K-9 Angels rescue stray dogs from Romania.

Nanu with Bono. ‘He has disabled hind legs. He should have gone to England, but I fell in love and kept him.’

I interviewed a remarkable young woman, named Madalina Nanu.  She is a pharmacy school student from Romania who selflessly devotes herself to rescuing dogs in her local town of Craiova. It was her plea on Facebook regarding a desperate dog in need of help which first mobilised Anneka, Victoria and Pola into action, and which would eventually lead to the formation of the K-9 Angels in a story which has now become legendary.

Madalina is not part of some big animal rescue organisation, she does this entirely off her own back. In her home town of Craiova, there are around 8000 strays but only around 40 people in the community doing anything to help. Obviously, Madalina and the others cannot help all of these dogs with such limited resources, but they continue anyway. It’s Madalina’s dedication to such an overwhelming level of suffering that is so impressive.

One of the things that stuck me while talking to Madalina, is how relatively small the costs are in order to make a real impact. When I asked her what she would do with 1000 Euros, she said she would buy food, vaccines, worming medication and have as many dogs neutered and spayed as possible. When I asked her what she could do with 5000 Euro, she said all of the above, but now she could also afford to build some kennels to keep the dogs in while she organises their forever homes.

5000 Euro is currently around £4000, which although initially sounds like a lot of money, when we think about it shared between a number of compassionate people, it really isn’t. £4000 is forty people donating £100. It is four hundred people donating £10. What if four hundred people donated £10 to Nanu every month? She and her forty-or-so neighbours could feed, vaccinate, neuter, shelter and re-home around 1000 dogs a year. And when you factor in the sum we have now all become familiar with: that one unaltered female and her offspring will produce 67,000 puppies over a six year period, we see that if 1000 dogs a year could be saved, that would impede the birth of tens of millions of puppies.

K-9 Angels and Romanian street dog rescue.

The endless numbers of starving dogs hungrily eat the kibble Nanu distributes on a daily basis. This group live out in the open fields surrounding Craiova. Come the winter, they will have no protection from the bitter temperatures.

It is when we see the problem as figures that we see a way forward. If 400 people committed to donating £10 a month to the K-9 Angels or directly to Madalina, together we could significantly clear up the stray dog problem in Craiova alone. Madalina and her helpers could feed the dogs and take them into care, the K-9 Angels could help find forever homes and arrange their transportation to the UK, and with around 19 dogs a week being saved in the Craiova area alone, within six years we could have reduced the number of strays to manageable levels.

Right? Maybe. Or maybe, I’m dreaming…but when you sit down and chat with someone like Madalina it is impossible to not try desperately to come up with a way of helping. Of really helping.

The reason for this overwhelming desire to help can be explained nowhere better than in the pictures she shares with me. I ask for photos that would give a snap-shot of her life, as someone living inside Romania. Instantly my email starts dinging with picture messages. Each photo is accompanied by a few lines explaining who is in the photograph. Madalina, remembers them all. Where they were found, what was wrong with them, what she named them, what the outcome was.

The first picture I see is of a crouching, starving dog who must have been run over or beaten and sustained paralysing injuries. His entire backend is flopped on the floor, both hind legs wildly out of place and hanging limply. Any civilisation worthy of calling itself such should have treated him. Instead, he was left to endure this condition until he was too weak to live anymore. Madalina found him in a gas station, and quickly transported him to a Vet for the now unavoidable euthanasia.

K-9 Angels campaign for Romanian street dogs

How much longer are we going to let this suffering continue? Paralysed and untreated for too long, this poor boy had to be put to sleep shortly after Nanu found him at a gas station.

Unlike us over here in Britain, she can not simply switch off to this: ‘Everyday is a bad day here. If you go outside the house dogs are everywhere. You find them, and they have been abused, killed, drowned, beaten, starved, run-over, raped…it is so hard. Sometimes I feel very down. A great day is the day when they go to their forever home and when I see the happy pictures. I live for those pictures.’

Madalina has certainly worked hard to ensure she gets to see lots of those happy pictures: by having a long list of successful ‘rescue and re-homes’ under her belt. My email is still dinging with pictures, dozens of them, they are coming in thick and fast…’Madalina, how many dogs have you rescued?’ I ask. ‘I have no idea. I have never counted,’ is her matter-of-fact response. ‘Approximately?’ I press her. ‘Well over a hundred. I’ve been doing this all my life.’  She says.

As if it isn’t enough to go out everyday and feed every dog she comes across, and rescue and re-home every dog that she can, Madalina also makes regular visits to her local public shelter. It took her a long time to gain access to the shelter, but with persistence, eventually they allowed her and her friends in to feed and care for the dogs kept in there.

Nanu’s local dog pound in Craiova. Far from being a refuge, most of these dogs are simply locked up and left to die from starvation and disease.

Public shelters in Romania are of notoriously poor standards. The dogs are not fed, there is no re-homing programme, nor is there a spay and neuter arrangement. Even basic medical care is non-existent. The word shelter means refuge; a safe place for protection from danger. These are not shelters. They are holding pens, prisons, if you will, and these dogs are serving a life sentence on death row. They will, in time, succumb to either their injuries, or starvation, or will perish in a fight, their body often devoured by their starving inmates. Or they may even be beaten to death by the ‘shelter’ workers as was the case in the Botosani shelter in May 2012, when an overnight massacre took place.

The ‘shelters’ in Romania are bursting with dogs which have been captured from the streets: not in a bid to rescue them, but simply to get them out of the way.

Madalina, then, is a God-send to the dogs of the Craiova shelter. She goes in there with a small team of local volunteers to clean, feed and treat the sick dogs, between them they also remove as many dogs as they can and arrange their adoption. ‘They have money to do all of this on paper, but the reality is different. The money does not end up with the dogs,’ said Madalina, by way of answer to my question about the conditions at the shelter.

Madalina does all of this work on donations or from her own pocket. The K-9 Angels partnered up with her around a year ago and have been fundraising and re-homing for her in an effort to help change the stray dog situation in Romania for once and for all. Peter Singer, renowned philosopher and advocate of Animal Rights said, ‘If we could donate just a small amount of what we earn, if everybody on an average income donated 10% of their earnings, we could quite comfortably deal with the large scale, extreme poverty and crisis cases around the world. In fact, it probably wouldn’t take the 10%, some estimates go as low as 2%’. When you hear Madalina say that ‘the challenges are always too many dogs; you don’t know where to help first, and of course, always a lack of money and having nowhere to keep the dogs until adoption’, it is impossible for your brain to not start storming ideas for ways to help get her the funds she needs. So, I find myself once again dreaming of a situation whereby everybody who cares about this cause commits to a small monthly donation.

In the past I have donated to large organisations only to become disheartened by some when I see great amounts of money being squandered on river boat cruises up the Thames as a thank-you to their biggest benefactors. That wasn’t what I was donating my hard earned cash for! I want my money to go into a big pot and be used to fund rescue and resources to those that need it most, not to buy Champagne and flowers for the committee. And no, I am not short-sighted enough to not see the benefit of keeping your ‘big donators’ feeling appreciated, but I believe there are other ways to do this without spending thousands that could, and should, be better spent on those in crisis.

With donations raised by the K-9 Angels, Nanu was able to buy a mountain of dog food. With the brutal Romanian winter coming, Nanu tries to fuel the dogs for the -20 temperatures.

That’s how organisations like the K-9 Angels are different.  The rescue process is organic.  The money goes straight to the heart of the cause, buying food, medical treatment, dog passports, plane tickets…everything that takes a dog from situation A: homeless, to situation B: homed.  Everyone who works for the K-9 Angels does so completely free of charge.  Every penny raised goes to helping the dogs.  It is this straight line approach on which the organisation was founded.  They heard about Angel, they contacted Madalina, they rescued her.  And Madalina has spent her entire life seeing a dog in need, and helping it.  It’s such a simple formula: Do not like something, do something to change it.  They are living proof that the seemingly impossible, is possible, if we don’t make excuses.

So, I’m afraid I am right back in my daydream state of over-optimism, believing that we can, between us, commit to the dog problem in Romania that is only getting worse.  Please commit whatever you can as a monthly donation.  I’m not bugging you for this because K-9 Towers needs redecorating, (apart from anything, there is no K-9 Towers, we all collaborate from home), I am bugging you because this situation is dire.  The dogs need protection from a horrifying array of dangers.  We must implement a proper, strategic program out there, and I’m afraid it comes down to money.  We have the motivation, we have the dedication, and we have the know-how…what the cause is seriously lacking is funds. This is our EU.  We have a responsibility for those dogs.  And Madalina can’t do this alone, she needs our continued support.  Please share this idea with your friends, family, and colleagues and let’s see if the K-9 Angels and all you Angelites out there can’t generate a stable monthly amount to help more dogs like these:

‘Another paralysed boy, one back leg had to be amputated as he was chewing it. He is incontinent also. He lives happily in the UK now in a foster home.’
‘Female I was feeding on the street, who was hit by a car in her head. She is now almost better.’
‘Me saying goodbye to one of my favourite strays I had looked after on the streets. She is in the UK now, adopted. She is a princess now, and no longer a stray.’
‘Female with a sticker tumour. She is under-going treatment now and she is in a foster home in Romania and waiting for her forever home. She will be healed. You can see on the right here she is doing much better.’
‘Pup found abandoned in a forest. I treated him and now lives happy in UK.’
‘Pitbull boy used in dog fights and thrown in a forest after a fight, full of wounds. He was adopted in Romania and is doing great as you can see in the picture on the right.’
‘And the now infamous ANGEL! The reason K-9 Angels exist today. The first dog that they rehomed and who brought us all together to save more dogs. She was adopted in the USA.’

If you would like to donate, please go to the K-9 Angels website link at the top of this page.  The K-9 Angels also help dogs in Thailand, but if you wish to, you can label your donation as ‘Romania’ or ‘Madalina’ and the K-9 Angels will ensure the funds go where they should.

Another great way to help is by donating useful items that are always in short supply.  Everything from food, medicines, collars, plastic beds and bowls, blankets, coats…they will help give the dogs in the shelter and on the streets more comfort, and Madalina and her friends are always running low on these goods.  Contact the K-9 Angels for further details.

Written by Jade Pepper.