Upon visiting Bosnia • A plan of action

Wild at Heart Foundation recently embarked on a project visit to Bosnia. We presently support two projects in the country, one in Mostar and one in Sarajevo, and our intentions were to go and see how things were functioning over there in order to gain a better understanding of further ways in which we could help. However, I’m not sure that any of us were prepared to witness so much sadness and cruelty in the Praca public shelter in Sarajevo, and the fact our trip was so short meant we had to leave without managing to alleviate any suffering significantly.

The situation is horrendous
For all dog lovers, to see an animal cower in fear as you approach is heart-breaking. You can’t communicate the fact that you’re there to help. They can’t distinguish you from the negative association they already have with humans. And their eyes, they might not be able to talk but their eyes tell you the most painful story. Walking through the rows of dirty kennels, it was evident that these dogs were desperate. Their distressed barks bounced off the walls and the smell was enough to make you wretch. The handful of volunteers and rescuers that visit the shelter at the weekend have a ridiculous amount of work to do, and their emotional stability is tested every time they arrive.

Litters of puppies are thrown into cages with huge dogs that are frustrated and stressed due to their lack of socialisation and exercise. In a literal dog-eat-dog world, these puppies end up with severe injuries, if not dead, as they have no way of defending themselves. And if they’re lucky enough to be accepted by the dogs they’re caged with, they then have to battle through the possibility of contracting potentially fatal diseases such as Parvovirus. Fights break out regularly between bigger dogs who desperately defend their prized chicken bones, and the weaker dogs are bullied into submission, becoming skittish and emaciated. Some dogs freeze in fear upon being approached by humans, and when you touch them you can feel their body shaking. There’s no aggression, just pure fear. But on the other hand, despite so many of these dogs living in the shadows of poorly kept kennels, they are keen to engage with human visitors, once again showing the resilience of rescue dogs.

The next steps
Myself and my wonderful colleague, Alicia, came back to the UK unable to think of anything but the dogs. It was inevitable that thoughts about a second trip was already brewing, even before we had flown home, and this week we have established a plan of action. The hardships of these dogs don’t have to define them and with human devotion in a lot of cases they will eventually emerge from their shells, it just takes time. In a facility that can only be likened to that of a concentration camp, we want to give these dogs a better chance of being rehomed, surviving the harsh conditions, and experiencing a little more comfort. So, we’re going back to Bosnia!

How you can help
The next steps moving forward to improve the living conditions and the general wellbeing of the 500 dogs living in the Praca shelter depend on your continued support. Below is a table which identifies the items we need to help the dogs and how much we need to do this. Donations of any size are greatly appreciated. This is a large scale project but we have to start somewhere to improve the sad conditions that the dogs currently inhabit. Unfortunately, as people sometimes break into the shelter we have been advised not to buy things such as bedding and bowls that can be stolen and resold, so we have instead sourced alternatives.

Bravecto pills Treats parasites effectively. One pill covers one dog for 3 months £30 for one pill
Deworming pills Worming treatment £50 for 100 pills
Pressure washer One washer to improve the cleanliness of the kennels and make it easier for the volunteers to clean £450 total
Funds to enable rescue volunteers to visit during the week Someone to visit the shelter during the week to care, feed and clean. We hope to fund this through standing order donations £250 per month
Brooms To clean the kennels £10 each
Water buckets To be used as bowls £5 each
Rakes To clean the kennels and outdoors areas £10 each
Shovels To clean the kennels and outdoors areas £10 each
Wheelbarrows To move food and supplies around the shelter more easily £30 each
Pallets To be used as beds £7 each
Hay/straw Used as bedding for the dogs in their kennels. Proper bedding would be stolen and resold sadly £150 per month
Vitamin supplements To improve the general health of the dogs £6 for 90 tablets
Disinfectant To clean the kennels and minimise the risk of disease spreading, especially to puppies £20 for 5 litres
Food Good quality food to improve the general health of the dogs £250 feeds all the dogs good quality food for one weekend
DHPP vaccine Vaccines for puppies to protect them against distemper, hepatitis, parainfluenza and parvovirus £5 per vaccine

Improving the miserable conditions
Each and every important item on our shopping list will alleviate a factor of suffering in one way or another. We also intend to partner with a Bosnian vet to help with medical needs. Our amazing adopter and supporter, Susie Alexander, has spent months raising money and some of her funds will go towards facilitating this. If you would also like to support this initiative we would be most grateful. The help of a vet will allow us to assess the dogs to see if any of them need important treatment.

Being able to provide funds to enable rescuers with little disposable income to visit the shelter more regularly means the dogs will become more socialised and trusting, thus improving their ability to become companions. At the moment they only have proper human company on Sundays so anything more we can offer them will significantly improve their present situation.

We need a volunteer groomer
Grooming rescue dogs isn’t the first thing you would imagine us wanting to arrange, but having witnessed dogs living in utter filth, this is actually a priority. Many native Bosnian breeds and mixbreeds boast huge, thick coats, and over time they become matted, dirty and heavy. Grooming these dogs will relieve them just before the scorching summer months arrive, and also improve their appearance which will attract more attention to them if they’re in the position to be rehomed. To help us achieve this we need a volunteer groomer and in the coming week we will be advertising for assistance, so keep your eyes peeled if this is something you might be able to get involved with.


If you’d like to donate to support our efforts in Bosnia please visit https://mydonate.bt.com/donation/start.html?charity=127467 and mark your donation as ‘BOSNIA’. You’ve seen the photos, now it’s our chance to work together to try and make things a little better.


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