There are 595 homeless dogs in Lviv, according to Animal ID, which is an international NGO platform that is specialized in animal registration.
Only 13 people including veterinary medical staff, dog catchers and caretakers, at the Lviv municipal enterprise (LME) “Lev” are working on lowering that number, and finding the dogs a safe home.
So we decided to follow the process of catching and adopting homeless dogs in Lviv, and see if the work the LME is doing is the best possible solution.
Rocky the dog
Rocky is a 7 year old dog, who came to the Lviv municipal enterprise (LME) “Lev” in February 2016 after being brought there by a man who saw him in the suburbs.
Rocky’s hind paws were paralyzed and he could only move around by his front paws. Since he couldn’t move, the LME “Lev” got him a set of wheels for his back legs. Now, as he is able to move again, the staff at the center thinks he is a changed dog.
Olya Svitoch, a volunteer for the LME, visits Rocky every day, and found a place for him at a special clinic in Switzerland, where he will be moving in september to receive special care for his injury.
The Soviet background
With the fall of the Soviet Union, Ukraine struggled to adapt to the standards set by the rest of Europe. Stray dogs roaming in the streets were killed; their fur was made into gloves and hats and their bones were boiled to make glue and soap.
This practice was brought to light in 2011, when major european news agencies brought the story of how the Ukrainian government decided to get rid of the city’s stray dogs, leading up to the UEFA Euro 2012, that was to be hosted by Poland and Ukraine.
Citizens of Ukraine killed dogs with mobile incinerators and by poisoning, and it created a storm of outrage and concern from animal protection groups.
Nothing was done about the problem for two years, until Oleh Matsekh, a businessman from Lviv, decided to step up. In 2014 he came home to Lviv from Kiev, after the revolution, to his dog, Xena, who was gravely ill. She fought for six months, before passing in the arms of her owner, Oleh.
After this, he felt the voice of his dog, telling him to stay in Lviv, and in the spirit of Xena, he decided that he wanted to do something for all of the stray dogs in the city.
With a grant from the EU for 3 million UAH, he started as a manager of the LME, a building which had previously been a place where dogs were put down. Instead, stray dogs were now caught, sterilized and adopted.
But not every dog gets adopted, and some are instead let back into the streets.
“Adoption is a very social project which needs a big social commitment. That’s why we decided to create a project for Lviv to let the animals back on the streets. They were on the streets before, so they have the right to go back,” says Oleh Matsekh.
While Matsekh believes sterilisation isn’t what is best for the animals, he believes it is the best and most efficient solution to make sure that the stray dogs in Lviv are safe.
“Adoption wasn’t popular. The center only found homes for four or five animals per month,” he says.
While the LME is now able to find homes for about 27 dogs per month on average, it is still not every dog that the center can find a home for.
The process of adoption
Joseph and Myron are dog-catchers. They drive around the city, looking for stray dogs to catch. From time to time the dog-catchers get a list of addresses, which the local residents have provided for them. There, they come and catch a specific dog. This time a dog was reported to be injured, so they were going to catch it and deliver it to the vet.
When they receive the dogs at the LME, the dogs are put into a five-day quarantine. There, they are sterilized and vaccinated to make sure, they don’t infect the other dogs with any illnesses.
They are then groomed and put into the LME’s outdoor volieres, where they remain along with other dogs for five days. At any given time, there are 60 dogs in the volieres with four dogs per enclosing. Two caretakers are assigned to care for all of these dogs.
During the entire ten-day period the shelter work on getting the dogs adopted. If they are not adopted after these ten days, they are given an ear-tag and let back out on the streets.
If someone wishes to adopt the dog after it has been let back on the streets, it is still possible, as the dogs usually roam specific areas and can be found again by the catchers of the LME.
This entire process is a part of the LME’s four-step program, that includes catching, vaccination, sterilization and adoption.
Usually, the people willing to adopt a dog show up at the LME, after having seen the dogs promoted in the media. The LME promotes the dogs once a week on television, to show off the dogs to the public, that are looking for a home.
Once the new prospective owners have found a dog they want to adopt, there are certain steps they have to take.
- The LME needs passport information from the person who wants to adopt a dog.
- The person has to sign a contract, where they agree to certain obligations regarding the treatment of the dog.
- An important part of the treatment of the dog is agreeing to opening the door for anyone from the LME if they want to inspect the premises or if a volunteer previously connected with the dog wants to visit it in the new home.
- Two weeks after the dog comes to the new place, the new owner has to send a photo of the conditions the dog lives in. This has to be repeated after the dog has been with the family for one month and when the dog has been with the family for three months.
Natalya Kuznetsova from Lviv society for animal protection, says that the four-stage program of treating homeless animals, that is implemented in Lviv, is not perfect, but it is, at this time, the optimal program for solving the problem, with the legislation Ukraine currently has.
She believes that changing the law is the only way to solve the problem. She thinks, that there should be regulation, allowing the possibility to give out penalties in case people abuse animals or leave them on streets. Other than that, a municipal shelter for homeless pets should be created.
”If people do not get proper penalties for abusing animals, and if a municipal shelters is not created, there is no sterilization centre or private shelter that can solve this problem,” says Kuznetsova.
The performance “The Dogs” appeared on the stage of the Lviv municipal youth theatre in March 2016. It follows the story of dog pack living in a ravine. The dogs are all free and independent, but each of them dream about having an owner.
The scenography is focused around prison bars and the actors are dressed in camouflage.
This project was made to draw attention to all of the homeless animals living in the city.
Freddy the dog
One of the dogs who have found a home through the LME is Freddy. His story was shown on both Facebook and television, after which he found new owners.
Freddy was found through a tip, that the LME got from a citizen, who had seen a dog lying on the side of the road.
He had broken bones and part of the skin on his face was destroyed. His entire left side was ripped open, and he was in a very bad condition.
The LME performed 6 surgeries on Freddy, in order to keep him alive, and he had a strong will to live.
Citizens who had seen Freddy’s story and pictures on Facebook wrote to the LME, stating it was cruel and inhumane to keep him alive with injuries as grave as his.
But after three whole days of surgery, Freddy was eating by himself. He was coping. And the staff at the LME knew then, without a doubt, that they had made the right choice to fight for his life.
Of the 7 region capitals that Animal ID examined, Lviv is the capital with the fewest homeless dogs.
If you compare Lviv to Kiev, you will see that Kiev has the same number of dogs per square km that Lviv does. But that does not mean, that the two cities has the same amount of stray dogs; it only means, that there are more squre km for the stray dogs to roam on in Kiev, than in Lviv.
You will also find, that in Lviv there are 1215 people per stray dog, meaning that if 1 out of every 1215 people adopt a dog in Lviv, there would be no more stray dogs roaming the streets.
Mette Berg Olesen