By Lori Kalef, SPCA International Program Manager
In Romania, it is very common to see dozens of unwanted dogs in just a one-block radius in downtown Bucharest. They roam the streets in search of food, shelter and perhaps a kind hand, but sadly, the plight for these dogs is an awful one. Abused, neglected, starved and killed; they are unwelcomed.
In May 2013, a veterinarian by the name of Dr. Rudi Hofmann decided to open a small shelter for approximately 50 animals in the heart of Bucharest on a small piece of land. He called it Dog Rescue Romania. Seeing the immense need, his intention was to help those with critical medical issues, and once treatment was over, find them good homes.
But only 3 months after their opening, Dr. Hofmann found himself in the middle of a shocking cruelty crisis. Romania passed a new law giving dogcatchers and public pounds the authority to execute mass killings. Angry citizens, fed up with the amount of homeless dogs, took the law into their own hands and began brutally attacking hundreds of helpless dogs in the streets. Some of those angry citizens only succeeded at inflicting terrible wounds. Dr. Hofmann and his team were then faced with an extraordinarily large population desperately needing their help.
Fast forward to 2015, Dog Rescue Romania’s small shelter in the city and a new sanctuary on the outskirts of town now houses close to 800 dogs that are cared for by a handful of outstanding individuals. Dr. Hofmann’s team now also runs Romania’s first mobile veterinary triage and spay and neuter clinic. In the short time since they began, they have already sterilized over 1600 animals and have found homes for close to 1000. Through all of this hard work, Dr. Hofmann’s hope is to improve conditions by overseeing treatment, feeding, sterilization, educational programs and adoptions.
In February of 2015, our team arrived in Romania to work with Dr. Hofmann and his team at Dog Rescue Romania. Our goal was to help Dog Rescue Romania strengthen and expand partnerships with the public. We met with the mayor of two towns and discussed long-term goals for Trap, Neuter, Release (TNR) projects. Those meetings were extremely successful. We also helped Dr. Hofmann with a Shelter Support Grant and Veterinary Supply Aid for their newly opened veterinary clinic. And we were able to assist his team with life-saving surgeries in their mobile clinic.
We are honored to be a partner to the amazing team at Dog Rescue Romania. Dr. Hofmann is an inspiration to us and to all animal activists worldwide. We hope his work will continue to grow and make a bigger impact year after year for the animals in Bucharest. With Dr. Hofmann’s help, we are sure that one day the plight of Romania’s unwanted dogs will change.