For the past three years, animal rights activists with Sloboda Zvierat (SZ) in Bratislava have spent countless hours campaigning for a new, bigger, more suitable animal shelter in the nation's capital. They have collected signatures, organised protests and been a general pain in the neck for the municipality of Bratislava.
"Maybe we should be friendlier to the city," said SZ director Eva Čechová with a mischievous smile. "We have organised many political campaigns to get a new shelter and they have sometimes become angry because many people support us. Maybe we should start being nicer to them if we want a new shelter."
Or maybe the organisation should just invite city representatives to Sloboda Zvierat on Polianky street to witness first hand the pressing need for a new shelter. A room designated for employees to take a nap is now the recovery room for newly-neutered dogs. The shower is now home to two German Shepherd pups just days old. And several of the kennels, approximately four feet by four feet, house five dogs.
"Less dogs, more people," Čechová says to herself while sticking her hand through the bars of the cramped kennels.
"We need a new shelter. We have 90 dogs here [as well as about 15 cats] but not nearly enough space for them," she adds, noting that the shelter is so small that when dogs get sick the vets are unable to separate them from the healthy dogs.
Just 100 metres away is a meadow which could offer the solution. Čechová says that through the organisation's fund-raising campaigns, some three million crowns have been set aside for the construction of a nine million crown quarantine shelter. With various corporate sponsorships and additional public donations, Sloboda Zvierat hopes to cover the construction costs.
The quarantine shelter is necessary to avoid a repeat of a situation which has already reared its ugly head. Last Christmas the whole shelter had to be quarantined when a handful of dogs became infected with a deadly virus. Although only a minority were sick, every animal had to be quarantined because of the shelter's size and subsequent problems with keeping sick and healthy animals apart.
Hopes that the shelter will be built are alive, but sputtering. In 1997, the municipality sold SZ the land for "a symbolic price", but construction has been delayed because a nearby kennel club uses the land to train dogs. "We've been asked to be patient," Čechová sighs.
She added that the organisation is always on the hunt for donations and volunteers. Cash is always appreciated, but the shelter also needs and gladly accepts food donations, portable heaters to warm the animals during the winter months, collars and leashes, building materials for the new shelter, and even dog-walkers.
However, the most important donation for the animals comes in the form of a new home. "We don't kill animals here, we try to find a home for every pet," she said. "In the spring and summer it's easier to find homes, but during the winter it's more difficult because people are not willing to adopt now, except as Christmas gifts.
"But we have to make sure that people really want the animals and that they're not just buying a [hasty] Christmas gift," she added. "Too often, people adopt an animal and then bring it back after a week. This is very traumatic for the animal to go from the shelter to a real home and then to have to come back."
HOW TO HELP: To give food or supplies, simply bring the donations to the Sloboda Zvierat shelter on Polianky street. Those wishing to become dog-walkers can either call the centre at 6595-6202, or go to the shelter (the staff speak German and Spanish).
Foreigners and Slovaks alike can adopt pets. For more information, call Mrs. Čechova at 6595-6202. Direct money donations can be sent to Poštová banka, account number 2023636/6500. The shelter is also trying to raise money for a new 'animal ambulance' which picks up injured animals when citizens call in. To donate money towards the vehicle, the bank account number is 2023636/5000.
11. Dec 2000 at 0:00 | Chris Togneri