Wednesday, May 23, 2007

.. and they will come: Qendra Kosovare per Strehim dhe Trajnimin e Qeneve Endacak (Kosovo Shelter for Stray Dogs)

I was recently contacted by the "Qendra Kosovare per Strehim dhe Trajnimin e Qeneve Endacak (Kosovo Shelter for Stray Dogs)". According to Petra, who contacted me, Qendra Kosovare per Strehim dhe Trajnimin e Qeneve Endacak is one of a kind of such facility in Kosovo. It is situated near the Prishtina airport. Here is the group's quote:

"The shelter has been built and funded solely by two Albanian Kosovars Florim Ferati and Nexhmedin Kabashi and has been in operation since May 2004. Both myself and Toni-Maree McInnes are NZ veterinarians based in the UK. We first visited Kosovo in April 2005 and have since been visiting biannually for approx 2 months per year taking unpaid leave from our jobs in the UK to volunteer at the shelter. We have independently set up a veterinary clinic at the shelter where our primary focus is the sterilisation of the streetdogs as well as providing medical care to owned dogs of both locals and internationals. We also spend a lot of our time raising funds and awareness within Kosovo and abroad. The shelter is a registered NGO but receives no formal funding relying solely upon donations to finance the daily running costs and continual upgrading of the facilities. Please see our website for further information. We will be in Kosovo for 3 weeks from Sunday May 27th . . . We will no doubt be running our well known pub quiz at the Phoenix Bar to raise funds during this time where we are well known!"

Sounds like they are doing great work and I encourage all animal lovers to support them. However, if I am (yes, I am), I'd like to raise an issue about the work of the doctors above. I am not up to date about the constitutional or statutory rights of dogs in various countries, but doesn't the sterilization of street dogs seem sort of ... how do I put this tactfully ... discriminatory and "classist". How come dogs with owners get medical care while street dogs only get sterilized? I am just raising a point which can be extrapolated to the state of human welfare where poor people seem to always be "paternalized" and sometimes made to feel that they do not deserve to pro-create due to their economic status. No, I did not make this up; there are groups and people from the West who go around paying people to sterilize themselves and stop having babies and some courts have upheld these arrangements as valid contracts. Yes, yes, Luna is running wild with ideas again but take a moment to wonder with the street dogs why they should get sterilized. I would appreciate Petra or someone else from the organization answering this for me. I am sure there is a good explanation for it; I just want to know it.

But people, not to take away focus from the work of this good organization, I should stop now. At least, they are doing something to help animals they care for ... that much cannot be said about most of us in Prishtina who just spend all our time drinking macchiatos!!!

In answer to my query above:

Hi Luna

We would like to clarify a few of the points from the previous email and hopefully clear up any confusion!

We are certainly not "classist" and when in Kosovo are more that happy (and do) sterilise owned dogs. The majority of our sterilisation is of street dogs for a number of reasons. Firstly the dogs in our shelter are street dogs and we sterilise them before homing, and secondly the concept of
sterilisation is not widely accepted/understood by the general public of Kosovo and hence we only have a small number of owned dogs presented for surgery. We regularly treat sick/injured street dogs as well as owned dogs when we (the vets) are in Kosovo. We must take care when treating owned dogs so as to always be mindful that we are not taking paid work away from the local veterinarians. With regard to sterilisation this is not too much of a problem as few perform this surgery. When we are not in Kosovo there are no veterinary services available at the shelter and sick/injured dogs and cats must be taken to a local veterinarian for treatment.

In answer to your query on sterilisation.....
Kosovo has tens of thousands of street dogs. Currently shooting campaigns are being run in an effort to reduce the dog population and individuals are being offered €7.50 for the tail of every dead dog. The practice of shooting dogs as a means of population control goes against World Heath Organisation guidelines. It is inhumane and in the long term is ineffective. Shootings are inhumane because dogs are often injured and suffer prolonged painful deaths. Those shot are usually the more tame members of the population and the more aggressive wary problem dogs are more likely to remain and for want of a better term are negative "role models" for new pack
members who can intimate the aggressive behaviours. Shooting is also ineffective in the long term. It is impossible to shoot all the street dogs. Removing large numbers of dogs allows greater resources (food/shelter) available to those remaining thus these dogs are then more successful in rearing litters of pups and shortly the problem again begins to escalate. Higher numbers lead to increased competition for food and can thus lead to increased disease incidence as body condition can suffer. This also allows different populations to enter new areas and introduce new illnesses/disease which can also impact on the human population (particularly relevant in areas where rabies is prevalent). Shootings largely fail to address the problem of the "owned" dogs who are likely to be confined during the culling periods. These owned dogs who receive human support and shelter are most successful in rearing litters of puppies. It is then their offspring abandoned to the street to fend for themselves who largely perpetuate the cycle. The only humane and effective means of population control (as advised in WHO guidelines) are neuter and release programmes targeting not only street dogs but those belonging to members of the public.

We understand from your blog that your concern was that we were victimising the street dog and not that you are against sterilisation, which not only humanely reduces the street dog population longterm but provides health benefits as well. On an individual level sterilisation is advantageous to reduce disease and help improve body condition. This is pertinent not only for behavioural issues eg less fighting/mating etc but also reduces disease incidence eg mammary cancers, womb infections etc. With these things in mind we are very keen to start a sterilisation programme focusing on "owned dogs". This will however take considerable funding, government legislation, public and veterinary education. As you can imagine this is far beyond the scope of just ourselves. We do hope this helps to clarify things.

Kind regards,
Toni and Petra

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