Project report Albania

Project Report Albania February 2020

The birth of a new project

Albania is still a white spot on the map of animal welfare. There are a few associations and animal shelters indeed, but sadly there still is a lot of pain and suffering. Stray dogs are killed: shot, poisoned…
For some time now, Robin Hood has been helping the Albanian association “Elbasan Rescue”. In February, we visited them to meet the animal rights activists in person and see their shelter.
One note beforehand of the project report, this trip was not in vain.

Day 1:

Vera, her daughter Otelia and her friend Marianna pick us up from the airport. The welcome is warm, the weather springlike and mild and the sun is shining. Our first stop: The veterinarian Vjola, she houses dogs, that are adopted from as far as Italy. The dogs are transported there by ship. Vjola wants to participate in our castration project, which we are very happy about. Moreover, we also get to know Arjola, an activist who also wants to join our cause.
There is no time for long meetings, we immediately drive off to the mountains between Tirana and Elbasan, where we feed stray dogs. Every day, Vera visits stray dogs in a wide area around Elbasan to feed them. They know her, come running at the car as soon as she pulls over and are happy that we are here. Vera needs about 500 euros worth of dog food per month, which is a lot of money in Albania. A 20kg bag costs 24 euros! Moreover, the dogs in the shelter also want to eat, 150 hungry dogs have to be fed there. Just before the sunset, we rush to the shelter. It is a fairly big area, there even is a worker there every day. The enclosures themselves are spacious, but you can see that fences and kennels are in poor condition. We want to help in this regard. A few dogs are even allowed to roam around freely. A few are on chains as they are incompatible, but they are supposed to get their own enclosures in the future.
Now it’s getting dark quickly and we drive back to the centre of Elbasan, more precisely to the flat of the Muslim Mimoza, a kind-hearted woman who lives there with her mother. She offers her small apartment as an overnight accomodation. My colleague Jakob and I share the living room, everything is furnished and decorated lovingly. Three cats have found their new home here, one of them with only three legs. Every morning at 04:00 a.m. Mimoza gets up and heads out to feed the stray dogs.

Day 2:

Early in the morning, we join Mimoza and feed the stray dogs, meeting animal-loving people, something I had not expected beforehand.
Next, we rush to one of Elbasan’s high schools, where I am allowed to talk about the importance of animal welfare, our project and about the fact that dogs are incredibly precious and valuable friends. Even the local TV is present and films everything. The students are interested, some even offering to help.
Without a break, we continue to our meeting with the mayor, a young open-minded man who doesn’t want to kill the stray dogs. I submit our recommendations to him and am surprised about his modern views. For example, people who adopt a dog should receive financial aid from the local authorities to be able to afford dog food and also veterinary costs. A novel concept that I hadn’t come across before. Moreover, he wants us to train the vets so that all strays can be neutered well. Together we plan the castration project in Elbasan. I hope that we can actually put all the plans into practice.
It has been raining all day and the warmth of the previous days has completely vanished. Wet and freezing we meet up with the veterinarian of the public shelter, which we are not allowed to enter… It was Friday evening, it would no longer be possible…
The veterinarian is experienced, can castrate and wants to work with us. He tells me, that all dogs who end up in the shelter and aren’t adopted after 14 days get an ear tag and are released again, of course, castrated. I can hardly believe this and have my doubts, but even the animal rights activists say that this is true. And correct, again and again, I see stray dogs with yellow ear tags. Many EU-countries can learn a thing or two from Albania in this regard… At least from Elbasan, in other parts, the dogs are still killed.

Day 3:

The last day, or rather the last few hours pass by quickly. Under bright sunshine, my colleague Jakob and I join Vera on her dog feeding trip. And afterwards, rush to Vera’s shelter. The farewell is approaching rapidly… we already said goodbye to Mimoza and her mother in the morning after leaving her flat. In these few days, not only the dogs but also these animal-loving humans grew dear to our hearts. At the airport, we say goodbye to Vera, her daughter and a friend of her. Vera is crying… the woman who otherwise appears to be rather unapproachable is moved to tears. It’s not easy for us to say goodbye either. But we will be back for sure.
A new project is born, for which we are going to do and give everything possible to help the dogs in Albania.

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