Bosnia • ‘Helping Paws’ shelter crisis (Day 2)


After spending the morning with Tanja’s dogs, we drove onto the second shelter, and really, the reason that I am visiting Bosnia. I didn’t even realise that we had arrived at first. We parked up in what looked like a fairly residential area, until I noticed the number of dogs that were lying in front of the building. As we turned off the engine a number of canine heads raised themselves from the floor and we were watched silently as we went to see what was behind the building.


I’ve seen some shocking shelters in the past, but it was really heartbreaking to see the number of dogs in the condition that they were in at this place. Apparently the shelter is home to 55 dogs, ranging from puppies that are still suckling from their mother, dogs that are so frightened that they don’t come anywhere near humans, and a couple that clearly had broken limbs but were receiving no veterinary treatment.

There was a huge roofed compound that housed the majority of the dogs, a lot of them were bigger mixed breeds, and it was a mess. The floor was concrete and covered in faeces, there were buckets of supposed drinking water that were going green, there was rubbish all over the place and a lot of the dogs were not neutered, so you can imagine the levels of testosterone, not to mention the chance of more puppies. The response from the dogs when we arrived was also very mixed. Whilst some of them were intrigued and excited, tails wagging and standing on their hind legs (clearly desperate for some attention), other hung back watching from a distance, and some of them wouldn’t even come out of their kennels. There was a clear lack of social interaction and mental stimulation, and I think the longer the dogs had been there the more withdrawn they had become.


I’m a fan of all mixed breeds, but I think Bosnian dogs really might have stolen my heart. There are so many long haired, rugged looking Shepherd crossbreeds and they’re just gorgeous. However, the pound also had tiny pinscher puppies, a couple of poodles, collie cross breeds and Labrador mixes. There was a neglected husky chained up outside that had clearly learnt to be aggressive in order to protect himself, and there were various larger dogs that weren’t even on chains but who just roamed about outside seeking shelter and food. Every single dog in the vicinity had such sad eyes, it was a very sorry sight. And on top of all that it stank to high heaven.

The problem we have here is that the shelter inspector has announced that the pound has failed to meet the necessary standards in order to remain open for dogs, therefore they have 15 days to remove all the dogs from the area otherwise they will face the streets again. Unlike the UK, Bosnia has local dog catchers, who are paid a certain amount per dog they catch. These dogs are then all euthanised regardless of their health. A German organisation has agreed to take 20 of these dogs out of the shelter and into their care, but that still leaves us with over 30 to find safe places for. We’re now in the process of discussing what the best thing to do is and where to go next, what money we might need and where the dogs can go, if anywhere.


Worryingly, whilst we were on our way to the pound one of the girls who works there called us and said that the inspector was coming to take the dogs away today. Luckily they didn’t show up, but the situation is increasingly urgent. It seems as though the girls who volunteer there don’t want to expose just how bad the state of the pound and without them making a campaign, no one will realise the urgency and that these dogs are seriously at risk of losing their lives.

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