Yet another collective gasp was likely heard around the globe when the Associated Press reported the debt downgrade of five euro zone nations by Fitch Ratings. For those who are concerned about the welfare of animals, a new alarm sounded. The question is raised: will conditions for unwanted animals go from marginal or bad to worse? Also, how will it be possible for countries with austerity plans to take care of their at-risk animal populations?
I am pleased to report that in addition to the United States, other nations — despite their economic woes — have effective protection measures underway to care for their animals in need. The following examples outline several successful European animal care programs.
In the United Kingdom, the largest dog welfare charity, Dogs Trust, vows to never destroy a healthy dog. This organization, founded in 1891, states that their mission is to “bring about the day when all dogs can enjoy a happy life, free from the threat of unnecessary destruction.” The accomplishments of Dogs Trust are both impressive and extensive.
- caring for approximately 16,000 stray and abandoned dogs a year through their nationwide network of 18 Rehoming Centers
- running neutering campaigns across the UK (concentrating on areas with the most critical stray dog problems)
- offering pet owners who are fleeing domestic violence a way to care for their animals by fostering them through their FREEDOM Project
- through their HOPE Project, assisting homeless people by giving preventative veterinary care to their dogs
All the work of Dogs Trust, including their projects, are funded 100 percent by the public.
A gleaming example of an animal charity that rolls along with the punches from their nation’s recession is PAWS-Patas Animal Rescue of Spain. Founded in 1989 and formerly registered as a charity in 1996, it provides shelter and adoption services for stray and abandoned dogs and cats. Similar to Dogs Trust, PAWS never destroys healthy animals.
According to PAWS, 2011 was the most difficult year for their shelter. Due to their financial crisis, in March they were forced to layoff their full-time manager, close the shelter to any new arrivals and suspend feral cat neutering for two months. To add to their problems, PAWS lost their main outlet for homing dogs in Holland. Yet, with the help and support of their strong volunteer network and the public, they managed to treat more than 200 cats and kittens and found homes for another 300 dogs and 48 felines.
During 2011, PAWS raised the bar on their fundraising efforts with the addition of numerous special events such as a sponsored skydive and a live PAWS AID Concert that received extensive local media coverage. This animal charity’s fundraising doesn’t stop at special events.
For the past ten years, PAWS has operated a thrift shop which serves as their main source of income. Last month, they expanded their retail operations, opening a boutique where customers can purchase new clothes and accessories. This boutique and its mission caught the eye of the local town government, who gifted PAWS with a rent-free ten-year lease. Although, according to PAWS, their long-term financial stability is far from secure, this animal protection organization proves that courage and innovative thinking can take on any financial crisis.
In addition to organized animal charities like Dogs Trust and PAWS, there are other groups across Europe who work diligently to make lasting changes for countless stray animals, despite the current economic climate. According to Docs 4 Dogs, a European animal welfare network, an animal rights petition aimed at creating a uniform trans-European Animal Welfare Act was presented to the President of the EU Petitions’ Committee, Erminia Mazzoni, in Brussels on November 22, 2011.
It remains unknown if the demands for an animal protection law will be met, but the action of these groups, like those taken by their counterparts across the globe, speaks loudly. Despite the fact that the solutions we need to ensure all animals live safe and happy lives are more difficult to find during an economic downturn, they are far from elusive.
Photo Credit: clarita