Stray animals in Belarus. Give us an animal asylum! Documentary film.

The recent situation involving animal protection organizations and the officials of Municipal Housing Maintenance and Utilities Board, which supervises the municipal animal control organization “Fauna Goroda”, is beyond explanation.

Oleg Harkevich was in charge of “Fauna Goroda” from 2007 to 2009, while Boris Vasilyev was the Executive Director of Municipal Housing Maintenance and Utilities Board. These two leaders made sure that the animal catchers at “Fauna Goroda”, which was aptly dubbed by the public as “the knacker’s yard”, rendered their services in a CIVILIZED way. These two leaders realized that, just like in other countries, the catchers’ services should be overseen by animal protection organizations.

Over the years of their work the municipal animal control organization “Fauna Goroda” had practically turned into a shelter for stray animals:

- The post of Deputy Director for Animal Protection was introduced.

- Animal catchers started to receive fixed salaries instead of efficiency wages.

- Only those who had a true affection for animals and carried out their tasks in good faith were employed to take care of the animals.

- A lot of effort was made to raise the awareness of general public and the media.

- The problem of stray animals was being solved not through mass euthanasia but through finding new owners for them (the pictures of the animals were posted on Internet sites, printed in newspapers and magazines, shown on TV).

- A license to render veterinarian services was obtained. The animals were treated, vaccinated, a sterilization programme was launched.

- The corridors of “Fauna Goroda” were fitted with huge stands for providing citizens with information and placing the pictures of the lost animals. Such stands were of great use for the whole city.

- Those years witnessed the rise of the volunteer movement. People took care of stray pets, treated them and helped to find new owners for them on a voluntary basis, i.e. free of charge.

- Meetings with school-children and students were arranged regularly.

Nataliya Belianova, Chairman of “EGIDA”:
“I believe it is an extremely important event. Young children are kind-hearted, they are not spoilt by the cruelties of life yet. They are ready to preserve their kindness for the rest of their lives and are ready to share it with the others. We do hope these young children will remain kind, just like they are today, forever.”

- Public Association for Animal Protection organized promotional events to acquaint people with the work of “Fauna Goroda”, so that its charges could find new families.

Animal protection work was in full swing at “Fauna”. Life was in full swing at “Fauna”. And we, animal protectors, did not protest against the catchers services even once. We did our best to help the animals survive and find new owners.

Oleg Harkevich was fruitfully cooperating with all the animal protection organizations located in Minsk. Nevertheless, all this lasted for two years only…

In January 2009 a “top-level” decision was made to change the policy and, consequently, to replace the leaders of “Fauna Goroda”. The Director, Oleg Harkevich, was the first to be dismissed. Vladimir Reentovich appointed his friend, the notorious Alexandr Tamashevsky, to fill in this position. Work aimed at destroying all animal protection activities began, gradually turning “Fauna Goroda” into a “closed shop”. Vladimir Reentovich himself visited “Fauna” and declared unashamedly that general public should “keep at a distance”.

Each member of the old staff was given one day to resign. They were all people who loved animals, helped them and acknowledged the importance of animal protection activities.

1.O. Harkevich, Director
2.Y. Zapesochny, Economist
3.T. Kruchkovskaya, Chief Accountant
4.E. Firanchuk, Veterinary Supervisor
5.A. Drozdov, Veterinarian
6.A. Sadovskaya, Veterinarian
7.S. Harevich, Lawyer
8.A. Bogdanova, Administrator
9.N. Dementyeva, Employee taking care of the animals
10.T. Samtsova, Accountant
11.N. Belianova, Deputy Director for Animal Protection

“Fauna Goroda” was now staffed with former employees of Public Utilities Services, and their new strategy was veiled in slander. They said that animal protectors were thieves and criminals. Some months ago, the volunteers taking care of the dogs left as well. Those people were the only hope for the captured animals. No one else could help the dogs in that gruesome place.

It was prohibited to sterilize, treat the dogs and take their photos to later advertize them on the site and in the media.

Despite this, animal protection activities were not brought to a halt. Now the volunteers are renting deserted houses in the outskirts of the city to provide the animals with a shelter, sterilize them and find new owners. They buy the animals out from “Fauna Goroda” at their own expense. As a rule, these are sick animals, as the new administration of “Fauna” has prohibited any treatment.

There is no asylum for stray animals in Belarus, but we keep hoping for the better.

“All this is done unofficially. We are really scared. We are afraid of the neighbors who can, for instance, write a letter of complaint or even poison the animals. We are afraid of publicity, we cannot advertise things openly, we cannot ask for assistance. As I have said, it is all unofficial…”

It is known that in the city of Bobruisk the local animal protection organization has received support from the local executive authority. There will be an asylum for stray pets in the city soon. Just the other day we learnt that the authorities of Mozyr had endorsed the plan for opening of an asylum as well.

Public Association “EGIDA” has recently found a building suitable for being used as the first asylum for stray animals. The building belongs to the regional consumer’s association, but for the last three years it has actually served as a meeting place of the local “tramps”. They make fires inside and have turned the place into a public lavatory. The doors and the windows are broken.

To tell the truth, this building does deserve a better usage. Its location is ideal for a stray animal asylum. On its four sides it is surrounded by a tall mound hiding the house, a railway, sand hills covered in trees and a sewage system. The building is located in such a way that opening an asylum and keeping dogs in it will not disturb the local citizens (the building is located at 27 Klumova Str., Partizansky District).

“We do need a building which will be officially awarded the status of an animal asylum. Only in this case we will able to take a better care of all these animals. Besides, we will be able to help a larger number of animals…”

Not only animal protectors, but also a large number of citizens (both celebrities and common people) believe that it is the state that should render assistance in solving the problem of stray animals.

Sergey Isachenko, veterinarian:
“There has to be an asylum for stray animals. Unsupported individual initiatives, as global experience shows, cannot handle this alone. This undertaking is of great necessity, but we should look for people who could render assistance. This undertaking must not simply exist, it must thrive…”

Vlada, popular singer:
“We really need an animal asylum, so that we could take care of homeless pets and make other people happy. It will be great if we find new owners for a homeless kitten, and this kitten will live a happy and carefree life.”

Tatiana Mishatkina, Professor at International Sakharov Environmental University, UNESCO expert in ethics and bio-ethics:
“As I see it, an animal asylum is a must. We do have a temporary shelter for animals, but in no way does it resemble an asylum. Moreover, its former directors have been dismissed, and animals are no longer treated in a humane way. We need such shelters where it would be possible to keep animals temporarily, or even for their lifetime, where people could bring homeless animals they find in the streets. These institutions can be financed through municipal funds, through taxes paid by pet owners, or they can be financed by volunteers. And there will always be a lot of people willing to help…”

“Give us an animal asylum!”

Thus, Public Association for Animal Protection "EGIDA" has worked out the following strategy:
1. Passing an Animal Cruelty Law, which will truly protect animals from cruel handling.
2. Arranging a network of asylums for stray animals and launching a sterilization programme.
3. Raising the awareness of the population.

So far, only animal protection organizations have made efforts to carry out this plan. And these organizations cannot boast a large membership. But we do hope we will be heard by the authorities, and the latter will face the problem and start handling it…

As for us, today we are doing our best to make the first asylum for stray animals appear in our city. We hope you will hear us.

“Raise your hand not to hurt someone, but to protect them”.
N.A. Belianova,
Chairman of Public Association for Animal Protection “EGIDA”

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