Shelter Update 4 October 2017
On the 3rd February 2017, Rudozem Street Dog Rescue (RSDR) launched an urgent appeal for help after the Bulgarian authorities issued a new law requiring it become a registered shelter.
We were notified that, under a new law passed with immediate effect, RSDR was no longer permitted by the Bulgarian authorities to transport animals out of the country. This ruling effectively shuts down RSDR’s ability to continue ensuring a long-term future for street animals. There are thousands of animals on the streets that are suffering and needing our help. RSDR has been vital in saving and adopting over 1,500 animals to other countries since 2009. The future of street animals in Bulgaria and their plight is now uncertain.
Under EU law, any registered private individual, breeder or charity registered with the EU Trade Control and Expert System (TRACES) can send animals by approved transport to member states. TRACES ensures that transported animals are properly microchipped, registered and healthy. RSDR has transported its animals under the tightly regulated EU system since 2014 without issue. However, the new Bulgarian ruling states that animals rescued from the streets may no longer be transported from registered charities unless they are also a registered shelter.
RSDR has been a Bulgarian-registered foundation since 2009. We were told at that time that only municipality shelters could be registered. However, we have been fundraising and renovating parts of the shelter for years to bring it up to standard, including having soundproof barriers.
Since February, we did all the necessary training courses in animal handling, animal transport and registered two vehicles for moving animals. We have had a project manager and architect working on the plans for the renovations and fundraised for the renovations. A couple of weeks ago, all of the plans for the project were completed. They were submitted to the environmental office in Smolian and at the same time they had to be lodged in the local mayor’s office in the village of Elhovets where the shelter is. Unfortunately the mayor of Elhovets has never wanted the shelter there and has opposed the project.
The law states that any animal shelter has to be a minimum of 300 metres from any other buildings and unfortunately we are only 130 metres from the nearest houses. Regardless of any changes or further soundproofing, we will never get registration for our existing shelter. It is annoying that we weren’t told this back in February, instead we were led to believe that with adequate soundproofing and renovations it could be registered.
We have spent eight months and quite a bit of money doing everything required for registration only to be told that it will never happen. We have also heard that the mayor of Elhovets has consulted a lawyer about proceedings to force closure on us. This is extremely worrying as we can’t even let dogs go for adoption without registration.
Those of you that have followed and supported us over the years know of all the heartache and stress we have had to face. We would be lying if we said there haven’t been times when we have questioned if we can carry on. Our personal and family life has been greatly affected by some of the problems we have had to face. At the end of the day, we have always put the safety and security of the dogs first. We now have to try and stay strong and continue to do that.
If we are to continue rescuing street dogs, the only way forward is to relocate the shelter.
Today we had a meeting with the Rudozem town mayor. He agreed that what we do is beneficial to the town and said he wants to work with us to find a solution. At the end of the week he will take us to see some land not far from the town landfill site that he thinks might be suitable. He suggested a long term lease on the land but we build the building. We explained that for the security of RSDR we would rather own the land that the shelter is built on and he is open to that suggestion. Our only other option at this stage would be to relocate to a different area. Finding somewhere else isn’t easy as we have looked in the past and again recently, and we would be dealing with unknown mayors and municipalities as well as having to leave our own home.
We are hoping that we can come to some agreement with the Rudozem mayor about land that is suitable.
Many people kindly donated towards the renovations that we thought we would be carrying out on our existing shelter. We hope you understand the situation we are in and that it is acceptable to you that your donations are used for new land and shelter. We have approximately 200 dogs and cats in our care and we need to ensure that they remain safe without any threat of the shelter (their home) threatening closure. They rely on us and regardless of the amount of work involved, we will do everything we can to provide them with love and care and a place of safety.
Once again we can only apologise to adopters who have waited since February for dogs and cats that they are adopting. We were originally told that registration should only take a couple of weeks. Since then we have been told of more and more things that we have had to do and have done in order to comply with the regulations and we are still not able to arrange an adoption trip without registration. It is frustrating and heart breaking for you and for us knowing that these animals could be in loving homes with their new families but legally that just isn’t possible at the moment.
We don’t know how long it will take before we get registration on a new shelter. It could be that registration is granted on the project plans and animals can be housed in temporary pens until major work is done. We still have to see if the land is suitable that we are being offered. It would be wrong of us to try and guess when we can do an adoption trip when the truth is we don’t know ourselves. If anyone wishes to cancel an adoption, ,we do understand and we will refund the transport fee and still give you first option to adopt that animal when we are able to start doing adoption trips again.
We thank everyone who continues to support us. This is another major hurdle for RSDR, but one we have to work through in order to carry on saving the lives of street dogs and looking after the dogs and cats already in our care.
Diane & Tony Rowles, Founders
Rudozem Street Dog Rescue