Romania Animal Rescue's Center of Hope
From suffering to saving, Romania Animal Rescue makes a difference in Eastern Europe
Nancy Janes of California took a hiking tour of the Carpathian Mountains of Romania with some friends in 2001. She was intrigued by this area of Eastern Europe after reading Balkan Ghosts by Robert Kaplan. What was supposed to be a trip of eye-opening beauty and Old World culture turned into an unexpectedly sad experience. Instead she witnessed the suffering of Romania’s stray animals; dogs and cats that roamed the countryside fighting for food, ravaged with parasites, and hit by cars. She learned from locals that the situation was so bad mass poisonings were conducted to curb the incredible population growth. Instead of enjoying the trip, Janes and her companions spent most of their time providing food and medical care to the animals they found.
After seeing such suffering, she vowed to get international charities involved. She thought once animal welfare people heard about the suffering, help would follow. When those organizations said no, she took matters into her own hands. In 2003 she created Romania Animal Rescue (RAR), a non-profit dedicated to improving the welfare of Romania’s companion animals.
Janes original intent was to set up a rescue shelter in Romania, however, she quickly discovered that when one animal was adopted, ten more were brought in. Because of a lack of funds, education, resources, and quality vet care, pets in Romania simply weren’t spayed or neutered and the population spiraled out of control. Janes needed to change her focus.
Romania has had a stray animal issue since Communism. Janes learned when Dictator Nicolae Ceausescu came to power in the 1980s, he forced people to migrate from farms and villages to industrial cities, sometimes even destroying farms and ranches in the process. Several generations of families lived in tiny apartments with no room for pets so people left them behind. When people returned to their lands after Ceausescu was toppled, they discovered areas overrun with packs of stray dogs.
So Janes changed her focus from rescuing to neutering. Things were slow at first because Janes had to coordinate volunteers to fly into the country. Only one or cities a year were helped and remote villages that needed the most services were difficult to get equipment to. Then in 2008, Janes met a Romanian veterinary named Dr. Aurelian Stefan who had been trained in the US with the latest surgical procedures. With a common goal and a local ally, Dr. A, as Janes calls him, joined the organization and now heads a team of doctors and technicians who perform surgeries all over the country.
RAR has grown over the last decade. The organization started providing “Spayathons,” when a group of vets, techs, and volunteers would go to a town and perform as many surgeries in one day as they could, sometimes even catching stray animals themselves. As word of their work and an awareness of neutering’s importance grew, cities and towns began to ask for their own Spayathons. Then in 2012, the organization was able to raise funds to purchase a mobile veterinary vehicle that they could drive around the country and reach even more areas. Since its founding, RAR has performed 73,500 spay and neuter surgeries in Romania, enough to make a real difference. Janes’ new goal is getting to 100,000.
RAR continues to grow by building a new permanent facility near the capital city of Bucharest, the Center of Hope (COH) animal hospital and veterinary training and education center. According to Janes, the Center has become home base for the mobile clinic, now called the HOPE Mobile, and has helped hundreds/thousands of animals brought to the center and within a 100 km radius of the Bucharest area.
According to Janes, the Center provides “free and subsidized spay and neuter services, free and subsidized veterinary treatments, and the home of the Veterinary Training Camp, which trains vets from Romania as well as from Europe, the USA, and the UK and will hold education for young people with forums and invite schools to bring students.”
The Center opened Spring 2017 and has been busy ever since. The Center provides free or subsidized veterinary care to Romania’s poor with modern therapies and equipment, including a surgery room, digital x-ray unit, intensive care, ultrasound, isolation wards, and so much more. The Center also has conference rooms to hold education seminars as well as lodging for vets and vet techs attending the Veterinary Training Camp. COH provides training in the latest spay surgery techniques. These techniques are keyhole incisions and flank spays, which are less invasive and allow for quicker recovery with less discomfort.
“[Homeless] animals treated by us will no longer live on the streets,: says Janes, “as we will strive to find fosters or shelters to take them once they are healthy again. Definitely a unique project in Eastern Europe and the biggest vet center outside of Bucharest.”
While still raising funds for Spayathons, another big need is for surgical tools, medicine, and vaccines for the Center of Hope. Anyone wanting to donate to RAR and the Center of Hope can do so at this link. Visit the RAR website to learn more.