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The Warsaw Voice » Culture » November 12, 2008
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Rescuing Pets
November 12, 2008   
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An animal, as a living being capable of feeling pain, is not a object. Man has a duty of respect, protection and care towards it. So starts the first article of the Animal Protection Law from 1997. Despite the clear wording guaranteeing animals their rights, many people continue to treat animals as objects, to be gotten rid of at a moment's notice and with no consequences. Each year, the number of animals finding their way into animal shelters in Poland continues to rise. They are both strays and animals abandoned by their owners, who have grown bored of their pet, cannot cope with looking after it or are leaving on holiday and do not know what to do with it.

Poland lacks a comprehensive system of dealing with the problem of homeless animals. There is no uniform system of owner identification that would allow owners to be held responsible. In view of the dire financial situation of most Polish shelters, most of them cannot afford to pay for the castration and sterilization necessary to limit the population of homeless animals. According to data from the General Veterinary Surgeon's office, only about 7 percent of animals in shelters undergo such operations.

Lack of awareness

The constant rise in the number of cats and dogs arriving in shelters is mostly due to lack of awareness about what pet owners should do, such as the need to fit the pet with an address badge or tattoo enabling identification in case of loss, or the need to castrate or sterilize animals not meant for breeding.

There are several animal shelters in and around Warsaw. Due to the city's size, they are among Poland's largest.

Paluch Street shelter

The largest and oldest is the shelter on Paluch Street. It was established in 1953 after the dogcatching service was closed. For 20 years, it was located on the Pola Mokotowskie. At the beginning of the 1970s it was moved to its current location, which was supposed to be only temporary.

This shelter takes in around 4,500 animals from the Warsaw area each year. On a daily basis over 2,000 dogs and 100 cats reside there, as well as various other household pets such as rabbits and ferrets.

In 2005, the shelter was one of the first in Poland to introduce electronic tagging. Each cat and dog which is given a new home is fitted with a microchip, enabling easy future identification of its owner.

To help owners in their search for lost animals, the shelter runs a website and photo database of every animal found and kept there.

The shelter came under the direct administration of the city authorities in 2001. During 2003-2006, it was able to carry out the first renovations since its relocation, which greatly improved the condition of its charges.

Homeless Animal Shelter, 2 Paluch St., 02-197 Warsaw
tel. 0-22 846-02-36 or 0-22 868-06-34

The shelter's financial status means that it is financed from the city budget. Most homeless animal shelters, however, are run as foundations created by people who are concerned with the situation faced by homeless animals.

Azyl pod Psim Aniołem shelter

The Azyl pod Psim Aniołem Foundation was created in 2002 in order to provide medical care and find new homes for abandoned cats and dogs in the Warsaw region. It also collects statistics about homeless animals in Poland. Since 2003, it runs the Azyl pod Psim Aniołem shelter in Falenica under the direction of Agnieszka Brzezińska. It cares for around 150 dogs and 40 cats.

Recently the foundation has started operating an Intervention Patrol, which is aimed at cases of animal mistreatment, whether through violence or lack of care, as well as helping animals injured by traffic. The Azyl pod Psim Aniołem shelter relies solely on donations given to the foundation.

It is currently facing a dire situation as the construction of a new residential area in the vicinity means it must relocate. The high prices of land around Warsaw as well as the costs of building a new shelter from the ground up make this very difficult to do on the foundation's budget.

Azyl pod Psim Aniołem, 7/9 Kosodrzewiny St.
04-979 Warsaw, tel. 0-22 828-20-33

Celestynów shelter

The shelter in Celestynów was created in 1958, although it was first located in Pruszków. It moved to Celestynów in 1973 when the Polish Society for the Protection of Animals (TOZ) was bequeathed a villa with three hectares of surrounding land by Zofia Płachcińska. It now houses more than 1,000 dogs and 400 cats, cared for by a dozen workers. Apart from the standard adoption process, it also offers "remote" adoption for people who cannot take an animal home. This offers the possibility of helping a specific animal by taking on the costs of its upkeep on site.

Celestynów Shelter, 3 Prosta St., 05-430 Celestynów, tel. 0-22 789-70-61

Józefów shelter

The Józefów Homeless Animal Shelter is run by a foundation of the same name. The half hectare site is home to over 700 dogs and several dozen cats. The shelter employs eight people on a full-time basis. As part of its identification program, each newly arrived animal is tattooed, which facilitates subsequent identification of lost or abandoned animals.

Józefów Homeless Animal Shelter, 15 Strużańska St., Józefów
05-119 Legionowo, tel. 022 793 02 91

How to help shelters?

The best way of helping animal shelters is by adopting an animal. However, the decision to take in a homeless cat or dog should not be taken lightly. Practical help is also important, be it financial, or in the form of donated animal food, accessories or building materials. During the autumn and winter, blankets, old duvets or other warm materials useful for isolating kennels from the cold are useful. Volunteers for walking dogs, cleaning or providing care are also welcome. After making a decision on which shelter to help, it is always best to ask first what the most useful contribution might be.

Magdalena Błaszczyk
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