The following is a translation of recent article (original here) published on the 22nd January. It is important as media negativity towards the strays of Bosnia has risen recently, saying that the dogs are dangerous. There are rumours that the government is going to implement a kill-after-30 day policy for all shelters. The truth of the “danger” of the strays is very different…Please read on.
INTERVIEW: BERISLAVA STOŠIĆ
On Friday, January 18 2013, the media reported that a man died because of a dog attack in an improvised shelter in Doboj, Bosnia Herzegovina. An autopsy later determined the cause of Emil Kaser’s death was a heart attack. The tragedy has garnered considerable media attention and many people are blaming Berislava Stošić, the owner of the improvised dog shelter near where the tragedy occurred. Ten dogs were taken from Mrs. Stošić’s apartment by warrant from the municipalities inspectors
Activists of Sarajevo animal welfare associations “Život” and “Av Mau” headed to Doboj to check on the situation at Mrs. Stošić’s shelter. They had a long conversation with Mrs. Stošić, touching upon many topics relating to abandoned dogs in Doboj (north of Sarajevo). The group also inspected her shelter.
The following is a transcript of the interview.
When did you first start helping animals?
Although I have had a dog or a cat as a pet my entire life, my active participation in the protection of animals began in 1992. The beginning of war, poverty and famine forced many residents of Doboj to abandon their pets. All of a sudden, there were many suffering and traumatized dogs on the streets. I considered it to be my moral obligation to help them. I took care of animals in the backyard of our family house. We sold this house a long time ago.
You are the head of the Association of animal friends “Lesi”. Can you tell us more about this association and your involvement?
Association of animal friends “Lesi” started working in April of 2006. The goal of the association was to stop cruelty and torture against abandoned animals that constantly took place on the streets of Doboj. The initial enthusiasm and our faith that we would awaken the conscience of citizens to treat animals in a humane manner diminished with time. It is only my love for the animals that has not stopped my devotion to fighting for their rights. It seems to me that all of my discussions with those in charge were futile. I have personally reported different forms of dog abuse, but to this day no charges have been brought against anyone for what has happened. We have created numerous public appeals to stop the abuse of dogs and cats, but no one listened to these appeals. Humanity here equals zero.
What forms of animal cruelty are you talking about?
Many things have happened. It was a common practice in Doboj for hunters to kill dogs in the streets during the early morning hours. There have been numerous incidents. The animals warm bodies, bleeding and mutilated, were later thrown in the quarries, with their tails cut off. The municipality of Doboj paid 50KM (€25) for every tail of a dead dog or a cat. There was always enough money to pay for killing.
Is there any particular case that affected you more than the others?
It was not easy during all these years to look at the bloody streets and fight against the tide. And when hunters stopped with their “work”, Doboj municipality started giving funds for the dog pound (Preslica). Dogs in this pound are suffering without food or water. Many of them are locked in small stalls. They look at you filled with fear, and anyone who goes there can feel the death in the air. I understand that the municipality pays 20 KM (€10) for each dog. This municipality pound (Preslica) is in fact called The Animal Shelter and is in the grounds of the Sport and Recreation Center.
Considering the amount of cruelty that I’ve personally witnessed, it’s difficult for me to include all of them, however there are a couple of incidents that will remain with me:
During the summer of 2011, when the temperature outside reached some 40 degrees Celsius, I visited a pound with a couple of activists. We encountered dehydrated and hungry dogs. Flies had already started eating the flesh of some of the dogs. I will never be able to erase that image from my mind.
The other incident happened recently. A little female dog that we were taking care of was hit by a car on the street. We needed 100 KM (51 Euro) to help her. No one would help us take her to the vet’s office in Gračanica. She died, tortured from sepsis in my apartment.
During the last couple of days, there has been a lot of noise in the media about your “wild” shelter. How did you come to making a shelter? Did you speak to the authorities and get all the necessary approvals and working permits for the shelter?
My shelter—a piece of unfenced land on which I had abandoned dogs, did not have any permits. Also, the conditions for the dogs are not nearly what they should be. But considering my financial abilities, I could not do anything more or better. If I do not take care of a dog, we all know death awaits it at Preslica. I have been keeping dogs here for ten years. People, the municipality and inspectors have always targeted me. I requested permits, contacted everyone I heard of who should be able to assist us and – nothing. It is hard for me alone, with help of a couple of people to get necessary food, old dishes, blankets… This is not the first time they have taken dogs away from me. One time they came from the pound with a warrant from the inspectors, took all the dogs with chains and collars, took all the dogs houses, ripped off the tin roofs, pillars and the fence… They took away everything I had built, apparently according to some municipality law. I rebuilt it again from scratch, all on my own.
What is your comment on newspaper articles in which journalists claim that Mr. Emil Kaser died because your dogs attacked him?
I was not around when all this happened. I am sorry this happened and that my name is being connected to it. I knew Emil personally. His family has two dogs, and recently they have contacted me to help them take care for a third one they found on the streets. On that unfortunate day, Emil came alone to my shelter, on the recommendation of a common friend to make stalls and a fence for the dogs I take care of. I found out about everything else from the media. Emil had a serious heart condition, had artificial valves and a pacemaker. He died due to failure of his heart muscle. Although he had bruises from dog bites, this was not the cause of death.
They do not usually bark when I am not around. When I am here, they bark because they are protecting me. On the other hand, since they are tied up most of the time, and I am not able to provide enough food for them, it is small wonder they would bark. All I know is they would be dead if they were not here. I could not let that happen.
Is there a castration and sterilization program in Doboj?
The only project of that sort that we have ever had was organized by me with the assistance of an organization from Denmark a couple years ago. There are still dogs on the streets that were sterilized as a part of this program.
Ten dogs were taken from your apartment by the warrant from the inspection.
Yes. These are also dogs that I rescued. The media reported that they were living in poor conditions and that my apartment was very dirty. It is true that I was away from the apartment for two and a half days. I did not want to return as they would immediately take dogs to the pound. But in the end I had to give in. It pains me deeply, because I know how they are being treated there. Now not even God himself can save them from the certain death. One of these dogs was chipped and vaccinated and was about to get a home. Now the dog can only be killed.
During the last couple of days I have read a lot of negative things about you. We have already touched upon the subject that you are being directly blamed for the death of Mr. Kaser. The media has given the impression that in looking after these dogs you were creating a problem. After seeing what you have done, we clearly get an impression that you are in fact the only one who have been doing something positive. Your work was represented in the book of Mirko Jelač “Čekaonica za snove” (a book about people from Doboj who do good things for their community).
Media can write what they want, but I know I am a humane woman. After everything I have experienced, I must say I love animals more than people. I am grateful to everyone who supported what I am doing in any way. I am grateful to all owners of restaurants, bakeries and butchers who give me food leftovers for my dogs.
What pains you the most?
The inhumanity and the criticism of my work in my efforts to make the community we live in a more humane place.
We spent an entire day with Mrs. Stošić. Visiting the places where she cared for the dogs, the locations where she feeds them and the town’s pound.
I would like to mention what citizens of Doboj told us about this case. Some support her work, others do not, but no one blames her for the death of Emil Kaser.
Everyone agrees that what she does is humane, but they believe that over the years she has been overwhelmed by her situation. Over a long period of time, her neighbors have complained about barking from her apartment. People living near her shelter also complain about barking, but when asked the public “What do you think about all this?”, everyone we talked to blamed the government for everything, and not Mrs. Stošić, as the media would have us believe.
It is interesting how the inspectors issued an urgent warrant to take the dogs from the apartment of Mrs. Stošić but not those from her shelter. Mrs. Stošić explains this as fear, because the inspector told her she had to be at the shelter because the dogs are aggressive. On the contrary, the people of Doboj continue to live, work and pass by the shelter and those very dogs on a daily basis, without harm.
If you want to see the difference between Berislava Stošić’s Private Shelter and the Municipal Shelter, please view the following videos.
The Municipal ‘Shelter’:
Berislava Stošić’s Private Shelter:
Slideshow of dogs at the Municipal Shelter (not Berislava Stošić’s Private Shelter)
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This site is dedicated to Vučko. Read his story and don’t let him have suffered and died in vain. Please help the stray dogs and cats in Bosnia-Herzegovina. The situation there is utterly dire, Vučko is but one amongst many horrifically abused animals. Go here to find out how to help them. Money is needed for food, medicine and foster housing. Even just one dollar or one euro will help.