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They died. Who is to blame?

I first wrote about the problem of illegal Romanian shelters about 12 years ago. Naturally, I received criticism from people too stubborn to admit they were wrong while continuing to support these horrific places.

Everyone is outraged by the atrocity at Rainbow shelter. In fact, it was a “foster” (as these unscrupulous people call themselves) apparently financed by a few British people. , Built illegally (= with no authorization) on a Romanian person private property, the “shelter” or “foster” was run by this Romanian who took the money and let the dogs die of starvation. Heartbreakingly, food was found unopened on the premises.

Let that sit with you for a while.

Yes, impostors, maniacs and heartless killers exist among us, sometimes because we encourage them. We give them our trust, our money and let them look after what we care for. 

Could we have avoided the barbarity at  Rainbow shelter?

I think we could.  Let me explain…

To run a shelter legally in Romania, you need to meet many requirements*

Yet, astonishingly, over the last 10 years, a new class of entrepreneur has been born, triggered by the deep feelings of animal lovers throughout the world. They knew images of homeless dogs suffering on the streets brought them easy money.

Do these ‘entrepreneurs’ try to meet the legal requirements? Rarely. But they continue to take money from foreign supporters anyway.

“They are too busy saving animals, they don’t have time for bookkeeping”

That’s what we heard when we exposed a group in Moreni for not having any accounting records.

The sentence “they are too busy saving animals to do x, y or z” is the most common sentence you’ll hear and it blows your mind, because you’ll hear it from the international supporters of these scam artists, who really should know what makes a shelter legal. Rescue charities throughout the world are busy! They still make time for legalities. Why would you expect less from a Romanian charity?

They are plain and simply being fooled… and are too proud to admit it!

Foreign people continue to support miserable, improvised shelters across Romania, despite warnings from ROLDA and others. We are lucky that situations like Rainbow happen so rarely, because there is a much bigger potential in a country with 2.5 millions homeless dogs. The situation we face is mind numbingly bleak. We can only save what we can and try to sleep at night after seeing the downright abuse these innocent souls face at the hands of savage people.

In every corner of Romania someone creates a ‘foster’. That someone saves hundreds of dogs in a tiny garden. These animals are crowded together, existing in mud and excrement. It happens because these people are paid. They take money from all over Europe for each dog they ‘save’.

Yes, truly saving animals is costly. I know because I’ve been doing it for nearly two decades. When we fund impostors without thinking of the consequences, then we have to accept we are part of the problem. We are partly to blame for the maniacs handling and abusing these animals. In the end, they suffer because some people are too egocentric and selfish. Or too naïve and ignorant.

I know a case where a person from Scandinavia sold her house and downsized because these scam artists asked for more and more money every month to look after their ‘rescues’. People think they are helping. They think with their hearts. They do not want to question because they want to BELIEVE in these manipulators. They want their money to be saving these helpless dogs.

80 animals died in agony because an ‘entrepreneur’ decided to make money scamming foreign supporters. Was it successful? Yes. Who paid in the end? The animals did. And I dearly hope he will too.

Yes, the scammer from Rainbow is guilty. Yes, his British sponsors are guilty for not monitoring him properly. As for the problem as a whole, aren’t all Romanians and people who come to our country to help, guilty to some degree, because we allow these people to exist, in a very illegal way, right under our own eyes?

Don’t forget how Rainbow shelter was described on Facebook; “Rainbow Shelter is a safe haven for unwanted cats and dogs from the Brasov area”. A downright lie purported by the followers of this sham.

Next time you wish to help Romanian dogs posted on Facebook, I suggest you:

–        Check each case is not out of date (some posts are years old).

–        Check if the rescuers are a legal and established charity. Ask for their registration number, check it with the Ministry of Finance. Any legal charity will be happy to provide this. No excuses.

–        Check if the charity has up-to-date financial records and ask to see a copy of them.

–        Ask for the authorisation number of the shelter. Why? It’s simple. Authorised  shelters are controlled by the National Veterinary Authority. They inspect all shelters and if they see anything untoward, the shelter is heavily fined or closed down.

Judge with your mind, not your heart. Together we can put a stop to the completely unnecessary suffering of dogs. Dogs that would be better left on the streets than face neglect and starvation at the hands of heartless, brutal people.


*Should you wish to know, here are the legal steps shelters in Romania need to take:

–        Establish a NGO

–        Have transparent financial records

–        Obtain permission from the authorities

–        Pay annual and monthly taxes

–        Hire staff if more dogs are housed

–        Fulfill EU requirements

–        Build a shelter respecting the minimal standards required by law.

Dana Costin

One Comment

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