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Dogs Trust: 10 years in BiH, and we continue together

The dog count in 2012 showed that only in the four city municipalities of Sarajevo, as many as 12,000 dogs lived on the streets! This problem was declared as the primary security issue of the community as part of the public opinion survey conducted by UNDP.

In 2019, after continuous implementation of Dogs Trust sterilization campaigns, the number of dogs in the capital was reduced by four times! In about 80 percent of the territory of the country, where Dogs Trust carries out its activities, hundreds of thousands of new dogs have been saved from ending up on the streets.

Dogs Trust Foundation launched its activities in BiH exactly ten years ago, because it believed that, at that time, the newly adopted (in 2009) and progressive Law on the Protection and Welfare of Animals, provides clear frameworks for systematic and humane management of the dog population, which prevents dogs from living on the streets.

That is why the main goal of the Dogs Trust Foundation was and remains to support precisely the key systemic measures of the Law and through reduction of the dog population on the streets, education and raising the awareness of owners and the public, to help local authorities, which are the only ones obliged and have the capacities, competences and resources, to gradually but surely and permanently solve this problem.

But not everything was so simple and easy. Obstacles have been numerous over the years, starting from insufficient veterinary capacity to carry out mass sterilization, lack of understanding of the effectiveness of this method for a permanent solution, resistance to sterilization of dogs who have the owners, to the lack of initiative by competent local authorities.

In order to better understand the measures that are prescribed and how meaningful they actually are, let’s start from the source of the dogs on the streets and the very root of the problem!

But first of all, let’s emphasize: One thing is absolutely certain, dogs have no place on the street, because it is not good for the community or for the dogs! Who are “stray dogs”? Stray dogs are either recently abandoned dogs or their offspring. This means that the root of the problem is irresponsible ownership, and irresponsible, unregulated and unregistered keeping and breeding of dogs!

Left to their own devices, these dogs are forced to fend for themselves for food, shelter, and are exposed to the risks of suffering, bad weather, hunger, and disease. At the same time, despite the difficult living conditions, many abandoned dogs are peaceful and yearn for human attention, some of them in such a difficult situation can pose a risk to the community.

The main source of the influx of new dogs into the streets is unsanctioned new abandonment and uncontrolled reproduction. When we take all of the above into account, it is clear what steps need to be taken, and all of them are prescribed by law!

Mass sterilization and additional treatment of street dogs that stops further reproduction, reduces risks to the community and helps dogs to be healthier! If we know that only one female can give birth to up to 12 puppies in one litter, and that each new female is reproductively mature at only six months, it is clear how effective this measure is!

Supervision of dog owners, sanctioning, education and raising awareness. In order to prevent abandonment and inadequate breeding and keeping of dogs, it is crucial to implement measures that can only be ensured by local authorities and inspections. Did you know that BiH now has a state database that is prescribed by law? This means that every dog ​​must be registered, as well as its owners or keepers, which now also enables sanctions for non-compliance. Sufficient and adequate, systematic supervision of owners, breeders, hunters, shelters, boarding houses and all other dog keepers, certainly prevents unsanctioned abandonment, while education and raising awareness in the long term, but surely, helps all those who keep dogs to be truly responsible towards them and towards society.

Shelters, adoption, supervision of dogs temporarily residing in the community. According to the Law, local authorities were obliged to establish shelters for stray animals and services for humane capture, as well as to ensure mass sterilization of dogs, within one year of the adoption of the Law. Small, transitional shelters are a very important element of the system, because they enable the humane care and adoption of abandoned dogs.

However, it is very important that these shelters are registered and subject to regular inspections so that they are humane and do not become overcrowded.

Mass, overcrowded shelters quickly become a real nightmare for dogs as well, as they easily become substandard and too expensive and unsustainable for local authorities or others responsible for funding and maintenance. That is why it is important to take care of the dogs that temporarily live in the community during the transition period. Many abandoned dogs are ready and longing to have a home and an owner. But some of them, although very peaceful, sterilized and processed, have gotten used to their way of life, so it would be risky for their health and behavior to place them in a limited space.

At the same time, these dogs are valuable to the community because they “protect” it from possible new dogs that may not be healthy or peaceful, nor sterilized or vaccinated, and that would certainly come in search of food if it were not for these “neighbor’s pugs”. In our environment, we have numerous positive examples of caring for such dogs, and proof of what happens if these dogs are suddenly “removed”. This does not mean that dogs should live on the street, as we have already mentioned, but that in a situation where we already have such a pronounced problem, it is necessary to use all resources gradually, taking into account the well-being of both the community and the dogs.

Here’s how Dogs Trust has contributed to positive change for dogs and the community during over 10 years of significant investment and effort

Hundreds of thousands of new abandonments have been prevented.

Through mass sterilization campaigns of street dogs, Dogs Trust has funded the sterilization/neutering of more than 100,000 dogs, of which more than 70 percent are street dogs, and for each dog a rabies vaccination, treatment against intestinal parasites, and a microchip, and for dogs on the street also has an ear tag and a tattoo. This prevented hundreds of thousands of new dogs, which would have suffered life without the necessary human care, and represented a possible risk for the community, from ending up on the street.

Substantial technical and financial assistance was provided to local authorities – the only ones who are obliged and who can ensure a legal and permanent solution.

This truly significant support helped to stabilize the number of stray dogs in many regions of the country, and through such a valuable financial investment, enabled the responsible authorities to be more efficiently and quickly on the way to a permanent solution with less budget expenses.

Evident positive changes in consciousness and behavior.

In the bigger picture, through education and raising awareness, Dogs Trust has made a significant change in the awareness and knowledge of relevant audiences and the general public!

Considerably strengthened veterinary capacity.

Because of Dogs Trust’s contribution to building the capacity of the veterinary profession, especially as far as small practices are concerned, many dog ​​owners now have access to better quality and affordable veterinary care for their pets, closer to home. Thanks to this education, it was first possible to carry out mass sterilization campaigns with strict adherence to legal and Dogs Trust procedures. The financial effect for the veterinary profession and the local economy is also not negligible.

Unwanted dog behavior and abandonment prevented

Through Dogs Trust education at the Dog School, and a large number of public campaigns and events, dog owners are much more familiar with their obligations and the importance of responsible dog ownership. A large number of owners who were not ready for it before, decided to sterilize their pets, which prevented unwanted behavior caused by reproductive hormones, and unplanned litters that often end up on the street.

10 generations of educated children for safety and responsibility

By educating children, several generations of future dog owners have been reached, and children, as the most vulnerable category of society, have learned how to be as safe as possible with dogs, and how important it is to get a dog in an adequate way and take care of it responsibly for the rest of its life. This program had a positive effect on parents and teachers, who understood the benefits of this kind of education both for the safety and knowledge of children, as well as for developing empathy and self-confidence from an early age.

The importance of adoption was emphasized

Dog lovers got the chance to adopt a dog with the help of Dogs Trust and expert advice, and rescued dogs got happy and permanent homes where they enjoy and bring joy to their owners and benefit to their mental and physical health. This program is useful on many levels and for the whole community because through it dogs from the streets are taken care of, so there is no possibility of them becoming a risk to anyone. All audiences have a much better understanding of how important it is to get professional help when getting a dog.

The elements of the legal system certainly solve the problem permanently and humanely

The Law on the Protection and Welfare of Animals of BiH provides clear framework for establishing a system for managing the dog population, which achieves a humane solution without the risk that the problem will be repeated.

Proud of achievements

After 10 years of investment and work, proud of evidently significant achievements, Dogs Trust continues in a new “guise”, no longer as a Representative Office, but as the Dogs Trust BiH Foundation whose founder is Dogs Trust Worldwide! This change only confirms the commitment of the Dogs Trust Foundation to continue providing its support to Bosnia and Herzegovina, and opens up new opportunities, including the expansion of support and capacity to the entire region of Southeast Europe that is dealing with a similar problem. Be a part of this important story, follow and support our work and get involved in positive changes so that our society becomes an excellent example of a humane system for managing dogs, because a dog is not a toy, but man’s best friend and a noble being that deserves our care for the whole life!