The average person can only dream of a vacation to Europe. In fact, it’s on the bucket list of many people in other parts of the world. The culture, beautiful landscapes, fabulous architecture, and rich history are all great reasons to visit any number of European countries.
However, life in Europe is not always as glamorous as it seems. While it’s true that many European countries boast the luxuries and lifestyles that non-European people covet, there are other parts of Europe that aren’t so fortunate.
Without taking away from their beauty or history, these places go largely unnoticed when planning that 10-country European vacation many of us dream of. One such place is Moldova, a former Soviet state and home to the city of Chisinau.
Moldova's Struggling Economy
The primary reason for Chisinau’s stray animal problem is that the economy is struggling. In fact, the median annual salary is a mere 6,000 Euros; barely enough for the average family to survive on, let alone contribute to the care and containment of the stray animal population.
The average cost of animal sterilization is 15 euros, not including boarding, vaccinations, and recovery - while the average salary in Moldova is only 6,000 euros.
Many of Chisinau’s residents find employment as migrant workers, unable to support themselves or their families in the current economy at home. Considering that the average cost of animal sterilization is 15 Euros (not including boarding, vaccinations, and recovery), it makes sense that the citizens of Chisinau are unable to help fund this compelling cause.
While 15 Euros may seem like nothing to those more fortunate, it’s the equivalent of a day’s food for people living on such meager incomes, and it’s unrealistic to expect them to donate when they are struggling so severely. Residents are forced to deal with the uncontrolled stray animal population in their city, and they are struggling to change it without financial support or adequate government policies.
Poor Animal Welfare
Animal welfare has taken a back seat in Chisinau.
The animal protection laws that are in place are rarely - if ever - enforced, due to a lack of government support.
Animal abandonment rates are high, as are the occurrences of animals being abused, poisoned, and killed.
Fines for animal abuse are minimal (600 lei - ~30 euros).
There is only one municipal dog shelter in Chisinau, called the necropolis. It is managed by the municipal sanitation department.
The poor working conditions at this shelter mean that no veterinarians are employed there, making it near impossible to provide proper care for the dogs that reside within. There are currently over 800 stray dogs in the Chisinau necropolis; a figure that is staggering to say the least.
There are an estimated 3,000 - 5,000 stray dogs on Chisinau's streets. With stray cats likely being twice that number - close to 10,000.
Thankfully, one government sponsored TNR program for dogs does exist in Chisinau. However, the sterilizations are subcontracted out to two local veterinary clinics, which can't carry out sterilizations fast enough.
With a limited annual budget, limited participation from clinics, and a small target area excluding the suburbs of Chisinau; to say this is a stretch would be a massive understatement.
There is currently no TNR program for stray cats financed by the municipal government. The situation with stray cats is much worse than with dogs.
What is TNR?
TNR, or Trap Neuter Release (also known as Trap Neuter Return) has a phenomenal success rate in reducing stray and feral animal populations.
Its principle is quite simple; to sterilize colonies or packs in order to minimize the possibility of reproduction, thus reducing the number of stray animals over time.
In places like Chisinau that are overwhelmed with stray animals and under equipped to deal with the situation, the TNR strategy is key.
The process of TNR includes 3 components:
- Trap - The first stage is to trap as many of the animals as possible, ideally at one time so as not to alert the remaining animals, causing them to avoid the area.
- Neuter - The animals are then taken to an animal shelter or vet clinic, neutered or spayed, vaccinated, and in some cases, implanted or “ear-tipped” with a small tracking device (this serves to identify the animal as neutered or spayed when new TNR operations are carried out).
- Return - The animal is then returned to the population once recovered, allowing them to continue their life as normal, without contributing to the population any further.
To institute something as effective as TNR in a community as overwhelmed by stray animals as Chisinau could be life changing, for both animals and humans alike.
Being sterilized and vaccinated contributes to the overall health and therefore life expectancy of the animals, while there is more food to go around due to the lower risk of over population.
The people who live in Chisinau will benefit as well, having fewer stray animals in the city over time, as well as reducing the risk for illness or disease through the improved health of those already in the population.
About the TNR Volunteer Group "Sterilisation of Stray Animals. Chisinau, Moldova (SOSAnimals Moldova)"
Thankfully, there are others willing to help resolve this dire situation. SOSAnimals Moldova was formed in December of 2017 and has grown from a just few members to over 2,600 participants since that time.
SOSAnimals Moldova focuses their efforts solely on funding unpaid volunteers, allowing them to afford the TNR programs that are so essential to situations like the one in Chisinau.
The Volunteers of SOSAnimals Moldova have helped to sterilize 2,783 stray animals to date. Including 695 dogs, and 2,088 cats.
Volunteers are responsible for all incurred costs aside from the sterilization procedure itself. These include the trapping, housing, feeding, transport, and additional medical care the animals receive throughout the TNR process.
The group sets a maximum funding amount for sterilizations of 150 Lei for male cats/250 Lei for females, and 300 Lei for male dogs/400 Lei for females.
The goals of SOSAnimals Moldova are very straightforward:
- Connecting volunteers with funding and/or donations
- Creating a central place for collecting donations
- Reporting on all donations and performed sterilizations
- Distributing the funds to the volunteers
- Sterilizing the stray animals
SOSAnimals Moldova was founded due to the absence of government policy in places like Chisinau. The issue of disorganization and decentralization has made it difficult to manage and distribute funds to the volunteers in the past, causing programs to be run in a haphazard fashion.
Having a centralized group means better reporting and transparency are possible, along with more efficient management, equaling a more effective force against the serious stray animal problem in places like Chisinau.
As of July 2021, SOSAnimals Moldova has officially helped to sterilize 2,783 stray animals, including 695 dogs and 2,088 cats — and it can only get better with more help.
Why Donate to Support the SOSAnimals Volunteers?
The volunteers championing these operations risk their health and safety on a regular basis to catch stray dogs and cats and do so willingly for the benefit of the animals. These animals are abandoned, hungry, cold, unwanted and in pain, often living short, cruel lives.
Dogs and cats are capable of mating and having litters twice a year, with multiple babies in each litter.
There is a way to make a difference, for the animals and for the people of Chisinau and other places like it. This way is to continue to operate TNR programs, enabling the population to decrease, providing a better quality of life for the animals that are homeless and the people that share the city with them.
While all donations are appreciated, they have always fallen short of the targets.
As an example, the largest distribution to date has been 68,000 Lei, raised from a 4-month fundraiser. This money was allocated to volunteers within an hour.
More help is needed, and with that help these brave and devoted volunteers can continue to provide this essential service to the people and animals of Chisinau.
How Does SOSAnimals Moldova Handle Donations and Distributions?
When it comes to donations and distributions the most important things are transparency and accurate reporting.
The group is always accepting donations, but a few times a year there will be official fundraisers.
Twice monthly - and after fundraisers - the group administrators publish bank account and PayPal balances. When enough money has been raised for at least 50 sterilizations, credit is then assigned to volunteers on a "first come first served" basis.
Funds typically take less than one hour to be fully credited to the volunteers.
The funds are paid directly to the veterinary clinics once the sterilizations have been completed. The clinic must submit photo evidence of the sterilization as well as a receipt - recorded on the SOSAnimals Moldova Facebook Group.
Volunteers have 30 days to complete their assigned sterilizations, failure to do so will mean the credit is assigned to another volunteer.
All current and historical distribution data is recorded and made available to group members.
Support SOSAnimals Moldova by Donating Today
To assist these amazing men and women in their bravery and allow them to keep doing this work, the most effective way is to donate.
A fundraiser is a wonderful way to bring a community of people together for a good cause. There are so many generous people in the world just looking for a cause to contribute to, all they need is to be informed.
The donations are distributed to the volunteers by SOSAnimals' site administrators, so the funds go where they are needed most and are allocated accordingly.
There is no shortage of dedicated volunteers willing to do this work, they simply need the funds to continue doing it.
Donating to a cause this noble will make an enormous difference in not only the animal’s lives, but the people that help them as well.
If you would like to run a fundraiser yourself please contact one the group administrators via Facebook.
You can find SOSAnimals on their Facebook Page and Facebook Group, as well as their Website.