About 150 kilometers northwest of Sarajevo, in the picturesque town of Jajce, I walk along the ruins of an ancient courtyard wall. This town, the resting place of the last King of Bosnia, is a major tourist destination for domestic and foreign travelers alike.
But its huge stone watch towers and crumbling castle walls play another role in this community: refuge for street dogs.
As I round a corner, I come face to face with a tiny, fluffy black puppy. Startled, she turns and trots off in the other direction, toward a narrow gap between the courtyard wall and a line of trash cans. I notice that she’s favoring her left hind leg, completely unable to put weight on it.
Too small to be alone and badly injured by a motor vehicle accident or an attack from another dog, the pitiful little pup immediately captured our hearts. We knew we had to help her.
In seven communities across Bosnia, IFAW is working in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme to implement plans aimed at solving the dog problems those communities face. Abandonment, cruelty, lack of veterinary resources, attacks on livestock and people, and inhumane culling are just a few among the many problems that these communities struggle with.
Luckily, these seven communities have committed to making a change.
During our Humane Community Development process, communities identify their major problems with street dogs, and the underlying human behaviors that contribute to that problem. They select targeted strategies to address the problem, and build a comprehensive work plan that draws on local resources and is completely community-led. IFAW provides expertise to guide the plan, access to companion animal veterinary trainings, and funding to reduce any resource barriers that have been identified.
In the town of Lopare, one of the very first communities to complete the HCD process, 80 percent of the roaming dogs were vaccinated and sterilized within the first six months of beginning their work. Local hunters, who used to regularly shoot roaming dogs in a misguided effort to control populations, now boast of the community’s humane plan to care for dogs, criticizing their previous culling practices by strongly stating that, “we don’t do that here anymore.”
In Gradačac, the head of the local Public Health Department began the HCD process very critical of dogs. Now, she teaches dog safety and responsible ownership in elementary school classrooms. The town of Gradačac now also boasts a network of people committed to helping dogs – recently, we heard about an incident where a community member witnessed a stray dog get hit by a car. Thanks to the work the community is doing to inform people of their efforts to help dogs, they knew exactly whom to call in order to get that dog help.
Less than one year ago, we started the HCD process in three new places—Ključ, Trebinje and Mrkonjić Grad—bringing our total number to seven communities in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Just this past month, we began receiving finalized plans from these three newest additions – that is, their plans to begin improving the lives of the dogs, and the people – in their communities. All three are focusing on building their local veterinary capacity by getting training for veterinarians who previously focused solely on livestock, so that they can now help companion animals too.
When I met the little black puppy Meesha, as we called her, we were in Jajce to conduct a final stage workshop for community members engaged in Jajce’s plans for their dogs. One of our original HCD communities, the town of Jajce has already begun working – most notably by closing down a shelter that they couldn’t afford to run last year.
When we found Meesha, we immediately called the veterinarian to get her some help for her leg. After treating her, the veterinarian called the newly established local caretaker of dogs, who agreed to house her, feed her and tend to her health, until a home could be found. This caretaker is working on setting up foster and adoption networks, and eventually, Meesha was placed in a new and loving home.
We were able to help Meesha because of the networks that have been put in place by the Humane Community Development process. The changes in the community may seem small at first. But in reality, these changes are already making a huge difference for the animals that call these places home.
Article source: IFAW