Home » Legacy » 2.5 million homeless dogs – one quest for change

Gemma Hebden

ROLDA UK Chief Coordinator

“It’s hard to envisage 2.5 million stray dogs currently roaming the streets of Romania.” Read Maia’s story and find out how you can help homeless dogs just like her.

As Romania is not a tourist destination, much of the suffering of homeless dogs goes unseen. The government is less active in attempting to solve the issue; making the ‘trap, neuter, return’ system illegal seems to work against organisations such as ROLDA (Romanian League of Defence of Animals).

“We were very active running sterilisation campaigns for stray dogs in the past, but now we concentrate on pet dogs” says Gemma, International Manager for ROLDA. “The problem is made increasingly worse by people abandoning their pets when they are ill or are pregnant. By neutering pets from disadvantaged communities, we are tackling the problem before the dogs become homeless. This has been statically shown to work”.

However, making matters worse, the authority’s response to Romania’s stray dogs has been to invoke a law that allows public dog shelters to euthanise a dog 14 days after they have been caught. Unsurprisingly, the methods are inhumane and the numbers of dogs coming to a violent death in these establishments is overwhelming. “Not only is it incredibly sad that these dogs are suffering in such huge numbers; this method of stray-control is an ineffective, even counterproductive, way of dealing with the stray population,” Gemma explains. “The gentle, friendly and submissive dogs are caught by the dog catchers, leaving the more aggressive, feral dogs to roam and reproduce. ROLDA rescue as many dogs from public shelters as we possibly can, before their time is up”.

Where ROLDA began

ROLDA is a charity from very humble beginnings. It started when Dana Costin, ROLDA’s founder, rescued a German Shepherd that had been used for dog fighting. “It was amazing really”, says Gemma. “Dana spoke no English and couldn’t work a computer. Yet, after igniting a passion to rescue stray dogs, ROLDA became a small organisation, established as a charity, attracting vital support for our shelters.”

We do our best to ensure they find the home they deserve, it’s the reason we are here. We are very passionate about that.

Dana went on to establish the first formal group of animal rescuers in the city of Galati, driven by a vision to change the fates of Romania’s millions of homeless dogs for the better. Today, many of the dogs ROLDA rescue are badly abused or injured.

ROLDA currently cares for 700 dogs (and a donkey called Ben!) between two purpose-built shelters and has helped over 20,000 dogs and other animals to date (including a donkey called Ben!). They have overseen the successful rehoming of nearly 1800 dogs to happy homes across Europe.

Maia’s story

Maia before, during and after her recovery

Maia came to ROLDA having suffered horrendous injuries to both front legs. She required dozens of hours of surgery, four months in intensive care and over a year of hospitalisation in the care of ROLDA’s expert veterinary medical team.

Gemma explains the lengths ROLDA will go to for a dog like Maia, “ROLDA never gives up on an animal where there exists a chance of an acceptable quality of life.”

Abandoned during the pandemic

Despite the coronavirus crisis, ROLDA still continues to rescue, which is even more vital now dog abandonments are on the increase in the local area. “Many owners mistakenly believe their dogs can infect them. We are finding many scared, abandoned dogs, some still with collars on. It’s heartbreaking.”

A gift to ROLDA helps to end the suffering of dogs that would otherwise be unseen. ROLDA is their best hope to be rescued, rehabilitated, and adopted into loving homes. Like many charities, ROLDA relies on the support from kind and compassionate people who want to help them end the suffering of millions of stray dogs.

It costs £110k to run the shelters each year which are sustained entirely by international giving; “Donations and legacies are our life source” says Gemma, “we cannot continue to operate without the generous support from people all over the world”.

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