did everything they could to treat her and to pull her out of her critical condition.
The lady who found the dog, passed through every day to feed the strays and told Anneka on film that she had found three dead puppies in the same place as the mutilated shepherd that week, one cut in half, another's with its skull caved in and the third disembowelled. When she fell upon the German Shepherd, which she felt had been ‘carefully placed', as if left their for her to find, she immediately took it as a sign that someone was trying to signal to her to stop feeding the street dogs.
When questioned to whether she felt the police would intervene, she said that she was not hopeful as in Romania there are no animal welfare laws upheld to protect stray dogs. Despite the evidently dangerous attacker and the risk he could pose to children and women, she still felt that the Romanian police were unable to act.
The dog has been named ‘Spirit' and is on her way to a complete recovery thanks to vets Dog Rescue Romania. The dog will travel to the UK later in the year and be rehomed.
Call to Action
Having returned to the UK, the campaigners are taking immediate action to prevent more dogs having to suffer horrendous torture and are planning to create a petition to ask for changes in legislation, alongside Romanian lobbying organisations and charities in order to improve the welfare of street dogs and the prosecution of individual engaged in abuse and cruelty.
They will be calling for:
- The reinforcement and strengthening of animal protection legislation for dogs
- Enforcement of penalties for crimes committed against dogs
- Improvement in standards of animal welfare provided to dogs in pounds
- A collaborative neutering campaign to reduce the number of strays suffering
Spirit has not been an isolated case of torture and mutilation in Romania and dogs have been reported regularly as victims of horrific mutilation, as was Phoenix, belonging to Amanda Leask, who was brutally skinned last year. Dog Rescue Romania, the vets treating Sprit have said that it is a regular occurrence to see dogs tied up and tortured.
IAPWA intends to approach the Prime Minister of Romania, Sorin Grindeanu and the Mayor of Bucharest Gabriela Firea to ask for support for this issues and to discuss changes to protect the strays. A neutering scheme will also be discussed to significantly reduce the number of strays, thus preventing their suffering, alongside education initiatives to create long term change.