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Romanian strays need help

By Dana Costin

I WOULD like to tell your readers a little about ROLDA, which is part of Romanian Animal Rescue Inc USA, and includes Greyhound Action International for Eastern Europe and Russia and also represents Canadian Voices for Animals in Romania!

ROLDA is a group of animal lovers from Galatzi who work to improve the living conditions of strays from our town and neighbouring counties with similar overpopulation problems. The official number of homeless animals in my town is over 10,000 strays and those poor souls live in uncertain and miserable conditions. Since ROLDA started fighting for animals' rights in my country, we have had many tragic moments when we saw our furry friends dead because of the Romanian authorities, but we have also experienced happy moments that we consider our small victories.

In March 2004 a protest was organised against Hyundai company that encourages the slaughter of lambs for religious purposes. We collected more than 1000 protest letters that were sent directly to Hyundai in USA and UK, or by mailing to the head office in Korea.

ROLDA was also the only Romanian organisation to protest against Renault company, when workers from Renault's Romanian factory in Mioveni started to kill (poison) stray dogs that were in the factory garden. Working together with a German welfare organisation SunDogs, we were able to raise more than 2000 signatures from all over the World in only a few days and we contacted all Renault affiliate companies and pressured them to stop the slaughter. The campaign against Renault was held in March 2003. It was a successful campaign, because they have never killed a dog since then - not necessarily because they started to care about animals, but because they must protect their own image.

Our no-kill shelter Hope for Homeless was build with personal investments and with help offered by Greyhound Action International UK for purchasing the land and Romania Animal Rescue Inc. USA, for house renovation. We have succeeded so far to finance (from personal resources) three kennels for isolating newcomers and a block with 10 kennels that can accommodate 20 homeless animals.

ROLDA's kennels block is unique in the country of Romania. It is built to British standards, with double insulated walls, plumbing, radiators for heating, indoor electricity, a ventilation system for dogs in summer, and each kennel has one or two dog beds, blankets, dog toys and bowls for water and food.

The shelter house has central heating, a large bathroom to bath the dogs, a sunny room where dogs can stay in winter indoors, an office and a bedroom for ROLDA visitors who prefer to spend a night at our shelter and for our volunteers who will supervise dogs during the night.

In front of the shelter house we will create, starting with this spring, a memorial garden called Printz, in loving memory of my beautiful dog who passed away more than a year back. In time, I plan to add five more blocks of kennels to totally shelter at ROLDA 100 dogs and a block for puppies, a running and playing field for dogs, a small plastic pool, for dogs in summer and this is only the beginning. For a population of more than 10,000 strays in the town alone, we'll need to expand and to build at least one more shelter here in the next few years.

ROLDA no-kill shelter gives a new chance to provide for very sick dogs we find on the streets, who need long-term treatment; also dogs with lifetime handicaps who will never be adopted. We also TEMPORARILY accommodate dogs for recovery after spay-neuter surgery. Usually a recovery period is 3-4 days for a male and 6-7 days for a female, if none complication appears.

Another important achievement is the fact that we have found a local veterinary office we are exclusively working with. This veterinary office is run by two very compassionate people who have promised me they will help ROLDA's activities as much as possible. In Romania it is a real achievement to find vets willing to help, as Romanian veterinarians usually treat homeless animals in a much more casual way than treating animals with owners - probably because of their lack of education, not to mention lack of veterinary items, veterinary equipment, even basic items for a surgery or medical emergency.

I also can consider as an achievement each life we succeed to save daily and each successful re-homing of a stray that gives to our adopted furry friend hope for a better and safer life.

Articles have been published about ROLDA in international media - animal magazines from USA Animal News Center, American Humane, Animal People and San Francisco Chronicle - from Holland and different other publications like The ARK and Shoreham Protester, UK. All are recognition of our daily activity and excellent relations kept during time with our helpers and organisers and show us that we are working in the right direction, but of course we need support from time to time to achieve our dreams.

Since 2002, ROLDA continued an intensive educative programme to educate people about respecting another creature's life and its rights. Last year we began a colouring book programme to reach the children of Galatzi. These colouring books were designed by children from Sugar Land, Texas, USA and will be distributed free, along with a set of crayons, to orphanages and poor kids gardens in Galatzi.

This colouring book shows page after page of children loving dogs. We hope to get the message across to the children about kindness to other beings this year as well. Perhaps one day they, too, will be inspired to help animals.

ROLDA has received no funding from local authorities or from Government - authorities here usually take the easy way out and kill dogs instead of trying to humanely fix the overpopulation problem by providing free birth control or neutering. All ROLDA staff members are volunteers.

In order to support animal lovers from the local community who decide to help a stray with health problems, the local veterinary office that we are exclusively working with has announced that ROLDA will help each person who cares for a stray by paying for each stray's treatment. In this way, hopefully we will encourage those citizens who don't have money but have compassion for homeless animals to help our furry friends in need of medical help!

Galatzi is a large industrial town in Romania, 300 km from Bucharest, with an official population of 10,000 stray dogs in the city as well as a very high number of strays in the counties close to Galatzi - Braila, Tulcea and Vrancea - and our shelter is the only one in hundreds of km. As you can imagine, daily we try to help strays in need that are hit by cars, beaten, have broken legs, skin diseases and infected injuries. Our veterinary people perform miracles to bring these animals back to good health. We also face such problems as getting enough food as we are unable to bring in dry food from outside Romania because of Romanian laws, but we can also not buy enough to feed all the strays in Romania because of its high price there.

ROLDA has now begun an international volunteer programme. It doesn't matter if you are a veterinary assistant, an animal lover who wants to spend (alone or with your family) a holiday in Romania this are welcome to spend a holiday in Galatzi, Romania, at the ROLDA shelter, to volunteer your help for the dogs in need from our town!

We can accommodate groups of two persons at our shelter, where we have two small bedrooms, a kitchen and a bathroom and all accommodation conditions assured.

You can subscribe to our volunteers list and together we can choose a convenient date for your arrival. As long as you have the desire to give a hug to a Romanian stray who may have never been hugged before, and volunteer some time of your vacation to care for a stray in need, all others details we can establish together...ROLDA would love to hear from you and meet you in person.

Rory and Nancy, two US friends, spent 10 wonderful days at ROLDA shelter around our furry friends, helping us clean the kennels, play with the dogs, treat the dogs that needed daily special care, go to the vets for emergencies and feed dogs in "prison" in the City Hall pounds.

Rory and Nancy Janes are our partners at Romania Animal Rescue Inc. They bought a cart for Merlin, one of the paralysed dogs in our care, and they adopted a puppy when they left Romania.

For more details about ROLDA's activity and our current campaign, please visit the website: Thank you for caring about the Romanian strays!

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