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helping dogs abroadI’ve just driven to Romania and back, I spent just over two weeks in Romania and whilst I was there I counted 40 dead dogs and 4 dead cats. It was horrific, all but one of these were run over (the exception was the dead poisoned cat). So, what do you do when you see something as terrible and upsetting as this when you move to a new country?

When I moved to Portugal I thought that the animals there had pretty miserable lives. It is the norm in Portugal for pet dogs to be chained up outside the house, but the sight of horses tied up as well was something new for me. England is known as the nation of animal-lovers* and I’ve been an animal obsessive ever since watching Watership Down at the age of 3 (believe me, I still can’t watch that film, the mere thought of it gets me upset).

Of course it’s very easy to say that you can’t change the mentality or that the problem is so bad what can be done? Well there are plenty of sayings I could use in reply to this one but basically if everyone thought that way nothing would ever get done, animal welfare-wise or not. Every little helps.

So, what I did was find the local animal charity and volunteered to help them. In my case I volunteered as one of their weekend cleaners. The charity had taken over the municipal kennel (shelter/pound) and basically cared for the dogs there. Now they have cats too but at first it was just dogs. I also do their website and try to help out wherever I can. There is a subsidiary charity in the area and I worked at their charity shop for a while.

Even, if you can’t physically help out there are lots of other ways to make a difference, by doing web work, sponsoring an animal, supporting their shops and events and basically just spreading the word.

Of course, by doing this you not only helping the animals in your new area but you are also helping yourself. Working with the local charity, run by Portuguese, was one of the best ways I found to settle in and integrate. You immediately meet a lot of new, like-minded people. This people will most likely be locals and this can also help tremendously with learning the language. It also helps with learning local laws and customs and seeing the area. So a win-win situation!

So, get out there and see where you can make a difference and it doesn’t have to be animal welfare, if you feel strongly about another matter than have a look around there will be somewhere where you can help.

P.S. I don’t live in Romania yet but what I saw there is terrible and it pained me every day. There is a local animal charity which I will support and while I was there I rescued a tiny kitten and placed her in a home. The local vets were very kind and even wormed her for free, so it wasn’t all bad!

*The UK isn’t perfect with regards to animal welfare but on the whole I think we’re not too bad.