Praca: can a horror shelter be turned around?

Screen Shot 2016-05-17 at 18.02.54If you have been reading this blog you will know about the horror shelters of Bosnia. Places that are little better – often worse – than concentration camps for dogs. These shelters are supposed to be publicly funded, and compliant with the animal welfare laws of the country – laws which are, in fact, very good. But the laws are not implemented, and the money pocketed by shelter owners or local authorities. In most shelters the dogs are barely fed, not sterilised, and not given any veterinary treatment. In 2013 we published shocking photographs taken secretly in Praca shelter, Sarajevo, a shelter that was opened in 2011.

Screen Shot 2016-05-17 at 18.09.08Since then – all we’ve heard are more horror stories. It is usually very hard, dangerous even, for rescuers to help dogs in public shelters – it’s not in the interests of the owners to have anyone see what is going on or to try and help the dogs.

But, in January of this year there was a meeting between rescuers in Sarajevo, to see if there could be a group effort regarding Praca shelter.  Sadly, only a very small group of rescuers continued after this initial meeting, but much has been done to help these dogs since then, thanks to the dedication and hard work of this small group of rescuers. They do need your help to continue. Please see the end of the post for how you can help.

Screen Shot 2016-05-17 at 17.53.46A written agreement was made between the NGO SAN (Save the Animals Now – ) founded 6 years ago, and Praca’s owner. The agreement was that the rescuers would help obtain food donations to feed the dogs,  would try to re-home the dogs and provide any urgent veterinary help for those who are in dire need.
The agreement was made to last until April 18th of this year.

What the rescuers – the Praca Management Group – encountered in Praca is almost impossible to describe. Dogs living amongst faeces that hadn’t been cleaned since the shelter opened; dogs living for months – or more – cramped in too small kennels, dogs killing each other just to eat one morsel of food. dogs terrified of light of a human voice. dogs whose physical anatomy had become deformed due to being caged for so long,  dogs who had never seen real dog food, dogs who had never been petted, never heard a warm normal human voice, never known anything except shouting, beatings and hunger.

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Mia Ožegović, one of the rescuers committed to helping the dogs in Praca, states: “When I see death camps for humans all over the world and through history,  I realize that nothing has happened, nothing changed. we humans only shifted this attitude toward dogs …. Stray dogs.”

Screen Shot 2016-05-17 at 17.58.48Mia Ožegović also told us: “The workers in Praca are uninterested in any way to either do their job or to deal with dogs. They are mostly drunk. Last week we went to feed the dogs & clean the kennels & take some photos of the dogs that are adoptable. In the bottom kennels we encountered a corpse of a dog ….. The corpse was bloodless,  stone hard,  larvae had already spread all over …. That poor dog had been dead for well over 3 days, lying in the center of its kennel in plain sight and the workers didn’t notice ….I have seen all the Shelters in Bosnia. Gladno Polje,Gorazde, etc,  and none compare to this ….”

The rescuers took an initial estimate of the numbers of dogs in the shelter. There were 273 dogs.  Out of those 273 dogs, 90% were born or came to Praca when they were not even a year old. “Imagine a sea, vast sea of eyes, howls, cries, screams of living & breathing beings who have been incarcerated for well over 3 or 4 years …. Because this is actually it, a prison, a death camp.”

Screen Shot 2016-05-17 at 17.52.17There is a dog there whose beauty leaves you speechless.  I spotted her once and the next time I went to Praca I couldn’t find her in the kennels nor anywhere …. I spent weeks and weeks trying to find her.  I figured they must have moved her or some dogs from that same kennel and she either escaped into the mine fields which surround the shelter,  or something “else” happened … Last week, while I was feeding & cleaning the dogs’ kennels, I went again into every single one and even into those which seem deserted.  I shouted and called out for her.

Screen Shot 2016-05-18 at 22.09.40 In the darkest, most humid and cold kennel, I saw a pair of eyes gazing at me …. I squatted and begged for those eyes to just come out,  promising I didn’t mean any harm, I just want to see those eyes in that little light that was coming in from a cracked roof … And she came out. The speechless beauty came out …. I found her. I would have been ecstatic with joy from finding her but her eyes made my heart shiver and my whole body numb … The beauty which I saw in her,  the workers didn’t. She was beaten. she must have been pulled with a leash pole from that 1st kennel to this one, like a  piece of garbage or a carpet ….She was petrified of me.”

Screen Shot 2016-05-17 at 17.49.25Cleaning the kennels is a job for some science fiction character. The faeces make a one inch layer in each kennel, that’s impossible to clean or remove because over this length of time,  the layer has become stone hard,  it merged with the cement floor.”

The shelter is poorly constructed.  Electricity is only available in the room where the “workers” are. Water freezes in winter. And since this is a mountain area, the temperature drops even in March and for water the rescuers have to go to the nearby stream or a further away public fountain / well. Dogs don’t get food on daily basis from the workers, and the food is either a stone hard piece of bread with fungus all over it or raw chicken legs. Many of the dogs can’t even eat this food due to their age and the fact that they bite the fence so their teeth are damaged – cracked, worn out from trying to escape their destiny to be confined to this prison.

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Mia says: “Once they hear our car approaching ( which broke btw, cause you cannot haul 150-200 kilos of food every week with a small car whose suspense system is not suited for this …they go frantic. Once you give the food to them, and try to dispense it all over the kennel, you start praying … You start praying they don’t kill each other because of the food. That’s why we couldn’t put bowls down at first, that’s why we had to spread the food all over the place so they didn’t fight one another.”

Since the rescuers have been going regularly to feed the dogs under the new contract with the shelter owner, the dogs are very much calmer, and seem to know exactly what to expect when they hear the girls arrive and they do not fight over the kibble. If they do fight, it is when the girls are not there and the shelter “workers” toss bones into the cages.

Mia says: “After we feed them, we get in to check on them. Their joy to see you entering to give them affection, pet them, share a kind word, baffles me.  My dog at home doesn’t love me as much as these dogs do.”

Screen Shot 2016-05-17 at 17.58.22Apart from hunger and the need of quality de-worming pills, anti-tick medication, the dogs also desperately need grooming. The vast majority of them are long-coated mixes, they have never been brushed, so the matted coats actually stop them from move normally – walking, lying down, eating – all are difficult with the extent of the mats in their coat.

The rescuers managed to fix as much as the could with a pair of scissors. This wasn’t done for aesthetic reasons, but purely health reasons. Many dogs had plant seeds growing from their matted coats. inflamed skin, faeces embedded into their coats.

Screen Shot 2016-05-17 at 18.09.33Mia tells us: “There is even a female, spayed in the Dog’s Trust program but who is having puppies. We tried to address this to Dogs Trust but they did nothing to sort this out. I will try again to address this this week, because we have photos, videos, number of the ear tag and so on. The vet who is responsible for this found out that we will file a complaint about this,  and he called the workers to beg us to “not do it”. Rumours say that the government wants to buy Praca once and for all  – which would mean doors closed for anyone let alone rescuers. It would make it a kill shelter. Our main concern is getting all the adoptable dogs out. Our need is to find shelters abroad, charities that deal with specific breeds, private foster homes, any relocating solution , so that these adoptable, issue-free dogs can get out once and for all. I know that it can be done. I know because I’m seeing how funds are raised for such causes,  and I know that it should be done.

Each time I leave Praca, I’m followed by thousand eyes & hundreds of cries, pleas, to come back and take some of them with me to freedom...”

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Please go to the official YouTube channel of the Praca Management Group to see more videos from the shelter.

The rescuers involved with the Praca Managemnet Group are doing everything they can for these dogs. The cages and houses for all 300 dogs get cleaned properly at least once a week and nowadays also on some weekdays. That means the girls can distract the more anxious dogs with a few handfuls of food on the floor while they unlock the doors and go inside with food bowls or pieces of old food sacks to put their meals on. Otherwise they would get knocked over and the bowls sent flying each time they opened a door. With the arrival of two new electric clippers, the girls are now starting to remove the worst of the mats and knots on the coats of the long-haired dogs. There are many plans for the future – including finishing the building of the new roof – quite a few sheds are dry already.

Clearly so much is needed to be done for these dogs. While some people have suggested the owners of the shelter and local government authorities be approached to make changes, this has been tried in the past to no avail, and sometimes, to the detriment of the dogs. Currently, only way for the rescuers to continue is to try to work with the situation as it is. Food, vet treatment, shelter renovations, homes are needed. The list is endless, and funds are desperately needed. Can you help?

Please join the Facebook group: Praca Management Group

There is a YouCaring raising funds for a new roof. This is a critical need, rain is pouring into the kennels.
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If you want to donate for their food, veterinary needs. etc please use the following PayPal

For more information, please contact the Praca Management Group via their e-mail:


Dogs found slaughtered outside Shelter in Sarajevo
What to do about Gladno Polje Shelter in Sarajevo?
Uncertain future for Dogs at Gladno Polje Shelter in Sarajevo
Saving the Dogs of Gladno Polje, Bosnia
Veterinary Office of Bosnia: is it possible to solve the problem of stray dogs?
Another Horror Shelter in Bosnia

Saving Lucia and the dogs of Foča and Gorazde
Dog Shelters in Bosnia: A Complex Situation
Horror Camps for Animals in Bosnia
Concentration Camp for Man’s Best Friend
Mass Graves Found Near Dog “Shelter”
Hresa Shelter:
Part One – Part Two – Part Three – Part Four – Part Five – Part Six – Part Seven

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Funds are needed not only to help individual rescues and to help us keep safe the rescued dogs we are sponsoring but also to continue our advocacy work in Bosnia, 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: as a ‘gift’. Click on the image below to be taken to PayPal’s home page.


Or if you want to use the customised PayPal form, click the link below. However, a transaction fee and a percentage (2- 5.4%) will be deducted by PayPal for any contribution made.

If you want your contribution to go to a specific dog or cause, please make a note in the PayPal comment box. If you wish to contribute via bank transfer or have other difficulties or questions, please go here.


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.

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