terça-feira, 14 de janeiro de 2014

The story of the spay and neuter campaign of January 2014 in Portugal

Everything started with an idea. In Barcelona, during the annual Dogs Trust Conference in 2013, my dear Norwegian friend Siri Ydstie suggested to make an s/n campaign in Portugal in January, supported by ASNI (Animal Spay Neuter International) and done by the Romanian dream team leaded by Dr. Aurelian Stefan. The preparations started there at ones, beginning with talking to a great lady named Nancy Janes, president of ASNI who talked to Aurelian if it’s possible. Everybody agreed, and so, the planning continued. With between our organization Cantinho dos Animais de Beja and another organization situated in Ourique called Rafeiritos do Alentejo we agreed to fix the date for the second weekend of January. Then, the efforts had to be divided into organizing everything locally and get the financial support for the whole campaign, this things cost money! Luckily, as it was an ASNI project, the flights for the vets were pay by them; they had to fly in from Romania. Siri started a facebook action called 4 Stray Dogs where she and her friend Christina Skorge asked for donations. Here, we asked our Swedish friends from Hundrondellen and German friends from Pfötchenhilfe for help too. So, with great effort of everybody mentioned, the money could be gathered. Locally we had to organized hotel and places for the sterilizations, transports and contact people to get their animals fixed at the campaign, and also talk to people who feed street cats for them to catch those cats and bring them in. Only one week before the beginning of the campaign we had our doubts if we could really do it, the weather could not be fine, and not so much animals could come in or other things could get wrong. But, thankfully nothing of this happened. Day one was done in a what we call Marianas Shelter, situated near Ourique, 60km from my town Beja. This kennel was (and still is) originally her house but she, as a great animal lover, soon had to transform her garden into a kennel where actually are about 70 animals. Many of them were fixed there, and about 25 animals came in from other places, in total, 61. Not bad for the first day! Saturday, Sunday and a bit of Monday morning was big time in Beja. In this kind of campaigns we can always count with the help of a local vet who usually let us work in his clinic, which is a great help for us. There, it was a very, very busy going, animas coming in and out, was just too good to be true. Never seen anything before, the team leaded by Dr. A included his brother and two assistance were working almost without stopping, Siri was there too and was a very great help also. In total, the number of fixed animals in 4 days is spectacular: 247! Nobody even in their wildest dreams could imagine such a large number! It was the biggest campaign ever done in our region, with this, many unwanted babies are avoided, the animals won’t suffer anymore one this. Now, as "the smoke is going down", we all are still tired but happy, and certain that we did a good job. Of course, they were things that didn’t go well ... we are humans, born to make mistakes, but we did our best, and that is what counts at the end. In my personal name and in the name of Cantinho dos Animais de Beja and Rafeiritos do Alentejo, we want to thank: Siri Ydstie, Christina Skorge, ASNI in the person of Nancy Janes, Dr. Aurelian Stefan and his dream team, Hundrondellen, Pfötchenhilfe, all sponsors on facebook, our local vet in Beja and everybody who helped in this great, great campaign. Hope not forgot anybody. Until next time :)

domingo, 3 de novembro de 2013

A photo story about ICAWC 2013 – Part I

As you maybe well know, in an organization that helps abandoned dogs there are only a few volunteers, 8, 10, ok, maybe 15, but that’s it! Now, imagine being between three hundred people with the same spirit! A dream? No, pure reality! It happened in Barcelona, Spain, between 14th and 16th of October, on a conference organized by the British Dogs Trust Organization, the so called International Companion Animal Welfare Conference (ICAWC), edition 2013, where I had the great opportunity to participate with great help of my Swedish and Norwegian friends. There, I learned a lot about our four legged buddies, made many contacts, talked to many interesting people, facts that will help me a lot to treat the best way possible our dogs in the kennel, and, why not saying this, it’ll give me more motivation to continue with this hard job.

This conference was divided in three parts. On Monday the 14th we could visit a shelter. The choice was the official Barcelona city shelter, the so called CAAC. At the afternoon, very interesting workshops at the Alimara Hotel, local of the conference itself. Tuesday and Wednesday, the conference, with lots of speakers, about 30 in total. There, I didn’t stop writing, made many notes which I “translated” later in readable words.

The shelter is 4km away from Barcelona, situated in the hills in the West of this Catalan city. From the outside it looks big, very secure and got guards at fulltime.

Many volunteers are walking the dogs on an own path for this purpose. Look at the ground behind the board on the path, doesn’t it look like a dog?

Inside the kennel we could see the reason why so many people are walking the dogs. The boxes are very small, so the dogs have to go out, if not, they would go crazy. But, ok, you can’t have everything!

The cattery is big and well done, they have a great look to the outside and over the city.

Like in every place like this, there are innumerous announcements for lost and found dogs and cats.

This kennel got their own clinic where vets (paid by the city) do all kind of surgeries, mostly sterilizations, of course.

Hey! Let me out of here! I’m a dog and don’t like to be left with all that cats!!

To be continued.

domingo, 18 de agosto de 2013

A newspaper article about our kennel – “The daily struggle of Cantinho dos Animais”

The biggest newspaper of our region, Diário do Alentejo, wrote a 2 paged article about our association Cantinho dos Animais de Beja. It’s a pretty good picture about how we are doing in times like this. Just hope that my translation is readable. They also took many photos which are already at my facebook page; they also made a video clip, but it isn’t online yet. Unfortunately I couldn’t upload the pictures to the blog, don’t know why. Please look at them in the original article, the link is down below.
The “Cantinho dos Animais” in Beja, a nonprofit organization founded in 1998 with the mission to help abandoned, lost, mistreated and unwanted animals got currently about 110 dogs in their kennel and another 15 in temporary foster families. It’s a large number with tendency to increase in the month of summer holidays, but it has remained more or less stable due of the adoptions. Between 35 and 40% are adopted in Sweden, Germany and Italy. Rodinhas, Trevo, Ollie and Paloma are next to move on.
After 2 years of living in the kennel and after a failed adoption, Rodinhas, a middle sized and lazy looking dog, goes next 31th of August to Sweden where a new family is waiting for him. The brothers Ollie and Trevo, 2 dogs with 1 year of age which were abandoned with only a few month of living, will also follow Rodinhas to that northern country. This is just an example of stories with a happy end that allows the association to keep a more or less stable number of “inhabitants” in the last years, but the numbers are still high. There’s a more or less balance between incoming and outgoing dogs. Although there are many animals that are abandoned and we collect them, we also have fortunately many adoptions, says the president. The adoptions do Sweden, Germany and Italy represents about 35 to 40% of all adoptions. They are made through associations in those countries who are collaborating with us for years. The animals adopted in Portugal are it normally in the Beja area. In total, last year we gave away for adoption more then 130 animals. The “Cantinho dos Animais de Beja” is installed in a city space, provided by the council, and has currently about 110 dogs in their kennel and another 15 in temporary foster families. The ideal should be 75 animals say Ana Monteiro, and despite of that high number, normally it increases in the summer month. The young president ensures that the animals are comfortable: I’d say we got more animals then we wish to keep them with acceptable quality, but it’s also a number we couldn’t say that they are not comfortable. The last two month we found many small dogs in Beja, and we received many requests for help. She thinks that this increasing number has two reasons: the summer holidays and the economic crises of the families. Summer is always the time people forget to find a solution for their pets when they go away for holidays, and also, the crisis Portugal is going through ... I know there are people who do everything they can to keep their pets. Sometimes we are helping those owners, within our possibilities, with dog food or vet care. But we also got help. There’s a supermarket in Beja (Intermarché) which provides us with dog food they can’t sell anymore, like damaged dog food bags – and we also give for 2 or 3 families’ dog food for their pets. We have little, but some people have even less.
Dogs are thrown over the kennel gate
Most animals are found at the streets of Beja and in the district, abandoned, sometimes by our own volunteers. Some are left tied up on the fence of the old city kennel next to ours, or even thrown over that fence or our main gate. But we also got cases where a dog owner asks us to keep their animal (to abandon an animal is a crime in Portugal) for the most different reasons, a way more acceptable then simply leave them on the streets. In that last case, if it’s not an absolute urgent matter, we ask the owners to keep their animal for a while, and we try to find a new owner during that time. Others want to give them away because they are old or ill thinking we can do euthanasia. The truth is we are fighting every day to help who ain’t got anybody, but sometimes there’s no other solution, we have to accept the animal, because our main priority are the animals who got nobody, or are insured, very skinny or full of parasites. Those cannot be refused in any way. And lately there are so many serious cases that have arisen, which increases significantly our expenses – on average we spend monthly 800€ for food and 1000 to 2000€ for vet cares, like vaccinations, sterilizations, chirurgical operations and medications. We have several complicated cases, and currently we got 3 big bills to pay for 3 dogs: Estrelinha (little star) is in a special clinic in Lisbon, has her little head fractured, the bill will be about 6 to 700€. Nico, a hunting dog, a very complicated case, went to several clinics, but nobody could find the real reason for his big weakness, so, we had no other choice if not to put him asleep. Another is Simanito, he was about 1 year in our kennel, and suddenly he started to behave strangely, ones it was a front leg he couldn’t put on the ground, then a back leg; he also went to Lisbon, also nobody could find the real reason, but in this case, he’s getting better and is now in a foster family in Beja.
Facebook to ask for donations
In these most problematic cases, facebook reveals to be a big help. We choose to make petitions for concrete cases, putting photos of the animal and the vet bills. In that way, people give more money because they know for what they are donating. It’s easier then to ask for money for the association in general, says the president. For example, Estrelinha got her own facebook page – Ajuda para a Estrelinha – (help for Estrelinha) with updates about her health. Through facebook, the association also gets new owners for the dogs at the kennel and temporary foster families for animals who needs special treatment after an operation, for example. We are also developing campaigns to collect donations, dog food and adoptions at commercial places and at the Ovibeja (the biggest fair in the south of Portugal) in Beja( if we got sufficient volunteers for that); we also organize a competition at the world animal day (4th of October, or the first Saturday after) only with non breed dogs, a very funny thing to do. As a association we are, we have about 550 associates who are paying 20€ a year, or more, if they want to; we got about 30 godfathers (or mothers) who sponsors a specific dog; we have a kind of a on-line store where people can buy little stuff with dog (and cat) pictures on it, like purses, bags and so on, and, most recently, a big tomato producer gives us a part of their profit every time they sell a specific product. We also have protocols with some vet clinics, a pharmacy and a store who sells products for pets. With this, we obtain some deduction on their charges. There are many ideas for how to get donations, but there are not enough volunteers for that. Our biggest problem is to have enough money for our monthly expenses, we want, and we try to save all animals, she complains.
Responsible adoption
Young and small dogs are the most wanted dogs in our kennel, because people think that these kinds of animals are easier to educate. This is just wrong, she says, an adult dog is just as much educable as a young dog, since he got proper training. And, it’s not easy to keep a young dog, not everybody have the patience for a youngster. Some new owners devolve a recent adopted dog because he spoiled something, barks too much or is pissing on everything; they got no clue about the responsibility to have a puppy. Bigger dogs are sometimes chosen for farms as a guardian animal, middle sized and older animals are those who last longer in our kennel, but, in no way, they are lost cases! says Ana Monteiro, we have dogs we know they are hard to adopt but in no way they are killed for that, we also had blind dogs who found a new home. We know it’s difficult, but we never give up hope. Not a long time ago was adopted a 14 years old dog which made us very happy. He might not live much longer but will have a great life until the end comes. The adoption process in the organization begins with filling in a questionnaire where it’s asked about the conditions for a dog in this possible future family. After an adoption, normally the dog is visited from time to time to see how this adoption is going on. There were cases we had to get the dog, but these cases are very rare. They just don’t give the dog time enough to adapt himself, so, we have to act. Each new owner knows that in case of bad adaption of a dog in his new home he can be devolved. It’s not a bad thing, it just can happen. And, the president gives some advices for possible new owners: first of all, you have to think strait if you want a dog, and the whole family too. Then you have to know that a dog may live for many years, and, you have to have a solution for him when you go for holidays, for example. And also, you need to know if you got enough money for him, food and vet care are not cheap.
Volunteers needed
The association counts nowadays with about 15 active volunteers which are divided at the several tasks like feeding the dogs and cleaning of the kennel, giving medication, taking dogs to the vet, bringing abandoned dogs in, management of the facebook page and the associated, trying to get new owners, participation and organization of donation events and production of products for sale. Carlos Maia is the oldest volunteer in the house, 13 years he is helping dogs. What made me volunteer is my passion for animals, he says, and what shocks him most is seeing tied up animals at the fence near our shelter and to have to take them to a vet, mostly when they are in very bad conditions. I’m here for 13 years and have seen many things. It’s a never ending struggle. I have thought about giving up, but I’m just addicted to this. The german Siegfried Kraus, living in Beja for over 30 years, is in the organization for over 10, says that he is in it through another volunteer. You are starting, he says, and after a while, you are doing things for the dogs, and then, you just can’t go out. He’s sorry about the indifference of people for dogs, for wanting to give them away because they are old or nor capable for this or that. For somebody like me, what is most shocking is people treat dogs like things with no value. Beside this, he thinks that the dog situation in Portugal is getting better because this matter is often said on tv, facebook and at school. Things are getting better, but the situation is not perfect yet. There are still animals mistreated and abandoned. Once we had more volunteers, says Ana Monteiro, but they give up for personal reasons, or are students who have finished their studies in Beja. So, she leaves an appeal: we do not only need donations, but also more volunteers, even if they can give only a small contribution of their time, or, simply accept an animal as a foster family.
You can find the original article here: http://da.ambaal.pt/noticias/?id=3621
And, last but not least, an opinion of the director of the newspaper, left in the same edition:
Nearly 40% of the abandoned dogs who reached the kennel of Cantinho dos Animais in Beja are getting adopted to Sweden, Germany and Italy. This fact makes the effort of the volunteers in that nonprofit and without big resources working association even bigger. We cannot compliment and support those people enough.

domingo, 30 de junho de 2013

Dog of the Week 6 - Gás

A very beautiful Lady named Gás is the Dog of the Week this time. You may wonder about the name we gave her, and you’re right. Gás in Portuguese means quite the same as in English, gas, but the bottled one (not gasoline) for domestic and industrial use, like butane or propane. She came from a warehouse of that kind of gas, and they asked us if we could sterilize her because she was pregnant. At that time we had a sterilize campaign going on and so it was done. After that, we felt pity about her and kept her because that warehouse didn’t offer the best conditions for dogs, and beyond that, she was already the second dog coming to us from that place.
This was 2 years ago and today she’s still in our kennel. Many volunteers wonder why she is so shy, so slow and lethargic. They took her to a vet and nothing was found. My guess is that she’s bored and maybe a little depressed, because every time I play with her she transforms herself! Then she turns out to be a very intelligent and kind dog, but of course, we don’t have much time for each and every one of the over 110 dogs we got in our custody.
Does anyone of you want to help her getting out of this mood? We think she’s about 6 or 7 years old and really has to find a new family.

domingo, 2 de junho de 2013

Dog of the Week 5 - Maxi

This weekend I present you Maxi. On the contrary you might think, it’s a little doggie, but maxi at all the rest! Very sociable, very good with other dogs and very beautiful as you can see on this small video.

He was found by me a view week ago nearby my office. Many dogs are passing by this place, and first I thought it’s just one more ... but no, he appeared again for several days, first only at night, then most time of the day. I started to give him food to gain his confidence and then he let me take him with me.
Today he appears to be one of the nicest dogs who ever passed by our kennel. I hope it’s just really a ‘passing by thing’, he must find a new home, he deserves it.

domingo, 5 de maio de 2013

Dog of the Week 4 - Penilha

This weekend I present you our Penilha:

He lived for years on the streets of Beja, never harmed anyone, had many friends who treated and feed him. Ones he had a skin illness and a group of those friends asked us for help, so we did. They gathered money with a petition in a school and we took him several times to the vet, bringing him back each time to his favorite place. Cured, everything seemed alright until a real stupid guy burned his legs with boiling water! So, the best way was to put him into our shelter. There, he revealed himself as a real intelligent dog, very kind to human and other animals. And, we found out about another “quality” of his ... a rat hunter! He’s really good at this.
Now he is about 1 year in our shelter, had already some people interested in adopting him, but nothing on concrete yet. So, he’s still waiting for a real family...

Penilha sunbathing :-)

quarta-feira, 24 de abril de 2013


Each year, our city of Beja organize a big event, a exhibition of all kind of things our region offers and produces, but also from other regions Portugal’s and even from Spain. And each year this event called OviBeja is visited by tens of thousand of people (yes, you read right) and of course, our association has to be a part of it. Fortunately, the organization let us participate for free, and we take this opportunity with both hands!

To have a proper visibility and success we have our own space where we sell some stuff like t-shirts, little purses, key holder or books, everything with animal pictures, of course. But, our main attractions are the dogs! Each day we took two different doggies there for three reasons: first, to let them see and feel other things and not only the coldness of the shelter; second, to give them a chance to get adopted; and last but not least, to be a sort of inveiglement for people to put some coins in the moneybox existing on top of one of the cages.

At the photo you can see two of our volunteers, Paula and Sandra, who took care of our space the first hours at this first day. The doggies are Fofinha (means very soft) and Zorrinho (little Zorro), they always want to get out for a walk ... and we do what they want ... because we never know when they’ll get out of the shelter the next time.
OviBeja ends on Sunday and we really hope to give some animals for adoption and make much money in this box and by selling’s, ‘cause as you best know, keeping such a shelter of ours is not cheep at all!