Saturday, December 24, 2011

Thanks and Wishes for Christmas

Christmas has an extra special meaning to me. It is a celebration of the family, of love, tranquility, peace. It's our chance to be reborn again each year, except as better people than the year before: doing, caring and giving back a little more. And it's a perfect opportunity for reflection, for giving thanks, making wishes, and even hoping for miracles.

Christmas is the time to give thanks for all the wonderful things that have happened throughout the year. I am extremely thankful to the special people who cared about the Ploiesti strays:

- the wonderful people that opened their homes for some Ploiesti strays, making them members of their families, or fostering them before finding them perfect homes;

- Romania Animal Rescue and their donors for sponsoring 100 free sterilization surgeries of Ploiesti strays in November;

- friends that helped with transporting some Ploiesti strays abroad to their wonderful foster or adoptive families;

- friends that helped with caring for animals in great medical need;

- friends that provided great pieces of advice, as well as support and encouragement.

It's a lot to be thankful for. And I am extremely grateful for all the good things that have happened for the Ploiesti strays in 2011. 

But there is also a long way to go. Hence, I also have quite a few wishes this Christmas for my dear local strays. I wish for:

- more sterilization campaigns in Ploiesti. Hence, I really wish more people will donate to Romania Animal Rescue specifically for spay/neuter events in Ploiesti (please see Ways to help). One animal can be neutered for as little as 16 euro. Given how many animals are born each year to suffer on the side of the road... 16 euro can really go a long way, doing a lot of good on the long run. Imagine all the puppies that will not be born anymore to a female dog, throughout her whole life.

- more people to open their hearts to the Ploiesti strays, giving them a home and the chance to thrive as beloved members of a family. Wonderful local canine companions available for adoption can be found here.

- truly improved welfare and care for the homeless animals that end up in the local state-owned Bucov shelter.

- a general shift in the perception of stray animals by the local population and authorities. Greater understanding, humanity and responsibility in dealing with stray animals.

Thank you for everything, and please help me make these wishes possible. For Christmas, pray with me for a miracle for these wonderful animals.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Urgent appeal for an old prisoner

Dear all,
Please urgently help an old Dalmatian female of 10 years of age that was recently abandoned at the state-owned Bucov shelter, left with severe untreated, infected open wounds on all four limbs, and exceptionally weak. The adoption requests of two local animal protection associations (“Ploiesti-Munchen” and “Prieteni fara Grai”) were denied, contrary to current legislation. Possibly so that people would not see outside the shelter gates how severely neglected this dog has been while at Bucov.

Please contact the Prahova County Prefect and the Ploiesti Mayor with regard to this situation and demand that the dog be given for adoption to the animal protection associations that could provide the much needed care for this old, injured dog. You can contact them at:

Mr Prefect
Fax: +40/244/546.067

Mr Mayor
Fax: +40/244/513829
Thank you for reading this! She was abandoned at the Bucov shelter after having been faithful to her family for the first 10 years of her life... Now she is old and badly injured, and most definitely needs the care and tranquility that a shelter with 600+ dogs cannot provide.

Friday, December 16, 2011

On the way to becoming Dutch

This week 4 Ploiesti strays hit the road to Holland. Luiza and Whitey, Belice and Blanca were welcomed by wonderful, caring, empathetic families who were concerned and very receptive to the situation of the Romanian strays and the danger of the mass dog cull law. Here are the now former Ploiesti strays soon after arriving in Holland:

Belice, shy at the beginning but opening up and starting to show his true colours

 Luiza and Whitey, best street friends, still together in the new home

Blanca, a tiny darling, a beauty and a super doggie ambassador

Belice is now getting used to his new life with an owner. Luiza and Whitey are learning together the ropes of having a family of their own. And Blanca is an absolute darling in her foster home, being a most amazing ambassador for the many wonderful stray dogs of Ploiesti and of Romania that desperately need a home and the chance to flourish as part of a family. 

While we are super happy for them, and we wish them long, happy lives with their new owners, they are already missed. Personally, I ended up sending my 2 favourite local strays, Luiza and Whitey, just because it was impossible for me to adopt them myself, and I really wanted to know them safe and loved like they deserved. And yes, safe from the risk of becoming victims of the mass stray dog cull. Because they deserve so much more than such a fate. Like many others.

By looking at these pictures now, of them newly arrived in their homes in Holland, I can only say how much they fit in. It seems surreal that only until recently they were street dogs that no one wanted in Romania.

Belice, Luiza, Whitey, Blanca, may you flourish and show the world how terrific the Ploiesti/Romanian strays are!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Life is a story

Sometimes we get days that seem a bit surreal. Today was just such a day... Let's see how it started.

Yesterday, a friend found an injured female dog and simply could not leave her there. A dog that had been ran over and dragged under a car, and had open injuries. So I advised him to take the dog to a good local vet I knew. The news was good: the vet sewed her open wounds and considered she'll fully recover after the accident. Even better, a neighbor was willing to host and care for this dog until her recovery. Yet, her spine is swollen as you can see in the first picture, and while she definitely feels in her hind legs, she's not able to walk quite yet.

I thought of calling her Alma, which means 'soul' in Latin, because her face expression can tell so much. Here's Alma yesterday, right after being seen and treated at the vet:

So this morning, the plan was for my sister and I to leave the house for half an hour... Solely to go see Alma and take more pictures of her. And so we did, but little did we know that this would be only the beginning of our day... Here's Alma this morning, well cared for by the foster lady and our friend:

Now, two things grabbed my attention the minute I saw her: firstly, that she looked so much like a Spanish Podenco dog, reminding me of my friends' super sweet dogs. And secondly, that judging by her breasts, she was a lactating mom...

Which meant that she most certainly must have had small puppies left behind somewhere in the area where she was ran over. So instead of going home to relax at least today, well, off we go, 3 friends, at the accident site to explore the area in search of Alma's puppies. One dilapidated building on the one side, bushes with thorns on the other side. We looked for the puppies everywhere we could, calling them, and showing people pictures of Alma and asking of her and her puppies' whereabouts. Well, no luck...

... Until I go into a nearby gas station and ask staff members about this dog and whether they had seen any puppies in the area. The guy at the counter immediately tells me there's a puppy that had been ran over by a car that very morning, and now was hiding under a car nearby. We found the little darling shivering under a car, but wagging his tail and being super happy to get some dry dog food. We pulled him from underneath the car super gently and started examining him...

Let's just say that some puppies are just incredibly lucky... The guy from the counter was firmly convinced that the car had ran over the puppy and had damaged him badly. While the little guy was clearly in shock and trembling, he has no broken bones and no visible external injuries. Most likely, the car ran over him, but fortunately the wheels did not touch him. He stood up and walked. And while still shaking, he showed us how hungry he was by finishing immediately a handful of kibble. Skin and bones, only the long fur hiding his skinny body, the dirtiest puppy I have ever seen, and full of fleas too, we could not leave him there.

Judging by his puppy teeth that are falling off, he's around 4-5 months of age. And because of his colour, I've decided to call the little guy Smokey. So meet Smokey:

Now, Smokey clearly is too old to be Alma's puppy. Judging by her breasts, her puppies must be way younger. But despite our efforts and willingness to save them and reunite them back with their mother in a safe place, we could not find Alma's puppies... I sincerely hope that someone finds and saves them. We certainly did our best.

Well, we went there to rescue Alma's puppies... And ended up rescuing this little guy that had been involved in a car accident himself that very morning. After calling friends and trying to find him a foster place, we resorted to driving to the countryside and leaving the little guy with plenty of food, water and warm blankets in a relative's courtyard. Here's Smokey in the car in my arms, going in foster to the countryside:

Day over? Nope! We felt sorry to leave poor baby Smokey alone in that courtyard. So we went back into Ploiesti and rescued another stray puppy that is already spoken for adoption. We took this puppy as well to the countryside to keep Smokey canine company and also be safe herself. Now they're both treated against internal and external parasites, and finally spending their very first day in a safe place, away from cars and traffic. They'll also go see the vet very soon.

When my sister and I finally returned home, it was late afternoon/early evening. Just one of those days...

UPDATE Dec 5th: The vet told me today that by the way Alma's breasts looked, she hasn't been sucked in quite a while now. Which means that as a matter of fact, there weren't any tiny puppies left behind depending on her! So a big relief. 

Friday, December 2, 2011

Protesting for life, and teaming up for Triumph

On Wednesday, November 30th, animal lovers and rescuers from all over Ploiesti held a peaceful protest in front of the local town hall in the name of life, and against the planned mass stray dog cull. Although it was in the middle of a working day, at least 50-60 people managed to stop by, getting to know each other and showing their united support for the stray dogs' cause. It was good to see in the crowd many young people concerned about animals' fate, it's always a good sign when young faces join the ranks. Here are some pictures from the protest:

Animals, too, joined our ranks to show their support for their fellow canine friends:

Three fellow animal rescuers and I then went to talk to the vice-prefect of the Prahova County inside the town hall. We all advocated for substantial spay and neuter campaigns of both stray and owned animals, for controlling animal numbers in humane and responsible ways. We showed our concern for the fate of the local animals, friendly, neutered and well cared for by local people, as well as for the welfare of the animals at the Bucov animal shelter. I am sincerely hoping that this dialogue with the local administration will continue, and that, with enough support and help from the country and from abroad, we'll manage to push the balance towards spay/neuter instead of the much dreaded mass dog cull.

Before arriving at the protest, Laura, a friend of mine, found an injured young cat that had been just hit by a car. Let's call her Triumph, as she's got tree colors, plus she's one mighty kitten:

Triumph was found badly injured on the road, crying in pain, with a broken pelvis and broken legs, a victim of a recent car accident. A tough start for a 5-month old super sweet kitten. My friend rushed Triumph to a vet, but she needed help with temporarily placing the cat for a couple of days plus ensuring further vet treatment. Luckily, at the protest two other friends of mine instantly offered to host the cat for a few days, and my part was to go again to the vet with Triumph. Said and done. Now Triumph lives up to her name, eating well and being a fighter. Apart from this kitten's sweetness (we all grew terribly fond of her), I was also very well impressed with the great team work done for Triumph. I am really glad and feel honored to work together with such wonderful fellow rescuers. Once again, I get reminded that Ploiesti does have many great animal rescuers. A group of great people that could.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Whitey- And the need of funds for dogs in need

How do you establish the fine equilibrium between quantity and quality? How do you tackle the desire to help the largest number of dogs possible, with the necessity to provide special costly care to certain absolutely wonderful individuals in great need? With limited funds, it's always a very difficult task to accomplish.

Spaying and neutering surely is the best way to help the largest number of dogs possible- by preventing unwanted litters- literally turning off the source of stray dogs that otherwise would have been born to a life of misery in the streets. But what of the dogs already born, already suffering? What of the animals injured, ill and victims of abuse? Hit by cars, with broken bones, sick with distemper, or severely malnourished?

Whitey used to be just one of these dogs. He was involved in a car accident last year, suffering a broken front leg- a broken leg that, without the proper necessary veterinary care at the right time, healed in a wrong way. One year later, and Whitey is still limping and avoiding using that paw. To make things worse, when I returned home to Ploiesti I've also found Whitey with a bulge the size of a tennis ball under his chin. The wonderful lady in Whitey's neighborhood who last year would bandage his broken leg, this year was trying to treat his bulge as well. But best intentions backed up with modest financial possibilities can only reach that far... Luckily, Romania Animal Rescue (RAR) and their veterinarian Dr A offered to help Whitey. RAR covered the costs of the medical visit, and Dr A saw and treated Whitey recently. Whitey's bulge turned out to be full of blood and puss that Dr A removed during the vet visit. Now Whitey is on antibiotics so that the bulge disappears completely, and we hope that soon, Dr A will be able to work wonders for Whitey's previously injured leg as well.

 The images show Whitey's formerly injured front leg, as well as the bulge under his chin

Whitey on his first car ride ever on the way to Bucharest to get seen and treated by Dr A, courtesy of RAR!

Whitey not too thrilled to be at the vet practice, but being a super good boy nonetheless, and getting much needed vet care

To make things even better, a few days ago I have found out that Whitey will go in foster care soon, with another dog from his pack, at a most wonderful lady from Holland. Now the two dogs are off the streets and in foster care in Ploiesti, getting ready for their departure, and eagerly awaiting their first Christmas in a warm, loving place called home.

 Whitey tonight, in foster care at a wonderful local animal rescuer and waiting for his first Christmas in a nice, warm home

Ironically, soon after I took Whitey to Dr A, I went on a spree to check on all dogs in my neighborhood... Only to find another dog I've known for years now with sure signs of urinating with blood. As an animal rescuer, I know caring for animals is a never ending story. There will always be animals needing help, animals you cannot just not help. Up to this point, I have only used my personal savings and never asked for financial help for rescuing animals. This time, it was surely great to be able to take Whitey for free vet care provided by RAR and Dr A - since a recent graduate with no job yet can only afford to do that much.

I am extremely grateful to RAR for committing to help Whitey. And I can only wish people will continue to give for such wonderful dogs, dogs that did not ask to be born but were born anyway, dogs that endure a tough life in the streets that all too often inflicts injuries and pain on them. And yet, despite all this, dogs that can still be extremely good and loving like Whitey is.

Thank you, RAR, for helping Whitey!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Thanksgiving weekend and a great reason for Ploiesti strays to give their deepest thanks

Despite the newly voted legislation legalizing mass dog euthanasia in Romania, strangely enough, the Ploiesti stray animals do have a reason to be extremely grateful this Thanksgiving. This month, 100 animals were spayed/neutered for free in Ploiesti with the help of truly beautiful people whose dedication and generosity shown in helping Romanian strays is absolutely humbling.  US-based Romania Animal Rescue (RAR) and Prahova County-based Foundation for the Protection of Stray Dogs (locally known as "FPCC") joined hands to make this sorely needed campaign possible:

Sponsored by RAR, carried out by the local FPCC team, this campaign helped stray animals from each and every area of Ploiesti. 97 dogs and 3 cats, almost all females, many of them already pregnant, were gently caught by hand, transported to the FPCC clinic, neutered, provided care for 2 days post surgery and long-release antibiotics, and then returned in their territory. The operations were of very good quality, as you can see below:

Notice the tiny cut of this recently spayed female dog in this s/n campaign in Ploiesti.

I believe with all my heart that this campaign has been extremely beneficial on many levels:
  • First off, many litters were prevented this winter alone, not to mention the exponential number of animals that would have been born on the long run to the breeding females and their offspring. I would say that this winter alone, a few hundred puppies will not be born anymore in freezing temperatures and at risk of being killed due to the new legislation. A few hundred puppies will not not be born to suffer and die anymore. Prevention of their suffering is priceless. 
  • I truly hope and believe that the stray animals neutered in this campaign will be spared from the mass dog cull and left to live in their territories, cared for and protected by local rescuers. All neutered animals received orange ear tags with a unique code as well as the "FPCC" inscription on, as proof that they are neutered and thus not contribute anymore to the stray animal multiplication problem; also being registered in the FPCC database.

 A female dog being returned spayed to the block of flats where she is loved and protected by several kind-hearted residents

  • Several of the dogs neutered in this campaign are now happily owned dogs. For a few dogs, there were already locals wanting to adopt them, but only on condition that they be neutered first. Given that the prices charged by local vet practices can be as high as half the monthly pension of a retired person, many people simply cannot afford to spay/neuter an animal they would really like to adopt. So because of this RAR s/n campaign in Ploiesti, now a few more strays are off the streets, safe, and happily owned locally. YES, a neutered stray is far more adoptable locally than an entire one, particularly if the dog happens to be a female. People avoid adopting even the cutest female puppy because of the unwanted puppies that come along later from an entire female dog. The least likely to be adopted from the streets are entire females. Spaying them most certainly increases their chances to find a home locally.
 Meet Raluca, one of the females spayed in this RAR s/n campaign in Ploiesti. A local wanted to adopt her but on condition that she be spayed first. Raluca says: "Dear RAR, I want YOU to receive my deepest thanks for coming to Ploiesti to spay me and help ensure a good future and an owner for me this way!"

  • I have also managed to meet as part of this campaign many local rescuers who care for the strays from their neighborhoods, people I could not have met otherwise. It was a great way to strengthen and enlarge the network of rescuers from all neighborhoods of Ploiesti. I feel confident to say that this town has many people who care about stray animals and want to help; people who will continue to care for these animals; fight for them; and go to great lengths to keep them safe and away from a cruel death.
 Residents and recently neutered stray dogs from their neighborhoods being happily reunited. This dog is "hugging" the arm of the person who cares for him
  • I've managed to take pictures and promote several strays I got to meet during this campaign. Now some of them are wanted for adoption or fostering by wonderful families abroad. The lives of some of these dogs are now forever changed for the better. 
  • I think this campaign also helped make a change in community's attitude towards strays. I do believe many more people now think of these strays as more valuable than before, if an American organization cared so much about them as so organize this s/n campaign. I do believe more locals will think twice now about the value of a stray and how it should be treated.
  • This campaign, together with other such s/n campaigns, could potentially persuade the local administration towards s/n as the most effective means to control animal overpopulation. With other such campaigns, this s/n campaign could literally help save the lives of the Ploiesti dogs.
  • And as last thought, I think this campaign also showed that the RAR-FPCC collaboration is very efficient. It would be beyond amazing for such a collaboration to continue in the future and other such s/n events to take place. While a great deal has been achieved with this campaign, each subsequent campaign would truly help make a difference.
  While this s/n campaign helped animals from all over Ploiesti, more such campaigns would help make a substantial difference in the reduction of stray animal numbers in humane manner. The many puppies we have seen, many of them too young to be neutered quite yet, demonstrated the importance of regularly conducting s/n events to contain the stray animal overpopulation. I truly wish that RAR and FPCC will keep the Ploiesti strays on their radars and hopefully return soon!

It has been an honor to help coordinate this s/n campaign in Ploiesti. I am extremely grateful to RAR and their donors for the positive difference they have made this November in the lives of my dear local strays; and to FPCC for the good work they have performed throughout this campaign. The local rescuers and animal carers, the animals helped, and I have a big THANK YOU to give this Thanksgiving for this campaign.

 Me with a young female stray dog that benefited from the RAR-FPCC s/n campaign in Ploiesti in November 2011

    Wednesday, November 23, 2011

    An extremely compelling letter

    Dear all,

    I have read many reactions about the mass dog culling law in Romania during the last 24 hours. One letter, however, conveyed so much truth and reality, dignity and strength, that I really felt I had to put it on this blog as well. My Facebook friend and fellow Romanian rescuer, Mada Spataru, explains the current situation and the impact of the new mass dog culling law extremely well:

    "To Whom It May Concern:
    I apologize for the disturbance, but as of Tuesday, November 22, 2011, the Democratic Liberal Party (PDL) has succeeded to pass an extremely controversial piece of legislation (bill 912/2007 to modify and amend Emergency Government Ordinance no. 155/2001) in the Romanian Parliament that allows for the indiscriminate killing of all stray dogs throughout Romania. While on a moral level I am outraged that this bill will allow for the reinstatement of barbaric conduct previously demonstrated by local authorities, going against all animal welfare requirements and against the recommendations of the EU (including Written Declaration 26/2011), my letter to you is motivated by factual issues:

    1. This legislation, once put into practice (although it is widely in use already in mayoralties such as Tulcea, Botosani or Ramnicu Valcea, where dogs are cremated alive, brutally killed with clubs or poisoned with glass shards or even rat poison), will offer impunity to municipalities where such practices have continued despite a 7 year period where spay-neuter-return was the official policy.
    2. This legislation, once adopted by President Basescu, will allow for the illicit raising of campaign funds for the PDL election campaigns of next year. Their pecuniary interests were revealed by major journals here, with major actors such as Elena Udrea (Minister of Tourism and Development) being personally involved in the fund collection process.
    3. This legislation allows for the funneling of funds and money laundering. While the officials declare euthanasia costs of up to 275 euro/dog (as opposed to 15 euro, the cost of spay/neuter/return), to which cremation costs are added based on exaggerated weight assessments, the reality of the years in which euthanasia was the general practice have shown that dogs are usually starved to death and the remaining ones are killed without any cost whatsoever (translation: clubbed to death). This in turn adds to the engrossed funds raised through such barbaric practices additional sums allotted to feeding the dogs, in the tune of thousands of euro/month. The above mentioned facts are proven through statements, transcripts, recordings and testimonies that further underline the fact that no medical care whatsoever is offered to the dogs in the shelter, despite the fact that tens of thousands of euro are invoiced every month by designated vets (i.e. the shelter in Botosani).
    4. This legislation does not actually solve the stray problem in Romania, a fact which is desired by most pet owners. While euthanasia has exorbitant costs, it is estimated that only 1 in 10 dogs that are able to reproduce are actually euthanized by local authorities, allowing for a seasonal surplus of approximately 50 dogs (over 100 dogs per year, for every dog euthanized by local authorities).
    5. This legislation does not effectively discourage animal abandon. Each year, approximately 50% of pet owners in peri-urban areas abandon excess dogs (i.e. female cats and dogs) in urban and adjacent areas such as roads and industrial sites, leading to a renewal of the total population of strays, facts also demonstrated through interviews, statistic data and testimonies.
    6. This legislation does not lead to the elimination of aggressive strays, as statistical data has shown that dog catchers predominantly collect tame strays that socialize with residents and puppies.
    7. This legislation does not support in any way the efforts of the pejoratively called "animal lovers" or animal rescuers, who are currently facing an unprecedented overflow of injured and abandoned pets. The economic crisis has lead to an increased number of abandoned pets and a diminished interest in adoptions, leaving the few people actually doing spay/neuter&adoption over-agglomerated and without sources of funding their activities (no public funds are allotted whatsoever to these activities). As such, many private shelters and refuges are now faced with no resources, no volunteers and no funds to support their rescues.

    Moreover, the campaign to collect signatures for the euthanasia of stray dogs has brought forth internal PDL documents and campaign footage and materials that demonstrate its abusive and misleading character. PDL volunteers and high-ranking officials effectively manipulated the general public into believing they were signing to support spay/neuter/return. PDL members were faced with expulsion from the party upon failure to gather 2000 signatures/person and there is tangible evidence that professors, public servants and employees in the private sector were threatened with termination if they expressed opposition.

    As such, I would like to bring to your attention that we, the general public, alongside NGOs have proposed a number of measures that are cost and time effective and would limit the occurance of subsequent issues such as cat over-population. Among them, the following best represent my view on the potential solution:

    1. Census of dogs and cats with owners.
    2. Introduction of mandatory chip identification of pets.
    3. Introduction of national pet database, accessible over the internet to every vet (e-charts), allowing for the identification of owners and a more prompt treatment.
    4. Introduction of mandatory sterilization of pets without reproductive potential, thus limiting puppy mills and animal overpopulation. The owners who elect not to spay/neuter their pet will incur a yearly fee and mandatory bi-annual veterinary check-ups. Animal abandonment and animal cruelty should be harshly punished, and penalties should be reinforced in the new Penal Code, including the interdiction to own pets.
    5. Registration of all shelters and refuges, legal and privately owned (50+ animals), creating a national database that allows for redirection of the 2% annual tax refund. This measure would allow for animal rescuers with unofficial refuges and shelters to undergo audits bi-annually and to receive local funds and support from their respective municipalities.
    6. Reform of volunteering law that stipulates that all veterinary medicine students must perform a number of hours and procedures in public and private shelters and refuges, in order to support medical treatment, as well as stipulating a number of hours of supervision from veterinaries in local shelters (non-existent at the moment, the measure would increase quality of care and lower mortality). Moreover, introduction of stipulation that all NGOs active in animal protection (in this case, stray dogs) must pledge a number of hours in the local public shelters as a condition to maintain qualification.
    7. Reform of animal control law (repeal of current one, introduction of mandatory spay/neuter/return) that would lead to the creation of modern shelters that create jobs in local communities (educated, responsible and humane animal control employees, hygiene personnel, dog trainers and behavioral experts, medical personnel, etc.), that are primarily geared towards the treatment, spaying/neutering and socialization of strays (including training therapy dogs and cats as well as rescue and specialized dogs) in view of supporting the needs and interests of potential adopters. Modern shelters should allow for the creation of educational programmes in schools. Moreover, public shelters should be supported and even managed for periods of up to 6 months by qualified NGOs in the area, in order to support transparency and quality of care.

    I am a citizen of Romania, of the European Union, and I am also an "animal lover". I am a responsible pet owner, with 9 disabled cats and 4 dogs, all of which are spayed, micro-chipped and vaccinated and that have a more-than-adequate space to live their lives in safety. I am a responsible citizen of Romania - a professional in my line of work, a law-abiding tax payer, and I am doing my civil duty by helping people and animals in need alike. I am dismayed that my elected representatives have chosen to disregard cost-efficient measures that would effectively solve the stray problem in Romania within the next five to seven years, choosing instead to follow pecuniary interests that go against our dire needs. The measures proposed above are my own view of how the problem could be solved, and I hope that others will reach out to you suggesting many others.

    As a responsible citizen, I cannot support this recent legislation. As a responsible citizen, I feel it is my duty and my obligation to practice civil disobedience on moral and policy grounds, along the lines defined and discussed by the likes of Henry Thoreau, Gandhi and Ronald Dworkin. I admit my personal limitations in understanding the complexities of the definitions and interpretations that this concept has been given over the years. However, what I do know is that I am not a delinquent. I am a regular citizen that expects the state to represent my interests and reflect them through legislation. I believe that the recently-passed bill is immoral in the sense that it condones the inhumane treatment of animals, and I feel that this policy is wrong both in its assumption that it will solve the problem by delegating decision-making to the local level as well as through its hasty adoption in the months preceding an election year, likely to cloud better judgement and heighten financial interests.

    Until all municipalities in Romania have adopted the Spay/Neuter/Return policy and one or several of the measures proposed above, I believe it is my duty as a Romanian citizen to stop payment of any and all taxes. It is my personal opinion that revolutions do not necessarily have to take place in the street. I believe we, as Romanians, still have our own voice, and that we don't have to respond to violence with violence to be heard and understood.

    Thank you very much for your time.

    Sincerely yours,

    Mada Spataru"

    Tuesday, November 22, 2011

    Urgent appeal for Ploiesti and Romania's dogs

    Dear all,

    Today the mass stray dog culling law passed in the Romanian Parliament. All animal rescuers are extremely worried about what is about to happen to the Romanian strays, and the kind of deaths they'll endure. Despite EU's recommendations for humane, educated ways to control the stray dog overpopulation problem (see the Written Declaration 26 on Dog Population Management in the EU), the leading Romanian PD-L party thought otherwise. To give you an example about what "euthanasia" means in Romania, please see:

    By the way, in the videos above you see Traian Basescu, back then the mayor of our capital, now the president of the country, and member of the leading PD-L party.

    If there is any way you could adopt or foster a Romanian stray dog soon, it would be beyond amazing. You would save it from a great deal of suffering and a most certain painful death. We're talking here even about the loveliest, friendliest puppies and easiest dogs to handle (for example, you can have a look here: LOCAL STRAY DOGS FOR ADOPTION)

    I will talk with more local rescuers and think of what else could be done, and how the larger international community could help the Romanian dogs, especially in these particularly worrying times. Thank you for reading this and for caring about these stray dogs with truly bleak prospects.

    Monday, November 14, 2011

    Urgent appeal for a happy dog with a sad story

    I don't normally write appeals, as I believe I would have to write appeals for each and every dog out of the thousands roaming the streets of Ploiesti. But this one is truly a sad case, a dog my friend told me about. He is a one year old Schnauzer mix boy that was abandoned today by his owner. And thank God this happened, for his own sake. My friend's family (neighbors with the former owner) can only keep him temporarily in foster care, as my friend's dad suffers from asthma.

    This dog had anything but a happy life. His drunken owner would beat him repeatedly with his belt. Until today, he would often be left alone on the balcony of his former owner's apartment, in scorching summer temperatures or freezing winter nights. Also, fed sporadically, whenever the owner remembered about him, and not with proper nutritious food- today apparently he had cooked cabbage- human leftovers most likely. He would be taken out for a walk once every few days. I'd say, a very bad case of neglect and cruelty.

    Despite this, he still is a happy boy loving human company. Weirdly enough. Yes, he still trusts people, he's loving, friendly and full of life. Truly weird!!!

    And now looking for a new home. Ideally, the total opposite of what his first home was like.

    Today, just surrendered by his former owner and taken in temporarily by my friend's family

    Saturday, November 12, 2011

    The ICAWC and learnings I brought back

    In October 2011 I attended the ICAWC (International Companion Animal Welfare Conference) in Riga, Latvia. Organized by Dogs Trust, the largest canine welfare charity in the UK, this conference has been a real eye opener, a great learning experience, and a terrific way to connect with other like-minded animal rescuers from around the world. I am extremely grateful to my Masters program in Applied Animal Behaviour and Animal Welfare at the University of Edinburgh for helping me with the cost of attending this conference (my program helped each student in the course attend one conference- for me ICAWC was my definite choice).

    I thought of sharing some of the learnings I brought back with me from the conference. According to Dogs Trust, based on scientific research, we now know that:
    1. Dogs can help the development of children with learning and educational difficulties.
    2. Children that grow up with dogs are healthier and spend more time in school.
    3. Owning a dog helps reduce the risk of allergies in children, in particular asthma, wheezing and eczema.
    4. Dog owners make fewer visits to their GP (doctor) and spend less time in hospital.
    5. Dogs can reduce depression and improve mental well-being in humans.
    6. Dog ownership aids the recovery of post coronary patients.
    7. Owning a dog can help lower blood pressure in children and adults.
    8. Dogs can help the elderly by combating feelings of loneliness and isolation.
    9. Dog owning adults and children are more physically active and healthier than non-dog owners.
    10. Dogs can provide great emotional support for humans during periods of stress and anxiety.

    In fact, the evidence of dog benefits is so compelling that Dogs Trust and a hospital in the UK are teaming up, cardiac patients being encouraged to walk dogs from a nearby Dogs Trust shelter as part of the recovery process! A great way to exercise in the company of a dog.

    I have also been able to attend a lecture by Dr. Jeffrey Young, a world-renown vet who has spayed and neutered over 160,000 animals around the world; a huge proponent of spaying and neutering as means to control the animal overpopulation problem. If we're lucky, maybe Dr Young will visit Romania one day...

    Other speakers focused on the importance of international adoptions- from countries with stray animal overpopulation (such as Romania), to countries with no such problems, countries with incredibly high standards of animal welfare, where local shelters actually have few animals in their care. A great way to reduce the stray animal number in one country, sending the animals to great homes in countries with high animal welfare and few local dogs. By all means, a win-win situation.

    Romanian Raluca Simion from GIA also took the stage, giving her insights about the Romanian charter and the importance of spaying and neutering as means to contain the Romanian dog overpopulation problem. An intelligent, persuasive speech that would have made any Romanian rescuer proud.

    As part of the conference, I have also been able to see one local Latvian shelter, a shelter with high standards of animal welfare in my opinion. I can only wish that one day, Romanian shelters will also look and treat their dogs like this:

     Each dog is individually kenneled inside. Pictured is just half of the kennel, the other side being accessible through the small door in the wall. All dogs are extremely well socialized by very friendly and caring staff and volunteers.

    Here, dogs are left outside part of the day in order to get their daily dose of exercise and canine companionship

    For a population of 2.2 million people, Latvia has 25 shelters. Here are statistics for the way they manage the animal population:
    In Latvia, the emphasis is on adoption. Very few animals get euthanized, and only when nothing can be done for them anymore.

    Furthermore, I was very impressed to see in Riga a sort of culture for animals, the black cat being a prevalent symbol of the city:

    I would also like to add that I have not seen not even one stray dog in Riga... Because Latvians are responsible people who believe in spaying and neutering, and don't abandon their animals in the streets. While Latvia too had to endure Communism, I have huge respect for the way this country handled the stray animal population, through humane and responsible methods. Because they are such a great people, they NEVER had a stray dog overpopulation problem. Despite Communism and hardships, their humane,educated and responsible attitude made all the difference.

    I am aware that the stray animal overpopulation really is an international issue. As one speaker commented, 75% of world's dogs are free roaming animals... But some news give hope for this situation. At the conference, someone passed me a flier with amazing news: the possibility to end the stray dog overpopulation problem around the world with the use of pills that sterilize for life. More information here:

    Now that I am back from the conference, I still need to put order in my thoughts and sort through everything I have learned. I am more aware of the problems animals face around the world, aware of overpopulation issues and cultural mentalities. But the words of a speaker keep on ringing in my ears: "you can heal your corner of the world". And my corner of the world is Ploiesti, the town where I was born, a place with substantial stray animal overpopulation problems, extremely reduced animal welfare standards, and no real laws against animal cruelty- that is, laws actually enforced and not solely on paper. It is here where I'm trying to make a positive difference, first and foremost.

    Saturday, October 29, 2011

    Holland and the Tramp

    Not your average rebel teenager story.
    But mostly a story about love, trust and loyalty going beyond borders. Really.

    Remember this little guy, Finch? One of the 3 puppies we had sent for adoption in Holland at the beginning of this month? Let me refresh your memory:

    Maybe it helps to add the description I had given for him a couple of months ago, when I was putting him up for adoption:

    <<FINCH (AKA IQ)
    Meet the world's smartest puppy!!! Really.

    He is a stray-born male pup of about 5 months of age. He is beyond smart- he can get himself out of enclosures, literally climbing them as you see brilliant canine escape artists. Furthermore, he even climbs ladders and gets high up! He also tickles a lot, he's really funny when you pet his belly.>>
    Yes, this little guy. This little guy, the day he arrives in Holland at his foster family, well... Escapes, the second he finds the opportunity. Climbs over the fence, and off he goes. Rebel teenagers never make it easy, do they?

    The following two weeks, our Finch had become a Dutch celebrity, featuring on Dutch forums, his story being followed by many animal lovers:

    Many people from the community of Didam (the village where he escaped and was roaming free- THE FIRST STRAY DOG IN THE AREA EVER!!!) and from the surrounding areas got involved in his rescue. They tried to allure him with treats and food, tried to walk their friendly dogs near him hoping he would approach them, would leave their doors open at night so Finch wound not sleep outside in the cold, would leave food for him in their gardens. Police was contacted, a vet was called with tranquilizer, fliers were posted everywhere so the whole community was informed about Finch. Some teams of rescuers even spent nights outdoors waiting for Finch in the gardens or sheds where he had been seen spending time. The community was also seriously involved in his rescue, calling the rescue teams to inform them of Finch's new location whenever they would see him. As a side note, it's absolutely unbelievable the effort, dedication and care of so many people from the community and surrounding areas, people committed to saving him. Finchie boy, here, back home in Ploiesti, Romania, where you were only one out of thousands of street dogs, no one would have given a toss about you. In Didam, Holland, everyone was worrying for you. You have no idea how lucky you were to have so many people caring and worrying for you, little boy.

    But Finchie showed everyone how smart he was. Despite often crossing dangerous streets with a lot of traffic during these past 2 weeks, thank God, he never got hurt. Like someone told me, many angels were guarding him. People saw him looking right-left-right before crossing the street, or crossing the street when a human would also cross it. At 11 AM, he would also go regularly to the local school, where he knew he would get food from school children during lunch break. Finchie the IQ boy definitely impressed Didam with how smart he was.

    Smart, maybe a bit too smart for his own good. Despite many, many attempts of people to approach him with friendly dogs, food, even his favorite food (chicken with rice, from a little bucket, like I used to feed him!), Finch could never be caught. He would take the food, alright, but that was it. He never allowed another human being to get too near. To put the story short, despite community's best tries to approach Finch, to allure him with delicious food, Finch could not be caught for 2 straight weeks.

    So as soon as I returned from the companion animal welfare conference in Riga, off I went to Holland to rescue YET AGAIN my little Finch. Apparently, rescuing this little guy only once was not enough! Finchie boy, it wasn't easy for me, you know? I spent quite a bit of money, I spent a whole night on the airport waiting for the flight to come for you, but I finally managed to get myself to you.

    But the way you have welcomed me, that moment, was worth everything. Finchie boy, the moment you saw me through that fence, you were crying and jumping in the air, trying to get through the fence to me. I opened the gate and walked into that garden, and you instantly jumped into my arms, crying, barking, and springing in the air with excitement. God knows how long I've held you in my arms near my heart. My little baby boy. That reunion you have offered me is a moment I will never forget. I did not cry then, when you jumped happily in my arms the second you heard and saw me, but I certainly cried afterwards many times.

    During these two weeks, so many things could have gone wrong. All the traffic you went through, people seeing you even in intersections (well, pooping in the middle of an intersection, you silly thing you), the cold you put up with outside, etc. At the very same time, another dog escaped in Holland, but he was hit by a car and died. Finchie boy, you have no idea how many angels were with you during your escape. No idea!

    So I've spent my 4 days in Holland with Finchie in his new home, helping him adjust and start to feel at home there. In the 4 days we've spent together there, I have seen him flourish, learn from the resident dogs of the family, and become more and more relaxed. I've seen him smiling, I've seen him approaching his new mommy, laying down at her feet and giving her the belly to pet. I've seen him becoming a happy boy, adjusting to his new life in super rapid steps. I'm extremely proud of him.

    Here's some pictures of him, from the moment of the reunion to the moment I left. I've seen him flourishing underneath my eyes in his new home, and it's the greatest gift I could have received. Here he goes:

    Day 1, soon after running into my arms

    In the car, going to his new home with me

    In his new courtyard

    The first night, trying to stay as close to me as possible

    The first night, resting next to my bed in his new home. This baby slept in my arms for the rest of the night

    Getting more zzz's after his rebellious escape

    Finchie chewing a lot as his baby teeth were getting loose and must have bothered him

    He is a bit toothy when he gives doggie smiles :)

    I've left Finchie a happy boy, making huge steps adjusting to his new life in Holland, at the most wonderful family I could have dreamed for him. God bless them all!

    Finchie, may you have a very long and happy life, always full of love and fun. May you always smile, baby boy. You've certainly raised the bar for what love means to me. Because of you, I have learned that love means waiting outside in the cold for weeks, not allowing anyone to approach you, despite their best intentions and most appealing food, waiting for me, the person you've come to love and trust.

    For the ones that think you get to earn a dog's love and trust with food only... Think again. It takes a whole lot more than that.

    This goes to little Finchie, a super smart puppy with many angels guarding him, a Dutch celebrity now, who is the embodiment of loyalty. We all have to learn from you. Thank you, Finch!

    And thank you, wonderful Dutch friends, for having done your best to care for him during his weeks of wandering. How I love happy endings!

    Monday, October 10, 2011

    From little stray to little princess, and other good news

    The last couple of weeks have been particularly tough. I simply had no time to update the blog anymore, being extremely busy with the care of the strays in my neighborhood. But now, I can finally sit down, take a deep breath, and share some good news!

    Good news number 1: I am extremely happy to tell you that, after many struggles and hardships along the way, 3 stray puppies from Ploiesti are now in Germany and Holland! Baby Nikita was adopted in Germany by a wonderful family, while baby Tigger and teenager Finch are in foster care in Holland, waiting for their forever homes.

    Early on October 9th, our 3 little darlings flew with Maria, a most wonderful friend from Holland, from Bucharest Otopeni Airport to Amsterdam. We are extremely grateful to Maria for her sacrificing one whole weekend to come to Romania specifically to bring back with her our little angels. We are also grateful to many other animal rescuer friends from Ploiesti, Bucharest, and abroad, who made this rescue mission possible. Thank you all for helping us prepare the puppies for adoption, finding them really good homes and foster places, providing us with crates for air travel, giving us lots of advice, and finally helping us send the puppies abroad, to amazing people!

     Me, waiting on the Otopeni- Bucharest airport with Finch sleeping on my lap

    Baby Tigger, in foster at a wonderful lady in Holland

    Nikita, from little Romanian stray to little German princess!

    The downside is that I could not save baby Rob as well- Tigger and Nikita's brother. We lost him, most likely poisoned with solution for killing rodents sprayed by the municipality in his neighborhood. But maybe no success can ever be complete. I am still happy that, out of 3 puppies, we have managed to save 2. It will always hurt a bit that Rob couldn't take that flight as well to Holland, to a wonderful home where he would have been loved despite being a former stray, and not a pure breed. But at least 2 of the 3 puppies are well, in the arms of people truly caring about them. In a way, Rob will live through his sisters.

    Good news number 2: About two weeks ago I have also managed, with the help of SC Dog Projects/ SOS Dogs, to spay and neuter 3 more stray dogs in my neighborhood, of which two were females of reproductive age. It is more than extremely important for me to prevent the birth of more unwanted litters in the streets of Ploiesti. Their suffering in the streets is too heartbreaking.

    Good news number 3: This blog was created and launched precisely a month ago. In the meantime, it has gathered over 2,500 page views, which is beyond unbelievable. I thank you all for reading my blog and for caring about the Ploiesti strays. These are the numbers of page views by country so far for the 10 countries most interested in my blog:
    Germany: 857
    Romania: 537
    US: 243
    UK: 223
    Netherlands: 133
    Norway: 94
    Austria: 81
    Italy: 54
    Sweden: 46
    Canada: 23

    Thank you very much for caring about the Ploiesti strays. Little by little, one dog adopted at a time, one dog neutered at a time, a lot can be achieved, reducing the number of strays in humane ways. 

    Neutering one dog can prevent the birth of countless puppies. Adopting one dog can mean the world to this one dog, changing its life forever for the better. Neutering campaigns, combined with adoptions, can truly make an incredible difference in reducing the numbers of strays- in humane and responsible ways.

    So please, keep the Ploiesti strays on your radar, if you consider helping with neutering campaigns, or if you are looking for a canine best friend of your own.

    Thank you!

    Saturday, September 24, 2011

    In memory of Rob, the most endearing musketeer

    Rest in peace, sweet angel. It's not your fault you were born in a forsaken country in a forsaken city, in a forsaken world where people are too busy and too egotistical to see you the way we did. No one wanted to give you a home anyway, in this whole wide world. No one cared about you but us. Tonight, I hate the world with a passion. All egotistical souls who did not care to give you a home, after you were born in this world without even asking for it.

    You died in one day, although yesterday you were fine, and so the other day as well. But the city took care of you - spraying rat and mice poison all over the city, almost every night in your neighborhood. For a puppy of 3 kilos in weight, you did not have a chance, did you? Nothing, parainfulenza, parvovirus, distempter, nothing else but poisoning could explain how you died so fast, when you were fine all the other days. The most joyous and friendliest of all musketeers.

    Rest in peace, sweet angel. The world is hell anyway. Bastards only caring about themselves, about making tons of money, about preserving an image, driving fancy cars, and living a comfortable life. No one loves anyone else for real. Why would they care about you? Why would they care about anyone else but themselves?

    I have tried so hard to care for you. I have fed and played with you daily. I have built you an enclosure where you could be safe with your siblings and able to socialize with humans. I have helped you get rid of intestinal parasites and fleas. I have helped you grow so much with good quality, healthy food. I have even made this blog for you, hoping that with this blog I will help you find a good loving home.

    But now you are dead. After all the love I have invested in you, hoping for the best for you. I would have been so happy to part with you forever, knowing you'd be with an adoptive family to love you like you deserved, all your life.

    Tomorrow, I have to start all over again. There are your sisters to care for, and many other stray animals who did not ask to be born in this world, but they were anyway.

    But tonight, it is my right to hate the world. And I hate it with a passion.

    Because I miss you. And because it's not fair.

    I wish my love had been enough to shield your from all the harm.

    Now I can only wish God will take good care of you.

    Until we meet again, Rob.

    Thursday, September 8, 2011

    The dogs of Ploiesti

    I am trying to describe the situation of the local strays of Ploiesti, Romania, both in the local Bucov shelter and on the streets.

    One of the countless pups from the local Bucov shelter

    This blog is divided into several chapters:

    - ABOUT PLOIESTI AND STRAYS includes general information about my city, as well as reasons why Ploiesti has countless stray dogs

    - MY ARTICLES I have written in the past, with impressions about the Bucov shelter and the tough life of dogs in the streets

    - IN THE NEWS features press articles regarding the strays of Ploiesti

    - BUCOV POUND IN IMAGES tries to tell the story using mostly images. Warning, graphic images that may be very disturbing!

    - DESPERATE NEED TO NEUTER discusses and depicts in images the importance of neutering and spaying animals to prevent the birth of unwanted litters and unmeasurable unnecessary suffering. 

    - DOGS AND CATS FOR ADOPTION includes information and pictures of local strays currently available for adoption

    - SUCCESS STORIES features stories with happy ending of some of the luckiest local strays.

    - GOOD LOCAL VETS features vet clinics and doctors I recommend from personal experience for caring for strays, particularly spaying/neutering at good price and good quality work. 

    - RESPECTABLE ORGANIZATIONS includes a list of organizations I have personally come in contact with, and which I highly respect and admire for what they do.

    - WAYS TO HELP AND CONTACT INFO includes a list of things you could do to help the strays of Ploiesti, and also ways to contact me.

    Thank you for reading this, and for caring about the stray dogs of Ploiesti!