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Preperations for Serbia!

We are heading to Serbia in May!
Just for a week. But this week will be very important. We will be helping out at one of SFP’s (Serbia’s Forgotten Paws) shelters to improve the living conditions for less fortunate, abandoned dogs, that are desperate for a loving home.

‘Why are you heading there? Aren’t there enough volunteers in Serbia? Aren’t there people working there that could take care of it all?’

Well, to start off, we love dogs.

And we hate living with the knowledge how many dogs are being mistreated every hour of every day of every week. How many dogs are being seen as toys for kids when they are puppies, and almost literally trashed when they grow older.
We find it shocking how people treat these kind creatures, and shocking how the government in Serbia forces terrible treatment on a lot of abandoned dogs. This is actually quite surprising, as on paper their laws seem better than ours. However, these laws have loopholes (that you can read about here if you are in for a story….) and the most ridiculous consequences for not using those loopholes.

This breaks our hearts, and this is why we really want to help.

Also, yes, there are already volunteers helping out at the shelter.

But it is a small group that is working their butts off to care for 270(!) dogs. Every. Single. Day.
With such responsibility they cannot free up the time to build up the shelter and improve the conditions of the dogs themselves all the time, let alone free up the funds to make all the changes. Every year we go over there to make some major improvements to the shelter.

‘So what are these improvements you are talking about? What have you improved so far?’

Over time we have seen the conditions improve tremendously, for example:

  • The dogs used to be living in muddy enclosures – so we installed flooring in loads of closures.
  • The dogs used to live without any shelter from rain or harsh cold winter weather – so we collected, build and placed a lot of insulated doghouses in the enclosures and all around the shelter.
  • It used to be near impossible to walk in between the pens at the shelter as that it was all muddy – so we made certain to lay down proper pathing for the personnel.

Also every time a dog gets rehomed we enlarge the pens the dogs are living in. As such the living space has increased for the dogs has also been majorly increased. Imagine the shelter went from 400 to 270 dogs, you can probably get a rough idea how ‘spacious’ it is now compared to how crowded it used to be!

Of course it is not just us that make the changes and not just the people working at the shelter. The only reason we have been able to make these changes to the shelter together with SFP, is because of many of our amazing clients. We try and raise money with our clients every year we go up to the shelter so we can spend this on improvements. This money is what gives us the ability to make the changes.
This giant web of team-work gives these dogs more hope at a better life.

‘Oh wow, so apart charging for the services you provide, you are also asking more money from your clients from this as well?’

Well, yes.

But of course a no is a no as not everyone is able to put additional money towards a good cause. However, we need to ask our clients for support and try to involve them.
This is because the shelter has about 5 set employees that get paid for their work at the shelter, there are loads of medical costs for every single dog, and getting a dog ready for adoption costs an incredible amount of money as well.

We’ve not even spoken about the cost of food yet.
In the past the dogs used to live on mainly bread, mixed with a little bit of off-meat from the butcher. The shelter now spends over 40.000 euro’s a year, for food alone! And thanks to every single donator that is donating directly to the charity, SFP has been able to put all the dogs on a proper diet.

The shelter (actually the entire organization) only just comes by, and is living purely on donations.

Because of this we ask our clients for additional support when we make our yearly visit. So that we can spend the money we collect on the improvements that they cannot afford but badly need.

'What will you improve this year?’

This year, we will do more then make just improve the living conditions. Our job is to identify the living conditions and the improvements that can be made with our budget. And until we are leaving the budget is always changing (rising). So planning up ahead about the exact changes before actually seeing what it is like in person, is quite hard. We got a plan, but not a perfectly planned out plan yet on how to divide the time.

Also…
We will be socializing the dogs with people, and pick out the ones that are (almost) ready for adoption. This is very important as the dogs are used to seeing the same people every day. It is because of this that it is very hard to judge how certain dogs will behave around a stranger that suddenly hangs around for a while!

So… I guess you could see us a little bit as test-dummies.
No worries, we will probably keep most of our limbs. Or at least, most will still be attached at the end of our trip.

Okay, I’ll stop joking... Of course we won't be 'test-dummies' and put the dogs or ourselves at risk... ;)

What we will be doing is slowly get the shy and afraid dogs used to humans. Comfort them and show them that a new person is nothing to be afraid of, and that new people can be loads of fun!
We will also be figuring out what dogs are completely comfortable around people, and thus are ready for adoption.

‘Sounds like things are going really well at SFP’s Shelter in Nis.’

Things are going very well.

As mentioned before, the shelter used to home more than 400 dogs.
This number of dogs has been reduced to 270, by REHOMING them in the UK! That is an incredible achievement!

Not only that, but through the support SFP has been getting they are able to do more for more animals then just dogs. They have started sheltering cats, and are even busy setting up a desperately needed horse-sanctuary!

All of this started out with a few people that wanted to make a difference and save lives. Trough working hard, determination and a positive outlook, they gathered more supporters and saved more lives already then they could have ever dreamt of.
This definitely promises quite a lot of goodness for the future!

Why would we not want to help these amazing people out? These amazing people put the welfare of animals ahead, caring for their well-being and always fighting for the best possible outcome.

There is absolutely no reason for us not wanting to help, and we're looking forward to our trip!