Written by Jovana Ivastanin
Sasha Pejčić is a rare kind of man who has been rescuing dogs in Nis, Serbia for years. His animal shelter is absolutely breathtaking. The dogs all follow Sasha around and it’s amazing to watch their interaction with each other. They all eat together peacefully, play, run and sleep together. Most of the dogs have been taken off of the streets and nursed back to health (as well as spayed and neutered) and now live in a large pack in a disused riding school. At night they sleep in stables in groups of about 15. However, Sasha is now facing a major crisis over how to feed these dogs.
The Austrian organization that was supporting him is no longer able to cope with all the financial needs and the dogs did not eat for two days recently. Sasha has now run out of food totally. His four workers who help with the feeding and cleaning have not been paid since the New Year and the rent hasn’t been paid for four months.
How the Shelter Was Born
Over the years, Sasha has witnessed so much suffering amongst the Serbian dogs and it has affected him deeply. Ever since he can remember, he always felt sorry for little puppies and would always try and feed them whenever he saw them. It was in 2008 that he really started to notice that many of dogs he was trying to help were disappearing – what he realized was that the Nis pound was killing more and more dogs daily as a way of ‘managing’ the population. Sasha would often notice that his friends, the street dogs he fed on regular basis, would suddenly go missing. They were being caught by the dog catchers and murdered (the methods used to ‘euthanize’ dogs are unspeakable).
One day, Sasha found four puppies near a very busy street and he moved them somewhere safer as he was so scared they would be killed and he began feeding them in that safer place. A few days later, he found another eight puppies on the way to feeding the first four. He bought them a couple of dog houses for shelter and came back every day to feed and water them. People noticed this and started to drop off more and more puppies. In no time, there were 70 of them. Sasha managed to finance all of this on his own as he was working full time. If he was ever short due to an illness of the pups or something similar, he’d turn to friends and family for help and they’d lend him the needed money for the treatment.
Sasha managed to find a disused riding school that he could rent and the owner agreed he could keep dogs there. A homeless man, Zoran, noticed him feeding the puppies and started to help. Since Sasha was working, he offered Zoran a part time job so that he could look after the weaker puppies while Sasha was at work.
Together, they started to help the really sick and injured dogs. Sasha would nurse them back to health and bring them to the ‘shelter’ Zoran and he had started building. When he first rented the disused riding school, it was overgrown and the roof of the stable was in a bad way. With the help of friends, family and a lot of hard work, Sasha and Zoran transformed it into the shelter that it is today.
Years later, Sasha is now responsible for more than 400 dogs who he has rescued. Several of them came in via a former humane organization who rescued dogs from the pound as they were being spayed but not stitched up properly after surgery before being put back on the street, which led to a terrible end for so many dogs. Some of the dogs have been left outside the gates, but Sasha is not actively rescuing more dogs now as he has reached full capacity. Sasha cannot manage on his own and he has some workers who come and help him (Zoran is one of them still).
As there are 400 dogs to be fed, the food bill is now very high. To start off with, Sasha could buy the food but as the numbers grew, he depended on donations from local abattoir and bakeries. This was a great solution for a while, but eventually they couldn’t keep up with the amount of food that Sasha needed for his ever-expanding pack.
To feed the dogs every day, Sasha needs between 100 and 120 kg worth of kibble. The cheapest kibble available in Serbia (dog food is a novelty, most people feed their dog stale bred dunked in their own leftovers) it is about €16.4 ($21 US dollars) for a 20kg bag. The shelter mixes meat, dry food and donated bakery goods at a total of €3,600 a month. A couple of years ago, he managed to find an organization in Austria who started to help him, but sadly this year they have not been able to cover all the costs and for the first time since Sasha has rescued his dogs, they have no food.
Here’s What’s Being Done to Help Feed the Dogs
While volunteers try to begin networking on Facebook to build a base of supporters to help with regular contributions, the Harmony Fund is offering to help raise immediate funds to feed the dogs as well as to pay the rent, the veterinary costs and the workers’ wages. More wonderful photos of the sanctuary and several donation options can be found on their website.