I was in Varna in August to visit ANIMAL HOPE BULGARIA, an animal welfare organization whose work I have been following for many years. In the few days I was able to get at least a small impression of what is done here every day with a lot of conviction, idealism and perseverance. My respect to the people who make all this possible.
If you walk the streets of Varna with your eyes open – especially in the evenings and off the beaten tourist path – you’ll see lots of dogs and oodles of cats. Some get along quite well and are fed by the residents. Others live a miserable existence, sick, malnourished, hit by a car or mistreated.
At least in the worst cases ANIMAL HOPE tries to help. Sick, injured, malnourished and disoriented animals or helpless puppies are picked up and brought to the nearest veterinary clinic. But the care does not stop there: Mariela Tasseva, the heart of the organization, drives for hours every day from vet to vet to visit the charges and discuss their treatment. Of course, all of this costs money, which the association has to raise again and again through placement fees, donations& and try to establish cooperation with other animal welfare organizations.
As soon as the animals are healthy enough, they are taken care of in foster homes, which are spread all over the city. The most important part is not least of course the placement work to make the happy ending complete and for the animals in a good home to find.
Why of all things a dog or a cat from abroad?? The German animal shelters are full of animals after all!
It is true that in Germany there are already many animals waiting in the shelter for a new owner. Who loses its heart to a Fellnase from the local animal protection: wonderfully! Sometimes there is also cross-national cooperation, where German animal shelters take animals from foreign organizations and then place them locally in Germany.
Nevertheless, I can only emphasize from full conviction: If you are thinking about getting an animal, then also think about the possibility of adopting a street animal from abroad. I have seen such wonderful animals in Varna, who are just waiting for someone to take them into their hearts. Admittedly, it is not easy to choose "your" animal on the basis of a few photos. But by the detailed descriptions and partly also video recordings one gets a quite good impression of the quadrupeds. Not to forget the possibility I have chosen: to visit an animal welfare organization for two or three days to get an impression and to have a closer look at the animals.
Such a short trip is not more expensive than a weekend trip to a European metropolis – in the case of Bulgaria warm summer weather and sandy beach included. For the flight Dusseldorf – Varna I paid with SunExpress EUR 232,-. For three nights with breakfast in a nice hotel directly on the beach promenade EUR 162,-. Eating locally or shopping in the supermarket is very cheap.
I was there when Carlos was rescued from the road. We immediately went to the animal hospital. The super nice doctor didn’t hesitate and first opened a can of food for the little one. Fortunately Carlos has been placed in the meantime and has arrived in his new home in Germany.
Possibly one saves an animal from certain death!
In some Mediterranean countries it is common that there is only a certain grace period in the public animal shelters, within which the animals must be mediated – or they are killed. In other countries there are no animal shelters at all or they are in a frightening condition. In comparison, the animals in our shelters are doing well under the circumstances. So it is worth to consider also the foreign option.
The probability to find exactly the right animal for his circumstances is much higher!
Usually there are some basic conditions for the new roommate due to personal circumstances: Should it still be a young animal? Maybe cat siblings who move in together right away? A particularly sociable contemporary, if one holds an animal for the first time? A running-joyful, sporty quadruped, if one is much outside on the way? Or a quiet, older dog that needs less exercise? In the local animal shelter there are – fortunately! – often not very many animals for placement. Therefore, the chance to find exactly the right animal is much higher with a foreign animal welfare organization.
What happens at the animal shelters with the money?
Animals from animal welfare are not "for free". The placement fee covers not only the running costs for treatment, food and transport, but also partly neutering projects and educational work on site. The additional donations are urgently needed to carry out particularly complex and costly veterinary treatments and surgeries. The employees at ANIMAL HOPE BULGARIA work ALL HONESTLY.
I have to emphasize this, because in the case of ANIMAL HOPE BULGARIA it was actually the case that outsiders suspected that the money seeped into "dark channels" and the organizers financed a fat life for themselves with the donations. The opposite is the case: The people there rather give their last shirt to achieve something for the animals!
Director Mariela and Jeni, the maintainer of the German Facebook page of ANIMAL HOPE BULGARIA.
Isn’t such an animal from abroad sick and behaviorally disturbed??
ANIMAL HOPE BULGARIA (and also every other serious organization) has their animals examined and treated immediately after finding them in a veterinary clinic. All the usual health tests are done. The animal is chipped, vaccinated and gets an EU passport. Immediately before leaving the country, the veterinarian examines the animal again to confirm that it is fit to travel. All possibilities are exhausted, in order to deliver the animals in a good health condition. Health impairments or chronic diseases are openly stated at the time of placement.
Of course, there is no hundred percent certainty, especially since there are also diseases with a long incubation period. Nevertheless, I would claim that the risk of getting seriously ill later in the new home is not higher for former street animals than for any other animal in this country.
Joyful welcome: Some of the former street dogs live in Mariela’s garden and are waiting to be placed in a new home.
The animals are distributed to foster homes after their veterinary treatment in Varna, so that their nature can be observed and any behavioral problems can be known (z. B. Compatibility with conspecifics, other animals, children, etc.). However, the behavior of the animals in their new home usually changes again. The animals become calmer, less suspicious or fearful. I am always amazed how quickly the new housemates blossom.
Why is the relationship of the local population to animals so bad??
In Varna and also during my trip through Albania I often asked myself why people treat animals so badly. Mostly I got the answer: "That was always so. I do not know it differently since my childhood."Most do not even think about it. Animals traditionally have a low status and the general population has other worries. When poverty, poor economic prospects and a lack of empathy for animals come together, I think a change in thinking takes place only slowly. I hope very much that something will change anyway.
By the way: Even if there is a broad consensus in the German-speaking countries that pets should be treated well – animal protection enjoys constitutional status – there is still a lot of room for improvement for the living creatures that have been degraded to "farm animals".
More about ANIMAL HOPE BULGARIA
If you are interested in the organization, you can find more information on the website and especially on the Facebook profile, which is always up to date.