Sos Dogs started in 2003 , when Oradea`s Noah`s Ark Association contacted Robert Smith of the Foundation for the Protection of Community Dogs, in the hope of finding a humane solution to Oradea`s street dog problem. In January 2008 Animal Protection Law No. 205 made the killing of healthy dogs illegal. Oradea therefore provides an example for the whole of Romania as to how dog problems can and should be solved efficiently, cost – effectively and humanely.
The municipality of Oradea agreed to cede 15.000 square meters of land to the west of the city to FPCC for 25 years, on which to build a neutering and adoption centre. SOS Dogs Oradea was born as a partnership between FPCC, the Municipality of Oradea and Noah`s Ark. Initially SOS Dogs Oradea was sponsored by Dogs Trust, Battersea Dogs Home and North Shore Animal League. It is now financed and managed by FPCC and cost approx. Euros 500.000,- per year because the project has been expanded to cover the whole of Bihor County.
Donations and sponsorship are desperately needed so that this succesful project can continue.
In 2003 the Municipality of Oradea gave exclusive dog management rights to FPCC and today we still enjoy excellent cooperation with the local authorities, who refer all complaints about unsupervised dogs to us.
Our policy is to return neutered and vaccinated dogs to their owners or to their community or territory, unless those dogs show unprovoked aggression to people or other animals or unless they are unable to lead acceptable lives in their original environment.
We do not put dogs to sleep unless they are incurably ill, in severe pain or aggressive. We follow the policy of the World Health Organization’s “Guidelines for Dog Population Management” (Geneva 1990) and various other academic studies which show that killing dogs is ineffective; in truth academic studies are not necessary since the evidence is before the eyes of any visitor to Romania. Despite mass extermination campaigns by misguided municipalities the street dog as a species is thriving.
In 2003 the roads in and around Oradea were littered with live and dead dogs. It was impossible to drive from the Hungarian border in Bors to Oradea city centre without seeing scores of stray dogs foraging for food and without seeing several dead bodies on the road. Today we are unlikely to see either a single dead dog or more than a couple of live dogs on the road from Hungary to the city centre. Often not a single unsupervised dog is visible.
This is because since 2003 FPCC has neutered and vaccinated about 12.000 dogs in Oradea alone. If those dogs had been allowed to breed they would have given birth to tens of thousands of puppies, most of which would have died or been killed, but the strongest of which would have continued to forage and breed in Oradea`s streets.
This humane and effective policy is in the medium and long term cheaper and more efficient than the indiscriminate “catch and kill” policy of many municipalities in Romania.In Bucharest for example the city hall wasted more than 5 million Euros between 2002 and 2005 killing approximately 100.000 dogs and still the streets of Bucharest are full of dogs, especially peripheral areas. You will see far fewer unsupervised , hungry dogs in Oradea. We can therefore proudly claim that FPCC`s project in Oradea is probably the most successful Neuter & Return project in Eastern Europe.
This was confirmed by Oradea`s Community Police in June 2011, who surveyed the street of the cuty and estimated the unsupervised dog population as 350 (about 8% of the starting level in 2003).
Our success in Oradea is however threatened by one unhappy phenomenon : dog dumping from surrounding areas. The success of SOS Dogs Oradea has been a two- edged sword. It is not surprising that when municipalities ignorantly pursue cruel dog extermination policies that animal lovers rescue dogs by abandoning them in safe areas.
Since Oradea is not an island it is therefore clear that in order to solve the unwanted dog problem for ever we have to extend our neutering program to the whole county of Bihor and even further afield. In 2007 FPCC therefore launched " SOS Dogs Bihor ".
Dog situation in Bihor September 2013
FPCC is continuing to manage Neuter & Return programmes in and around Beius, Salonta, Marghita and to operate it`s successful open shelter for surplus dogs in Bihor, where the dogs have a healthy life free in the forest and fields.
We transferred management of our shelter in Oradea to the municipality in September 2012. Since then ADP, the municipal company, has operated the shelter and continued neutering all loose dogs collected from the city. ADP have refurbished the shelter, more for the sake of human visitors than with the welfare of the dogs in mind, but the 300 dogs there are generally well-fed and cared for. The Oradea shelter is probably the best municipal shelter in Romania. ADP’s vet, after some initial problems, has improved, but mistakes are still being made - this is inevitable with public sector organisations which lack the dedication, expertise and motivation of NGOs.
Public visiting hours are all day Saturday and one evening per week. Despite these limited hours for adoptions ADP rehomed 52 dogs in August 2012, an excellent result. We have asked ADP to extend visiting hours. Unfortunately, as fast as dogs can be rehomed from the shelter, new fertile dogs are being dumped in Oradea both by irresponsible municipal contractors (from outside Bihor) and by private citizens,
Oradea municipality has launched a microchipping scheme for all dogs in the city and offers all dog keepers a voucher worth RON 100,- redeemable at two commercial vet clinics to have their dogs neutered for a total price of RON 200,- per dog. This is a welcome initiative but RON 200,- is in our opinion far too expensive – FPCC would be delighted to neuter dogs for RON 100,- per dog or even less. This scheme shows that Oradea Municipality is on the right track, with 360 dog owners using the scheme until now, but we believe neutering should be free of charge for all dog keepers.
Unfortunately we have been unable to persuade the mayor to return community dogs after neutering to their territories, so the removed dogs will soon be replaced by new fertile dogs, thereby making ADP’s task of controlling the dog population much more difficult. Although the loose dog population has increased from the 350 dogs on the streets in 2011, the increase is not as bad as we expected – for the time being.
The only complete and satisfactory solution to Romania’s and Bihor’s surplus dog problem is a national Neuter & Return programme. We, and many other animal welfare organisations, have explained this to previous governments and to the current USL government, but still they do nothing. They produce short-term knee-jerk reactions to occasional media hysteria, then revert to the ineffective and irresponsible default position of expecting local municipalities to solve the dog problem without the finance, the expertise or even the motivation to do this.
Make no mistake. Romania does not so much have a problem with its dogs as with its short-termist, ignorant and irresponsible politicians in Bucharest.
For the time being Oradea is still an example of how Romania’s dog problem can and should be solved. Oradea has proved that Neuter & Return succeeds whereas Catch & Kill will always remain an expensive and barbaric failure.
News about SOS Dogs activity in 2013
In September 2012 FPCC transferred control of the Oradea city shelter to municipal company ADP because the municipality of Oradea refused to contribute realistically to our costs. Since then we have concentrated our efforts on Neuter & Return in the rest of Bihor County with shelters and neutering clinics in Beius, Salonta and Marghita and in our open shelter in Bihor where approx. 400 dogs lead happy lives in the open countryside. In Beius we have built a shelter just outside the town in the forest, on what was previously the Romanian army`s property. Beius City Hall made this land available to us for 20 years.
The shelter built was finished in the autumn of 2012 and was paid for by the City Hall and local sponsors.
We have now built a veterinary clinic in the shelter with modern equipment. Here, our vet Dr Razvan Suteu, neuters and treats ownerless dogs and cats free of charge, and offers treatment and neutering to all dog and cat owners at discounted rates.
All income from commercial activities is used for the benefit of the 70 dogs which are living in the shelter.
We have reduced the number of dogs in our Beius shelter by rehoming them both in the Beius area and abroad, where our dogs are appreciated, liked and are welcomed. In 2013 our Beius clinic neutered free of charge 303 dogs and rehomed 36 dogs in Romania and 73 dogs in Holland and Germany.We are also very proud of our new shelter and veterinary clinic in Salonta, which were finished in November 2013 thanks to the support of Internationaler Tierschutzverein Grenzenlos e.v. from Germany, whose President Dr. Helga Kornig, visited us together with her husband Eckhard in summer 2013. Helga and Eckhard sponsored most of the medical equipment in our clinic.
ITV Grenzenlos e.V.also donated Euro 3.000 towards the construction cost. The rest of the cost of approx. Euros 10.000,- was raised locally from donations and from our own funds.
The shelter is situated at the edge of the town and the land was made available by the City Hall of Salonta, which contributes Euro 5.000 /year to our costs in addition to paying all utilities.
At present surgery there is carried out by our vet, Razvan Suteu, from Beius, pending the appointment of a permanent vet for Salonta. Dr. Suteu neuters dogs and cats free of charge, usually one day per week. The clinic is properly equipped for a wide range of veterinary treatments.
We neutered 356 dogs free of charge in Salonta in 2013.
We also rehomed 181 dogs from Salonta in 2013, 41 dogs in Romania and 140 dogs abroad.
Local animal lovers have shown a lot of interest in our shelter activity, and a lot of volunteers and school children are coming to help in the shelter. At the moment we are taking care about 50 dogs, which are happy to live in clean and healthy conditions.For shy, difficult to rehome dogs, we are have pioneered an open shelter, with open fields, forest areas and swimming ponds, so that these dogs can enjoy stimulation, freedom and a good quality of life, rather than being imprisoned in a traditional closed shelter month after month, year after year. Our open shelter is an affordable and humane alternative to euthanasia for dogs which cannot be rehomed. An unexpected benefit is that many shy dogs become approachable and therefore rehomable once they settleds into our open shelter.
At present we have about 500 dogs in our open shelter in Bihor, some of which have been rescued from death camps in other parts of Romania. In 2013 we rehomed 317 dogs from our open shelter, mainly in Germany and Holland.Our vet Dr. Rita Mag runs a small veterinary clinic in our open shelter, where we neutered 204 dogs in 2013. Rita regularly checks, vaccinates, deworms and treats the old and non-rehomable dogs in our open shelter. Unlike in a traditional shelter there is little danger of viruses such as kennel cough, distempter and parvo. The main problem for our dogs is ticks in the warm summer months.
Our dogs are enjoying a good life, thanks to foreign sponsors and the dedication of our staff. We are grateful to the Mayhew Animal Home in London and all the other foreign sponsors for all their donations of dog food.
In the spring time of 2013, Mrs. Maria Polman from Holland, visited us and kindly agreed to sponsor the neutering of stray cats in and around Oradea. With her generous donation of Euro 6.000 we have so far been able to neuter, vaccinate and release over 600 cats.
In Marghita our small shelter with about 80 dogs and neutering clinic is sponsored by the Marchig Animal Welfare Trust. Our shelter in Marghita covers the villages and towns in northern Bihor. Here we neutered 452 dogs, mainly with owners, in 2013 and rehomed 92 dogs. Of these 38 dogs found new homes in Romania and 54 dogs went to Germany, Austria and Holland.
Here is one of our beloved dogs, Vanilla, enjoying the free life in the open shelter in Bihor :
About our activity in 2014
If we want to resume our activity in 2014, we can say, the most we have concentrated on neutering, rehoming and rescuing almost 350 innocent dogs, destined to be killed, from Bacau, Braila and Oradea Public Shelters. The authorities from these cities, like the most of other authorities from the country, continuously, apply an aggressive policy against the community dogs. The rescued dogs were adopted by us, transported to our open shelter in Bihor and after we have socialized them, caring about them, keeping them in proper conditions, for the most of them, which were shy and became friendly, we find loving owners in the country and abroad.
In 2014 from our shelters were adopted 1.040 dogs. For 111 dogs we find owners in Romania and 929 dogs were adopted abroad, in Holland and Germany. From Marghita Shelter were adopted 122 dogs, from Beius Shelter were adopted 137 dogs, from Salonta Shelter were adopted 216 dogs and from open shelter in Bihor were adopted 565 dogs.
The neuterings were done in our vet clinics from Marghita, Beius and Salonta. The total number of dogs neutered 2014 rise up to 1.545 dogs. From Marghita were neutered 491 dogs, from Beius were neutered 321 dogs, from Salonta were neutered 390 dogs and from Oradea Metropolitan Area were neutered 343 dogs.
As well, we have neutered by our mobile clinic in Pancota, Arad county, 138 dogs.
SOS Dogs activity in 2015
In 2015 we have concentrated our activity on Neuter & Return project, adoptions in Romania and abroad, saving wounded and suffering dogs, relocating dogs from improper places and locations, improvements in our shelters.
The total number of neutered dogs was 1.130. From Marghita were neutered 443 dogs, from Beius were neutered 206 dogs, from Salonta were neutered 59 dogs and from our open shelter were neutered 422 dogs.
As well, in May, our mobile clinic has neutered in Pancota, Arad County 102 dogs, 49 females and 53 males.
Our vet dr. Rita Mag has operated and treated a lot of suffering, wounded, tortured dogs, collected by SOS Dogs team.
In 2015 from Bihor county were adoped 611 dogs: from Marghita shelter 60 dogs, from Beius shelter 77 dogs, from Salonta shelter 48 dogs and from the open shelter 426 dogs. 209 dogs found home in Romania, 54 dogs were adopted in other locations and 348 dogs were transported for adoption abroad with TRACES.
From Germany and Holland we have got a lot of beautiful pictures about happy owners and dogs.
We have continued our rescuing campaign, in 2015 in February, relocating 14 dogs from Oradea A.D.P. Grivei Shelter. The next rescuing actions, from the same shelter, were on the 18 and 26 of March, when we relocated 16 dogs. In June we relocate 12 dogs. All the dogs were transported in our open shelter, where they have enjoyed their life in freedom and from where o part of them were transported for adoption to Germany or Holland to loving owners.
In May we transported from Breasta, Dolj County, from the south of Romania, 51 dogs to our open shelter. In October, from Braila, Braila County from the south – east of Romania, we rescued 27 dogs. As well, we have continued rescuing dogs from Bacau Public Shelter, relocating on the 3rd of November 30 dogs to our open shelter.
In March we have had a visit in our open shelter of two vets from Taiwan. They were very impressed of our vet surgery and the good conditions and the freedom for the dogs in our open shelter.
From the 5th of July until the 22nd of July, an Italian man from Trieste, like volunteer, was helping us in our activity, feeding dogs, cleaning and socializing dogs. Before leaving, he donated us 250 RON for the necessities of our dogs.
On the 3rd of October, Mr. Claudiu Dumitriu, a real animal lover from Brasov, accompanied by Mr. Robert Smith visited our open shelter. The concept of an open shelter and the necessity to implement the NEUTER & RETURN project were demonstrated by Mr. Robert Smith, showing the successful program results in Bihor county. Mr. Dumitriu share on face book his impressions about the beautiful landscape where the happy and free dogs are living, about the great project managed and sustained by Mr. Robert Smith in Bihor county, in Romania. Mr. Dumitriu considered himself very pleased to have this experience, thanks to Mr. Robert Smith, showing finally, his consideration and respect for Mr. Robert Smith.
In 2015 we have made improvements at our shelters thanks to the donations we have got from the animal lovers from abroad which are helping us in our work. In summer time the SOS Dogs team repaired and changed, with new ones, a lot of doghouses, and on the beginning of winter time, we bought and spread over on the muddy land, in the open shelter, 7 big truckloads of gravels. In Beius shelter, we have spread over gravel, were was necesary.
As well, the members of SOS Dogs team have prepared the doghouses and cages for the cold winter time, lining inside straws, to keep warm for our dogs.
Our contract with Salonta Municipality has finished at the 1st of August 2016. We transferred the shelter and the project, to be continued, to a local animal welfare association. Over the period of 7 years, running our project, we have neutered 2.113 dogs and we find owners for 654 dogs.