Every day we hear the stories of our world. As soon as you open your morning paper, you’re bombarded with endless headlines of bad news, injustice, sorrow, loss, and dreadful deeds. But every once in a while you stumble upon something that brightens up your day, even if it’s just for a little bit. It’s these tales that truly make you believe that not everything is rotten in the world- the tales of people doing the right thing, people helping each other, and people fighting for a greater cause. These people who do good deeds and ask for nothing in return are the underrated heroes of the modern era.
One of these stories comes to us from Bosnia and Herzegovina, a small heart-shaped country in the South-East part of Europe. One thing that everyone living in Bosnia can tell you is that everything is most certainly not ideal in this country, with the high percentage of poverty and unemployment amongst other things, but it’s really the people who live here that somewhat make up for it. In the midst of the 3,5 million citizens is a small group of underrated heroes that are trying to make a better life for another species with whom they share the country.
A group named “Nahranimo Zajedno Naše Ulične Pujde BiH” (informally translated as “A Meal A Day For The Stray”) is a non-profit group of volunteers (unsupported by any government organisation) who are doing their best to save the stray dogs of Bosnia from a gruesome, but likely, faith.
One thing you need to know about Bosnia is that is has a very large number of stray dogs roaming around the streets. It’s a major problem in every city, including the country’s capital Sarajevo, and the government has issued a unsatisfactory solution- people are being hired for locating and catching or killing stray dogs on the spot. It’s all completely legal and also endorsed by the government. These “dog catchers” are getting their salaries by both catching and killing dogs. If the dogs do escape death by a gun, the catchers will take them from the streets and move them to a dog shelter where the dogs will most likely live for a few weeks in horrid conditions before being euthanized.
This has been going on for several years, perhaps even a decade, but recently a group of animal lovers has decided that it’s time to abandon these horrific ways. They have formed a Facebook group named “Nahranimo Zajedno Naše Ulične Pujde BiH” (informally translated as “A Meal A Day For The Stray”). NZNUP, for short, is a non-profit group of volunteers (unsupported by any government organisation) who are doing their best to save the stray dogs of Bosnia from a gruesome, but likely faith. Another field of interest includes saving stray cats as well, and getting them adopted in a fitting home.
From an outsider’s perspective, the work put into this group is baffling. The members post pictures of stray dogs that they have picked up and ask if anyone’s interested in adopting them, they tell others locations of where injured animals are, they ask for funding to treat a sick animal, they ask for advice. Another thing worth noting is that if these members spot the dog catchers, they immediately post on the group and let everyone know their location, not only to keep pets safe, but also to try and pick up some of the strays that may be in harm’s way.
We have reached out to some of the founders of NZNUP to talk to us about how they operate.
In the short span of 18 moths since the group was formed, it made a big difference to hundreds of dogs and cats. It started out as a small project amongst a few animal lovers to help the helpless animals. All of them had a history of feeding, giving shelter, and even adopting stray animals, so they decided to form the Facebook group to find people who are like them. But the small group soon turned into so much more. The group grew more and more, until it became a known name for almost everyone who owns a pet. The founders quickly became aware of the popularity of the group and decided to ask for further help from its members by aiding in financial or material support. Any help was accepted- money, packs of food, blankets, etc. They joined forces with a local veterinary station “Ketti” which allowed them to set up a small area in its halls where people could leave donations.
Not a single donation was thought as surplus. Every pack of dog food, every old blanket, and every penny was a step further for a stray dog to find its forever home. It’s worth noting that most of these dogs were always sick or injured, either by spending their whole lives on the cold ruthless street, or because they were victims of a hit and run. The vet bills and requirements would have been far too much for one person to handle alone. And even after the animal made a recovery, there’s always the hard task of finding it a new home. More often than not the adequate conditions for a single pooch came from another country, such as Beglium, Denmark, the Netherlands, or even the UK. Even with its limited resources, people always come through and a dog or cat is saved thanks to the unison of the group’s members.
Another project worth mentioning is the group’s annual bazaar. It started off as a small event two years ago in a small rented space. Many members of the group donated handmade merchandise and all the income went into the donations box of NZNUP.
The overall outcome was a massive success, and it lead to an even bigger bazaar that was scheduled to take place a year later in a larger space. The second bazaar took place in the “Mikser House” was a major success story- with over 15 tables of volunteers selling various objects (stickers, jewelry, henna tattoos, handmade merch, etc), the “Ketti” veterinary station offering free medical treatments, doggie kissing booths, loads of customers, and even media coverage. This was all a shock to the organisers, but it proved to them that there are still good people in this country willing to help.
So, how does it all happen?
There are millions of ways to find a stray dog, and there are hundreds of stray dogs to be found. Most focus on the ill-looking or injured dogs, since they are classified as an emergency. You can find them on the side of the street, at the very centre of the city, or in the middle of nowhere. Recently, the volunteers even started taking dogs straight out of a local shelter since it has been documented as hell-on-Earth for strays.
After a stray dog is picked up, they are immediately taken for a vet check. It’s very rare that a dog is given a all-clear during the first checkup.
The most serious cases stay with their rescuers, and because of their limited space, the healthy (or not seriously ill) dogs are put in a dog hotel where they will stay until the rescuers find them a proper home, which could last anywhere between a few days and a year. Of course, the dogs get visited by their rescuers on a regular basis to establish that everything is as it should be.
It’s a bit trickier with the ill or injured dogs. They will receive proper care in the hands of either their rescuer or a foster family. Rehabilitation can take a long time, but no one is in a rush, as the dog will never be taken off treatment until it has fully recovered, which can last anywhere up to a year.
Finding their new family
As stated before, the dogs usually find their forever homes outside of the country’s borders. The rescuers know their dogs, they know what type of family will be best for them, so they spend a lot of time in contact with a potential new owner before they can be 100% sure that it’s the right home for the pooch. Background checks, daily contact, style of life, personal questions, and living conditions must all be checked before a dog is taken into his/hers new home.
Obviously, there were people who weren’t an ideal fit for a certain animal, so with a sturdy hand but a heavy heart the rescuers have to decline on the offer.
Updates on the animal
If an ideal match for a dog is found, the rescuers ask for frequent updates in forms of talking about the dogs current state, along with pictures and videos.
A few success stories of dogs
Ramzes is the name of a pooch who was hit by a car. He was found in the middle of a street during a cold winter. Both of his hind legs were broken, and an expensive surgery was inevitable. The money was raised thanks to the members of the group, but after the surgery came difficulties. After being driven from one foster home to another, a lot of walking and physical exercise, the dog was fully rehabilitated.
Ramzes soon found a new owner in the Netherlands, where he still lives today with two other dogs and a lot of cats.
Cruella was a puppy found by rescuers who accidentally stumbled upon her as they were checking to see if a foster home was good enough for their dogs. The home, however, was in a horrible condition, and Cruella was saved and taken to the vet. She was extremely cold, had abscesses all over her body, and suffered from distemper and parasites. It was a battle for both Cruella and everyone around her, but this pup refused to give up. After months of treatment, she too made a recovery, and found a loving home with a new family who adores her and her quirky nature.
After months of treatment, she too made a recovery, and found a loving home with a new family who adores her and her quirky nature.
Bobby is a pitbull and staffordshire mix, and according to his rescuer, the most beautiful dog he ever saw. The smiling mutt spent most of his life on a short 1 meter chain, most likely used as a guard dog. Bobby used to run away from his owners frequently, and he’d spend a lot of time in his rescuer’s flat. Unfortunately, his rescuer wasn’t able to take him in at that time, but eventually he rescued him and placed him in a dog hotel until he could find Bobby a fitting home.
That proved to be a difficult task on its own, since pitbulls and staffies have a bad reputation. However, thanks to another member of the group, Bobby was adopted and shipped off to Belgium where he remains to this day. And his smile is bigger than ever.
Vivien had sustained a lot of injuries by other stray dogs, and she was found by another member of the group. She was immediately taken to the vet for a checkup and to get her wounds sanitized and treated. Everyone fell in love with the charming lady, so it was a matter of hours before all of her expenses were payed and before she found a foster home. The hunt for her forever family is still active, but we’re sure these adorable eyes won’t face much difficulties in that department.
But not all is as wonderful as it seems. The members have told us that behind the scenes there is a lot of stress, loss, and sad endings. They revealed to us that crying and nervous breakdowns are a daily routine. The dogs and cats that they take in are often severely injured or ill. As we speak one of the members is handling five puppies who are fighting the infamous parvo and coronavirus, and another member is caring for a sole survivor puppy who is under treatment for canine distemper, parvo, and gardia. They tell us stories of hit and run victims, abused animals, abandoned pets, and the stories of the ones with unknown backgrounds.
Sometimes the very best that we can do simply isn’t enough.
-A PUBLIC APPEAL-
“11/11. Together. We owe you an explanation regarding some od the requests we made! The protests were organized, by a informal group of citizens. These requests don’t apply only to the dogs of Praca “shelter”, but to all the shelters and all of our dogs on the streets. Every dog in every city, on every street is OUR dog. And we will fight together for all of them. Cause we are the only hope they have. Today that is Sarajevo, tomorrow it’s your city. If we stand together you will never again be alone.
Stop the killing and torture of all dogs. We are witnessing how in a lot of cities dogs and cats are being “legally” tortured and killed (we will never accept that). It happens in so-called shelters and also on the streets. We also know how many of the people living in our cities torture these animals. We are the witnesses to how the dog catchers chase them on the streets and the inhumane ways they use to catch them and many of them are instantly killed in the process. We witness the torture those dogs go through in shelters in Bosnia and the region. We had enough of just standing by and watching. We need to raise our voice! We need to stand together. Stand together for those who are powerless! Let’s not allow any more torturing or killing! Many say you can’t stop the killings! What is the solution then to type on social media and just give up? We believe we can do this! So join us, and let’s stand like one on November 11th!
Humane conditions in all shelters- with this request we aren’t asking the impossible. We ask for what in entails. Everyday food, everyday clean water. Regular vet care. Normal living space as they deserve!
Free access to all shelters for all people. We know that in 90% of shelters the volunteers aren’t allowed to to enter. To explain! Those aren’t their dogs, or a military base dogs that they can forbid you from entering! Don’t let them say that to you ever again! In the “shelter” Praca it was also forbidden to enter (the dogs were being killed) and record. But we fought to change that, cause behind those fences are OUR DOGS!!! No one is gonna stop us, not cause we are “tough” or “dangerous”. No! But because we know we are the only chance they have. And when you fight for something with your heart, nothing can stop you. Together we will fight to change that immediately! We want free access to all shelters! Not so that the volunteers would be trouble, but to help dogs in those shelters. See if they are being killed or tortured. If they have food and water. So we aren’t asking for the impossible. Just for the open doors so they could have help and so the volunteers can see what’s going on. If there is nothing to hide this shouldn’t be so hard. If they decide not to do this we will know it is because the dogs are being tortured and killed and we won’t let that happen! TOGETHER! NOW OR NEVER!
The registry for all abandoned and pet dogs. Bosina is the only country in the region that doesn’t have that registry. Why? So that the number of caught, removed and killed dogs could be manipulated. In shelters and certain vet stations. Dogs become just a number and then it’s impossible to know who are any of those dogs. The biggest part of the “stray” dogs problem comes from pet dogs who end up on the street. Those same owners are impossible to find and fine because by the chip number you can’t know the owner, bacuse of the fact that there is no registry.
BE WITH US 11/11
You in Sarajevo, tomorrow its gonna be us in your city!
LET’S STAND TOGETHER AS ONE, WE ARE ALL THEY HAVE.
P. S. If we believe we can move a mountain we will move it. If we believe we can help the dogs together and stop the killings and torturing we can stop it. TOGETHER WE CAN DO ANYTHING, EVEN THE IMPOSSIBLE!
We invite you all to come to Protest in Sarajevo or to organize symbolic Protest gathering at Bosnian Embassy abroad or your city.”
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