Viva! Poland dog rescue
Viva! Poland goes undercover to show the horrendous price paid by the little victims of puppy farming – and then rescues them!
It’s a small poor village where everyone knows everything about everyone. No one will stick their neck out because many are skirting around the edges of the law anyway and the only thing that counts is money.
A fence stretches along the side of the forest and there is a horrible odour… foxes and death, carrion and faeces and the only proof that there is life and we haven’t come too late is the sound of barking.
We’re acting on an anonymous tip off and we know the risks – the owner isn’t available, his family tell police they don’t know where he is and his friends stop in their cars to scrutinise us. We know what they would do if the police weren’t with us. Finally, we get permission to force entry, accompanied by the police, District Veterinary Inspector and Polish TV. There is plenty for them to film!
We are here to expose the shameful truth behind Poland’s pedigree dog trade – a world away from the beautiful press photos of a gorgeous puppy with his prize winner’s bloodline, his reassuring documentation and the breeder’s membership of the Polish Kennel Club. This is only the start of the deception. Some kennels have two offices: the first is often in the owner’s home where the trendy puppies are shown off to prospective buyers, on cute pillows, pictured with groups of toddlers, pampered to show how sociable and trustworthy they are. But the mothers are merely incubators who must give birth and feed the young and then, at the first opportunity, are again inseminated.
This is the profit stream, all recorded in the second office, where the real exploitation takes place. We enter the property and see it is an old fur fox farm with its ramshackle cages filled with dogs and a huge pile of dog and fox excrement beneath each one.
Rusty mugs wired to the cages provide the only water but it is filthy with dog hair, blood and bone fragments and sticks to the dogs’ muzzles when they try to drink. They have no shelter.
Facing us is the old fox slaughterhouse and in front of it are a few boxes which house the big dogs. At the back of the building we find a series of pens containing many French Bulldogs and Staffordshire Bull Terriers who live with their own excrement.
We find a kind of cubbyhole without windows, without light where rows of boxes contain little Chihuahuas. They have to stand on metal bars as there is no solid flooring. They are in shock and tremble, cringe with fear and cling to each other in their tiny boxes wanting to be invisible.
We look at each other, not knowing whether to cry because of despair or because of the stinging stench of ammonia. Despite their fear, they crawl to us, wetting themselves.
It hurts and we are deeply moved by their submissiveness, their happiness. They all desperately crave contact.
Back outside, the caged dogs respond to the sound of our warm voices and kind gestures – they know we are friends and I feel they are crying for us to help them. That’s it, we are not leaving without them, it’s simply not an option.
We lead the owner from dog to dog to show him the suffering he is responsible for and he lies through his teeth, he knows nothing and is guilty of nothing. We make it clear that if he doesn’t agree to our taking all the dogs, we will ensure that he is billed for ongoing and very expensive veterinary treatment. He gives us the green light for the 110 dogs and we hope there are not more somewhere that he has hidden.
We load the first 80 in over a dozen cars, quickly, to shorten their time in this dreadful place. Some fall into our arms and stick to us like leeches while others – the ones who have been there a long time – are terrified and freeze or hide in corners. They have forgotten that contact with humans isn’t all pain.
It is truly sad but we are also happy as the dogs seem to be reborn in our arms as we whisper in their ears that this is the end of their suffering. Two Golden Retrievers are so happy to see us that they make it hard to get past and the owner involuntarily grabs one by the neck and throws him aside. He doesn’t even realise why we are staring at him.
What has he been doing with these dogs every day? In fact, the animals tell their own stories with their sagging tummies, caesarean scars and tumours. They scream their history by wetting themselves, expelling tons of worms, cringing in terror from gestures. They limp and raise their cut legs. They squeak and show us obedience. They tell us everything and ask us why.
We know it is for money but we don’t understand, it’s beyond our comprehension!
This day won’t end until we find every dog a loving home. They will be fed and cured, and neutered because not one of them will ever again give birth to a puppy for sale. We promised them that.
But the battle isn’t over. The breeder comes to Viva!’s Warsaw offices along with his daughter. Incredibly, she is an intelligent woman – a vet!
He wants to renege on his agreement and demands we return the dogs to him as he has lost too much money. We refuse but they return the next day with another piece of paper and even stronger demands. He fails again!
These kind of exploiters will continue with their trade in misery so long as people buy trendy, pedigree puppies when there are shelters filled with beautiful, but unwanted animals.
When the information went out that we had pedigree dogs to rehome, a small queue formed. A queue never forms for the other 170 gorgeous mutts we give a home to.
Some people wanted a specific type of dog so from a crowd there were only a few real animal lovers. Our home visits ensured that our rescued dogs went only to the best ones!
Viva! Poland’s superb, 50 acre Korabiewicach animal sanctuary currently contains 190 dogs, 25 horses, pigs, cows, goats, foxes and a bear.
Translation by Zuzanna Kaliszewska.
Edited by Tony Wardle
Find out more: www.viva.org.pl
Adopt an animal: http://adoptafarmanimal.org.uk