Tina Trier Engelbreth: “Looking into the eyes of these animals, you can read a story about people who are inclined to evil”
Interview on Taco.net by Jelena Paunović
Translation in English:
When did you decide to help Bosnian animals?
I joined Facebook some years ago and quickly got involved in the animal community there. The plight of the cats and dogs in Eastern Europe was obvious – and I teamed up with Marianne’s Dog Food Bank in June 2012 as an administrator and put all my heart in this work very fast. We only support stray dogs/cats in Bosnia Herzegovina as it is almost impossible to have focus on other things as it is a big task to help as much as possible.
When I joined we were helping a large shelter in Tuzla with about 600 dogs – providing them with food, houses, veterinary help etc. Later we parted amicably with the shelter and they are still actively working to help animals in Bosnia Herzegovina. We are now working autonomously and we built/opened our first mini-shelter in Tuzla in May 2013.
What was the key reason you started doing it?
I have always loved animals – and I’m an activist at heart. I can’t know something and not act upon it, if I have a chance. And Facebook is a great media for activists to help their various causes.
Have you ever before visit Bosnia Herzegovina?
Yes, I went in December 2012 for 10 days working/helping in a shelter in Tuzla. I fell in love with a little dog called Enzo, and in January 2013 he arrived to Denmark and is now living with me. He is the man in my life.
People often ask themselves why does foreigners help animals in Bosnia Herzegovina.
I can only say for myself that I help because too little is done by the authorities in Bosnia Herzegovina to solve the stray problem in an ethical way. Killing the strays is not the way to do it. Spay/neuter is the ONLY viable option.
How did Denmark solved the problem of strays?
We don’t have stray dogs at all in Denmark. If a dog is found roaming in the street, it’s handed over to the police who will try to find the owners. Dogs must be microchipped – it’s the law – and so you can always find the owner. If a dog is not microchipped, it will go to a shelter and be adopted to another family.
Many dog breeds are forbidden in Denmark. What do you think when the list of forbidden dog breeds will be cancelled?
There is an active resistance against this BSL list and hopefully it will soon be abolished.
Recently you decided to build dog shelter in Sarajevo. Can you tell us something more about the project?
The new shelter is also a mini-shelter with room for about 15 dogs. The dogs will be vaccinated, microchipped and get a passport and be adopted – usually out of Bosnia Herzegovina. We will also provide veterinary help for these dogs.
Is it expensive to finance shelter for stray animals?
Yes, it is rather expensive and we work tirelessly to raise funds for what we do. It’s a full time job for most of the administrators in our group.
You have been working with Bosnia Herzegovina activists for long time. Which story touched you most?
The stories about puppies left alone on the streets or in the woods are heart-breaking. But all dogs and cats should have a family to care for them and every dog that is abandoned and neglected and unloved is something that touches me very much. Looking into the eyes of such an animal tells a story of humans succumbing to evil.
There are many stories about tortured, sick and “aggressive” animals in Bosnia Herzegovina. You have re homed many of stray animals. How have stray animals adopted to live in normal circumstances?
We take in the strays and socialize them in our mini-shelter over a period. Most dogs turn out to live good lives as family pets, but it does demand patience from the new owners, because our dogs almost always come with a baggage of abuse and hunger. But with time and love they tend to love and trust again as is in their nature. Some dogs cannot be socialized as quickly as we would want. But once we have an animal in our care, they can stay for as long as they need to. We don’t throw them out if they’re not adoptable. They just become permanent residents.
Are all adoptions successful?
Some have to be rehomed if the first owners can’t manage them or don’t have the patience. But it’s usually the owners that fail – not the dogs. It takes time and patience – and if the owners have that, it usually work well. Until now we have rehomed more than 100 dogs/cats from Bosnia Herzegovina to countries like Denmark, Holland, Sweden, Germany.
How would you describe stray animals from Bosnia Herzegovina? Sociable, friendly?
Considering the horrible abuse they have gone through, I’m amazed how friendly most dogs still are towards people. Some of them still have issues with trust, but most of them overcome it with time. The younger the dog is when we get him/her, the easier it is to resocialize them, of course.
What would happen with stray animals in Bosnia Herzegovina, if activists and foreign organizations didn’t help stray animals?
Authorities don’t help local organisations and activists. I don’t like thinking of that. It’s a shame on the Bosnia Herzegovina authorities, the way they treat the strays. There are many wonderful people – Bosnia Herzegovina rescuers – who work night and day to help the animals – and foreign organizations couldn’t do what we do without them. But the authorities deserve no praise – only shame! They ought to cooperate with the foreign organizations and not go against them, as they tend to. Instead of spending money on corrupt dog catchers and incompetent vets, as we have seen all too often, they should open the borders to the animal activist organizations and offer them their best cooperation.
If you want to help Tina and Marianne’s Dog Food Bank, please visit their website and Facebook group.
Funds are needed not only to help individual rescues but also to continue our advocacy work in Bosnia Herzegovina, uncovering the truth about what is happening there.
On our sister site, Animal Welfare Advocates for Bosnia, you can set up a monthly donation via PayPal, or if you want to make a one-off donation, please go to your PayPal account (or set one up, it’s very easy) and send the money to: email@example.com . Click on the image below to be taken to PayPal’s home page.
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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.