Dogs: how to help when needed

Published in For the Common Good

Lots of dogs have a tough time on Hvar and in other parts of Croatia. Helping dogs in need can be tricky. These are basic guidelines to help show you what can and can't be done.

Homeless puppy rescued, one of five abandoned in Jelsa in November 2018. Homeless puppy rescued, one of five abandoned in Jelsa in November 2018. Photo: Vivian Grisogono

Every year Eco Hvar receives numerous requests for help from local people and visitors who are worried about dogs they have come across, mostly on Hvar, but sometimes from other islands or the mainland. The most common causes for concern are: stray dogs, abandoned dogs, lost dogs, hungry dogs, thirsty dogs, sick dogs, injured dogs, dogs kept in bad conditions, dogs treated inhumanely.

Annie, abandoned in Jelsa with her 5 puppies in November 2018, rescued and pictured in May 2019. Photo: Vivian Grisogono

By law, dogs should be kept on a lead in towns and settlements, but (like so many Croatian laws!) this law is often ignored. Hvar Town in particular boasts a wide variety of dogs of all sizes who habitually wander around doing their 'business' and generally acting as if they own the place.

Strays, abandoned and lost dogs 

What you can do if you are worried about a wandering dog:
  • Ask local people if it is known to have an owner. Post the details on Facebook and via social media, and ask local animal welfare groups to do the same, in case the owner can be contacted that way.

  • Make a note of the exact location(s) where the dog is roaming, and preferably take photos of it.

  • Either: contact the local town warden (komunalni redar)*, who should take charge of any stray and check if it has a micro-chip; or: take the dog to a local vet to check if it has a micro-chip.

  • If it has an owner, but the owner can't be contacted via the contact details on the micro-chip, it may be possible to find temporary shelter for it through the local authority or local animal welfare charities. Otherwise it should be transferred to the nearest regional animal shelter. This is the responsibility of the local authority**. Failing that, a local animal welfare charity may be able to help. If you can help with transporting the dog to the mainland, that can make the whole process much easier. 

  • If the dog has no owner, it should be transferred to the nearest regional animal shelter, either by the local authority or through a local animal welfare charity.

  • Do not take stray animals into your rental apartment or hotel room: this is usually against house rules, and it is not in their best interests to get used to going indoors when they have no home of their own.

  • Do not get too attached to a stray dog unless you are in a position to offer it a secure future.

  • If you find local people who are willing to look after the stray, it is very helpful if you can give them a stock of dog food for after your departure.

* You can ask the local tourist office to contact the town warden. Alternatively the number is usually listed in the local authority's website. 

** Most of the local authorities on Hvar have contracts with the Animalis Centrum No-Kill Shelter in Kaštel Sučurac, near Split on the mainland. Eco Hvar has successfully homed many dogs through the shelter (see our previous article from 2017). The shelter takes exemplary trouble over the animals in its care, providing not only the basic essentials of food, shelter and medical care, but also training and socialization, including walks outside the shelter and swimming sessions in the summer. It has an extensive volunteer programme and is open to visitors on a daily basis. (See more on the Animalis Centrum Facebook page)

Špiro, abandoned in Jelsa in June 2019, then homed and happy. Photos: Vivian Grisogono
   What you can do if you come across abandoned young puppies:
  • inform the local Town Warden and local animal welfare groups and charities

  • provide full details of their exact location, preferably with photographs

  • if you can, give the puppies food and water - try to provide the best quality puppy food you can afford (preferably not adult dog food or processed human food)

  • if the puppies are newly born or not weaned, there is very little chance of them surviving, unless you yourself can take on the task of bottle-feeding them to give them a chance. The special formula milk needed for this is generally not available on Hvar, but can be bought in Split, usually from veterinarians.

What you can do if your own dog goes missing:
  • make a leaflet giving details of the dog and where it was last seen, preferably including at least one photo

  • inform the local vet(s) and place your leaflet at the vet centre(s)

  • inform the local authority's Town Warden (komunalni redar)

  • inform local animal welfare groups and charities

  • post the information on Facebook, and ask local groups to do the same

Note: it is extremely helpful if your dog has a label on its collar giving your telephone number. Otherwise anyone who finds your dog has to take it to the vet or Town Warden to read its micro-chip. Always make sure the contact details relating to the micro-chip are kept up to date.
 
Hungry, thirsty dogs
It is distressing to see dogs reduced to skin and bone through hunger. Sadly, this happens, especially among hunting dogs, particularly outside of the hunting season, which only runs from October to January. Another problem is dehydration: in the hot summer, dogs often lack sources of fresh drinking water.
 
What you can do if the dog is loose or homeless:
  • Put down a bowl of fresh water in a shady spot where the dog can reach it.

  • Inform the local authorities and animal welfare groups.

  • If you choose to feed it, please give the best quality moist dog food (preferably not dry) that you can afford, and feed it in an area which will not inconvenience other people.

  • It is very helpful if you can hygienically remove any dog faeces you come across.

What you can do if owners fail to provide their dog(s) with adequate food and water:
  • Ask local people who the owner is.

  • See if it is possible to help the owner create better conditions for the dog(s).

  • Depending on circumstances, if the dogs are in an isolated location, you can provide them with water, especially if the weather is hot.

  • If there is neglect, contact the local vet or Town Warden, giving details of the situation and the exact location in which you have found the dog, preferably with photographs; if possible, name the owner.

Ill-treated dogs
It is heartbreaking and frustrating to see animals suffering inhumane treatment, whether through inadequate living conditions, neglect, or physical abuse. If you want to help, first make sure that the dog really is suffering - "looking sad" is not a reliable symptom! but non-stop barking or howling day and night are sure signs of real distress. Croatian law provides for animal protection in line with European law, and applying the law is the correct mechanism for safeguarding an animal's welfare.
 
By law, dog owners have to provide adequate care for their animals, with fresh water available at all times, and adequate food. Dogs must not be kept permanently on a chain, and if they are chained for part of the day, the chain must be long enough to allow the dog to move around. There should be shelter against sun, rain, wind and snow. The dog's living quarters should be kept clean.
If any of these conditions is not met, the situation should be reported to the local Town Warden and vet. When they have visited the dogs and ascertained that the law is being broken, they will call in the Veterinary Inspector from Split to take appropriate action.
 
What you can do:
  • Any action has to be taken carefully and discreetly, to avoid making the situation worse for the mistreated dog.

  • If you identify the owner as a reasonable person, you can offer to help by providing the dog with water and food, and taking it for walks.

  • Otherwise, report the situation to the Town Warden and vet, giving full details of the dog's living conditions, preferably with photographs; describe the dog's state; give the exact location where you have seen the dog; if possible, name the owner.

What NOT to do:
  • On no account should you get angry and challenge the owner: this might lead to reprisals against yourself and/or the dog - you might be able to defend yourself, but the dog can't.

  • Do not take matters into your own hands and try to intervene against the owner's will.

Sick or injured dogs
What you can do if the dog is loose or homeless:
  • Contact the local vet or Town Warden, giving details of the problem and the exact location in which you have found the dog, preferably with photographs.

  • In urgent situations, depending on circumstances, take the dog to the vet yourself if you can.

  • If the dog does not have an owner, ask the vet to contact local animal welfare groups or local people who might help look after the dog until it can be homed or transferred to an animal shelter.

ADOPTION
If you can offer a street dog a good home, that is the best luck the dog can have. Some dogs are happily adopted by foreigners, who come here for a holiday and go home with a special kind of souvenir! Think it through carefully, as it is a big -lifelong - responsibility, especially if you are taking the dog out of Croatia. Take account of the lifestyle differences if you live in a city, also the trauma of travelling if it involves a plane journey. Adoptions through an animal shelter usually involve a probationary period, so that if you and the dog aren't totally suited, it can be returned to the shelter. Once the dog is abroad, that possibility is lost. For helpful tips on providing a good home and bonding with a new dog, read Dr. Karen Becker's article '5 Ways to Create a Lasting Bond With Your Newly Adopted Dog'.  Remember, a dog is a lifetime commitment: the worst thing for an adopted dog is being abandoned again.
 
As Croatia is in the EU, it follows European law on the export of animals within the EU. Check with a vet for details about requirements for a particular animal going to a specific country, and make sure you allow enough time for the necessary inoculations and anti-parasitic treatment. 
 
Adopting a puppy
Never take on a puppy just because a child in your family wants one! A puppy is hard work, not child's play. Looking after a puppy responsibly takes up many hours every day, and requires a lot of patience, tolerance and understanding.
 
A puppy's practical needs are: shelter in a safe environment, food, water, training, company, stimulation, exercise, healthcare, hygiene care. Like a human baby, a puppy needs to chew as its teeth develop; it tends to explore new things with its mouth; it will pee and crap wherever and whenever; and it will not understand your language or your way of thinking. Teaching it new behaviours requires patience, and you will need to know the best training methods for its individual needs.
 
It's all too easy to fall in love with a puppy when it's at the cute, dependent stage. But your puppy will grow up - will you still want it when it isn't small and cuddly any more?
Unless you have experience of puppy care, or are seriously prepared to learn, we recommend not taking on a very young dog.
Puppies are cute, but they are not child's play! Photo: Vivian Grisogono

FOSTERING

Giving a dog a temporary home can be extremely helpful for a stray which is nervous in a shelter, or can't be admitted to a shelter. A foster home gives the dog a chance to settle and become socialized with people and other animals. It is different from full adoption, and the aim is to give the dog a better chance of finding the right permanent home. If you are in a position to take on the tasks of a foster 'pet parent', Dr. Karen Becker offers good advice in her article 'Why You Should Consider Fostering a Homelss Pet

VETERINARY SERVICES ON HVAR

Hvar Town: Dr. Mirej Butorović-Dujmović, 15a Šime Buzolić Tome, 21450 Hvar.

Telephone: 00 385 (0)21 88 00 22; Mobile: 00 385 (0)91 533 0530

Working hours: 08:00 - 14:00 Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays; 14:00 - 20:00 Tuesdays, Thursdays; 08:00 -12:00 Saturdays.

Sundays & Public Holidays closed.

Besides diagnostics and treatments, the surgery offers expert grooming, including haircuts.

Directions: driving towards Hvar Town from Stari Grad, the main road comes to a small junction, where the main road curves right for the town itself, the left fork leads to Križna Luka, and the road straight head leads towards the graveyard. Take the road straight ahead until you see a sign for the surgery: turn left up this road, the surgery is on the left with parking in front of the building or in a designated area to the right of the building, on the left side of the road.

Stari Grad: Dr Prosper Vlahović, Put Rudine 3, 21460 Stari Grad

Telephone: 00 385 (0)21 244 337

Opening hours: 08:00 - 14:00 weekdays, 08 - 12:00 Saturdays;

Sundays & Public Holidays closed.

There is a pet shop on the premises.

Directions: at the entrance to Stari Grad itself from the Jelsa side, there is a park with a stream between the park and the road; go to the other side of the park, turn off on to the Rudine road, which is the only main turning on the far side of the park, situated about halfway along. The surgery is on the left up that road, with parking in front of the building.

 

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