This interview is the first part of a series - featuring the Moldovan volunteers of SOS Animals - helping to perform Trap-Neuter-Release (TNR) to benefit the stray cats and dogs of Chisinau.
Now, we have a conversation with Cristina, one of the group’s most active volunteers.
To date, Cristina has performed over 90 TNRs for the group and hundreds more since she started helping stray animals during her childhood.
What is your background and where did your passion for helping animals come from?
All of my life I have loved animals. I was just born this way.
We had a cat when I was a child that protected me and slept only with me all the time. He also was going with me to the kindergarten and he was chasing off all the dogs that were passing by my stroller.
I was trying to help them anyway I could. I broke my piggy banks all of the time, to take the kittens and puppies from our yard to the vet clinic that was close to our home. The vets loved me and helped me every time, they never saw my parents.
After a few years, when I grew up, I had started to donate to the people that were taking care of street animals - that was something new for me - it looked too complicated the way they did it.
When I found my first box with puppies in 2017, near the road, I had no time to think and analyze, I just did it, I helped them, that was my first experience and I cannot stop.
What is the stray animal situation like in Chisinau?
It is better than 5 years ago.
There are more volunteers, more adoptions, more shelters, more sterilisation projects, but... we need to educate the new generations to protect nature, animals and the rest of our planet. I think it should be one of the lessons at the school.
“We need to educate the new generations to protect nature, animals and the rest of our planet.”
We could keep neutering all of the street animals 24/7, but it will never end.
People throw away the puppies and kittens from their own dog or cat, they hope that somebody will find them and take them home. They don’t know that nobody needs their puppies or kittens.
The truth is that abandoned animals will die in 50% of cases and the other 50% will remain living on the streets.
Sometimes I think that people are convinced that the street animals are falling from the sky, or maybe they think that the cats and dogs are breeding like mice. Maybe they think that we live in the jungle and the cats are wild and we don’t need to neuter them.
A lot of people keep saying that these are natural processes. I think that they forgot that we domesticated these kinds of animals many years ago and we are responsible for them.
We should understand that street animals are in the streets because of humans’ irresponsibility. This is why we need to talk with people and to have the patience to explain to them. And I think this is what will make it better. I hope so.
How did you first get involved with animal sterilizations?
That was the hardest part of my volunteering.
I started from the sterilization of the social dogs that I used to feed from an abandoned territory. There were a lot of puppies and I observed how difficult it was to find a home for each of them. As a result I understood that the only way to stop this is the total sterilization of this territory.
When we got to the unsociable part of the pack I was sure we would never succeed. But using social media and the help from other volunteers I found out about a group of animal catchers licensed to shoot tranquilizer injections and… it worked.
“We need to share information. This is the secret of success.”
Later I learned from other volunteers how to trap feral cats. I liked the process even though it is very difficult and takes a lot of time, but I know that this is the only way to help them.
I also taught others how to do TNR. It is important to increase the number of people that can help animals. This is about talking and explaining, not just doing. We need to share information. This is the secret of success.
How long have you been volunteering with the SOS Animals group?
When I had started to sterilize all of the animals I met, nobody could stop me , even the financial part of the process. I started to meet people who would donate and spent time educating them about this problem.
The volunteers I met with told me about the SOS Animals group.
Later the SOS Animals admins of this group asked me to help them - to be a part of their family. This is also a kind of volunteering but at the management level.
Tell us a little about your process for trapping stray animals?
This is a very long process.
It starts from the trust you need to give to a new found animal until the postoperative recovery and release, or adoption. It could take years.
The longest period of trapping took me two years. It was a dog. All of the people involved were the happiest, even the guard of that territory started to dance and wave.
“You need to have a little desire and a lot of patience, it is like making a wish, but you also need to work for it.”
When you start with a territory - even if it is a little parking or a big forest - if you have a goal- nobody will be able to stop you.
You also need a trap cage, financial support, some food to ensnare, and some free time, because it is not simple…
But you have a goal - you have everything.
What are the difficulties you face with the TNR process?
There are no difficulties, there are just levels to get up to your goal.
Do you receive any support for your volunteer work?
A lot of physiological support, we are a lot of volunteers that started to be friends and support each other. We can also help each other physically.
It is easier when you have somebody that is ready at 2 a.m. - to go and take a kitten from the highest tree ever seen - that is in another corner of the city. And this is more important than the financial part, but... money also has a special value in all of these processes.
“All we can do is to rely on our own pockets or the donations of the people”
It is a pity that the government started only now - in 2021 - to understand the problem with street animals. They are trying to change the situation with different projects. But I think that until they understand the real seriousness of the problem, all we can do is to rely on our own pockets or the donations of the people that cannot remain indifferent to this situation.
Can stray animals be rehomed after sterilization?
Sure. It is simple with the social ones.
If we have some extra time, we can try to rehome a non-social animal in the vet clinic, shelter or foster family. We need to have a reason why we want to do it, maybe the animal is beaten by others, or the neighbors don’t like it, or maybe it is sick and it is in danger.
In cases where the animals are comfortable where they are and have the skills to live on the streets - I will not discomfort them, trying to change their life, because there are a lot of animals waiting and asking us for a family.
I prefer to give a chance to those animals who really need a family, who really want it.
What are your main goals for animal sterilizations in Moldova?
My goal is to educate people, so they understand the importance of sterilization.
To make them responsible for their pets.
“I hope one day we will not have cats and dogs to sterilize anymore on our streets.”
To help them understand that it is simpler and easier to sterilize their pets than to take care of the puppies or kittens, trying to find them homes or abandoning them. Puppies and kittens that nobody needs.
I hope one day people that abandon their animals on the street will pay a fine. Or people that don’t want to sterilize their animals will pay a tax, in case they don’t have a pedigree.
I hope one day we will not have cats and dogs to sterilize anymore on our streets.
What can other people - both in Moldova, and abroad - do to help the stray animals in Moldova?
Any good involvement is welcome - physical, moral, financial.
I would like people to adopt animals more, to not be afraid to take an animal from the streets, or to try to sterilize animals or search for a home for them - at least to feed them.
It looks complicated, but we are here for the people and the animals. We will always have advice for newcomers and will always try to help the volunteers and supporters.
I would want the persons that are against us to get more informed before criticizing the situation. In case they don’t want to help the street animals, I just hope the people from Moldova and from the entire world would learn to stay distant and not to hurt the animals.
How can someone support the SOS Animals group?
SOS Animals regularly have fundraisers to help with the sterilization of stray cats and dogs in Chisinau. If you would like to support the group and stay up-to-date, you can follow us on Facebook or Instagram.
We post regularly about the sterilizations done by our volunteers and fundraisers.
You can contribute by getting the word out there, donating your time and/or money, volunteering your time to help with sterilizations, rehoming a stray animal, fostering, or simply spaying and neutering your pets.
Thank you for your support.