Rudozem Street Dog Rescue (RSDR) is a non-profit foundation that rescues Street Dogs in Bulgaria and finds loving homes for them.
In August 2007, the Rowles family - Diane and Tony Rowles and their 4 children, 4 dogs and 2 cats decided to make the move to Bulgaria to have a more peaceful life from the busy lifestyle in the UK. The Rowles bought a family property in the outskirts of Rudozem.
After living in Bulgaria for a few months, the family saw the plight of the street dogs and started feeding and caring for them. They were shocked by the locals reactions and abuse towards the street dogs. They would see dogs being kicked and spat on, having stones thrown at them and some of the dogs that fed and cared for would be deliberately killed. They continued to feed the dogs on the streets when they could out of their own money.
In September 2007, their youngest son Luke, befriended a street dog named Ranger, and the dog started following him. Ranger became the families first rescue dog when a man was trying to shoot him. Read Rangers story.
In following months other street dogs went home to the Rowles family.
With the continuing number of street dogs needing to be fed on the streets, it was getting harder not to do something, so Rudozem Street Dog Rescue was formed in 2008 and charity status was applied for
In March 2009, Rudozem Street Dog Rescue (RSDR) officially became a registered foundation.
Adoptions to other countries were then organised to help find homes for the dogs rescued.
Since early 2009 RSDR has been trying to raise enough funds to purchase land to build a dog shelter / clinic. Previously we had been working from our own family home and had up to 70 animals. We had numerous complaints from locals about the noise from the dogs and there was the constant worry that we could be asked to get rid of the dogs and would then be forced to send them to a dog isolator. We would never allow this to happen as they are places of torture.
In October 2010, we came across a plot of land with an existing building that is a 20 min drive from Rudozem which would be perfect for a dog shelter / clinic. The asking price at the time, was 38,000 euros for the land and building. A lot of the plots of land we had looked at previously had no building, no electricity, no water, no road access, and were asking for prices between 25,000 euros to 40,000 euros for the land only! The 38,000 euros was a bargain price! One that we could not afford to let go, we knew we had to appeal for help to fundraise so we would not lose this opportunity, so we made an appeal to raise funds for the shelter.
As of 22 December 2010, we reached our target goal and signed contracts to purchase a plot of land with an existing building. The next aim is raise funds to renovate the existing building to convert into a dog shelter/clinic to help the many street dogs and cats in Rudozem and other areas.
As soon as the shelter is renovated, one of our main aims, is to start a spay / neuter scheme for the many dogs in the Rudozem area. The current vet has limited knowledge on the spay procedure, and we have to travel 4 hours to the nearest vet to spay.
If you would like to help RSDR in raising enough money to renovate our shelter/clinic please give a small donation on the donate page.
In 2011, there was a lot of opposition from officials, the municipality and locals. Many people didn't understand why anyone would bother trying to help street dogs, as they regard them as vermin. Municipalities are allocated money to deal with the problem of street dogs but this rarely gets spent on dogs. There is a lot of corruption and illegal shootings still go on. 2011 was a very difficult and stressful year for us. We had intended to renovate the building we bought as a shelter before moving dogs there. However we had many urgent cases and nowhere for them so we built temporary pens and moved there with the dogs. We had numerous visits from police, the municipality and other officials trying to close the shelter. We had to wait months before the prosecutor decided if he could make any charges against us. Eventually we were granted a certificate which meant we could legally keep dogs there. In May 2011, we were finally able to start using the shelter.
After a license was granted in May 2011, RSDR started raising funds to renovate and built inside and outside pens and construct exercise yards. Security cameras were also implemented.
In 2012, we had an emergency appeal for donations for the replacement of a dangerous roof. In the early winter of 2012 in February, it was a frightening time, with the near collapse and bowing of the shelters wooden roof. It was one of the coldest and heaviest snowfalls that winter with an extreme cold front across the whole of Europe. All 150 dogs & cats were are risk of injury or death. There was holes in the roof, the roof was leaking, and the roof was bowing and creaking so low, it was quite dangerous. It was also a horrible ordeal trying to scrape snow off the roof that had turned into ice during the night. The municipality would not send any emergency support and the only JCB was being used by emergency services in other areas. The neighbouring buildings roof had already collapsed and the RSDR shelter roof was creaking dangerously. Eventually RSDR managed to find a local builder that helped brace supports during this time and found someone that had a JCB to help remove the snow that had piled up. After this frightening winter our main aim was to urgently replace the roof before the next winter came in December 2012. With worldwide support with individual donations, entering competitions, applying for grants, and a team effort of fundraising, enough funds were raised and completion of the new roof became final in December 2012.
In February 2013, we were advised by a Rudozem municipality representative that if the shelter was not up to EU standard soon, RSDR would close, and our Founder would be charged. (radio interview with founder Diane Rowles) Since then, no action has been taken against RSDR by the municipality, however we still need to be vigilant in fundraising towards renovations and make sure each of our target goals have been met. We know that the overall goal of renovation of the "whole shelter" will be long term and could take years, however the builder has said he will work with us in stages as and when we raise the funds and work can be done.
Some improvements and renovations have been carried out as we raised the funds for them, but there is still a lot of work to be done. Some of the work can’t be done until we reduce the number of dogs at the shelter therefore allowing us to empty parts of the building to enable work to be carried out. At least officials can see that progress is being made.
The Rowles family, had 2 family emergencies with their son Luke Rowles in May 2013. Luke suffered a fit and a small heart attack. He was taken to hospital in May and tests were done. (please read May 2013 newsletter). We believe the cause might have been linked to some pain killers he took. Luke has now recovered and continues to help with the dogs.
It was only a few months later Tony Rowles (Lukes dad) was also taken to hospital. After tests at the Rudozem hospital the doctors said that Tony had Pneumo Fibrosis and Angina. For the angina he had to have 4 stents put into his heart with 2 surgeries in September 2013. (Please read August 2013 and September 2013 newsletters for more information) Tony has now recovered, but was under strict orders by the doctors at the time, to rest for 6 months with only light duties.
On the 15 April 2014, we had an inspection. We were advised that we have to put up sound proof fencing around the shelter perimeter, like the fencing seen alongside some motorways and busy roads. In the past, the municipality refused permission for us to replace the perimeter fence. We were told that this time we would be helped with the planning application by someone from the municipality. We were given six months for the work to be done or at least started. We are currently in communication with a specialist sound proofing company who are proposing different options. Once we have decided which option to go for and have a definite price, we will start fundraising for this.
Diane & Tony Rowles
Diane & Tony have been in Bulgaria since 2007 and are the founders of RSDR. Diane and Tony Rowles were born in England, and before moving to Bulgaria, had spent 14 years living in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. Both say the the best years of their life were spent on a croft where there were many animals including sheep, horses and german shepherds. Diane worked with elderly people in a dementia unit for a number of years and then did Voluntary counselling with victims ( or survivors as she prefers to call them) of rape and abuse. Tony had many interests including football, walking in the forests and gardening. Diane & Tony have 4 children; Samantha, Kerry, Liam and Luke. The family bought a village pub which they had for 4 years before moving to Bulgaria with children, dogs and cats. Whilst rescuing animals, Diane completed a 2 year course through the Oxford College in the United Kingdom on the 28 September 2010 and now has a Diploma in Canine Studies. Please read Dianes thesis on Pack theory from her course.
"Although we never intended to be rescuing street dogs when we moved to Bulgaria, we couldn't ignore their plight. Now that we have started, it is a lifetime commitment. There are times when it is heartbreaking but we could never leave what we have started otherwise there would be no one to care about and fight for these dogs". Diane Rowles
Sam played a huge part in helping her parents set up RSDR and started the website and Facebook group. She was very involved in feeding and helping care for the animals when she was in Bulgaria. Sam moved to the UK in 2010, with her daughter Nikita and has since adopted RSDR cat Maude.
Kerry & her partner Kosta Chakurov ran the Veliko Turnovo branch for RSDR in 2011. Unfortunately due to threats, RSDR had to close the branch. (Read June & July 2011 newsletter). In 2014, Kerry & Kosta with their daughter Yana moved to the UK. They have since had another daughter called Maya.
Liam works at the RSDR shelter helping with the daily chores from feeding animals, cleaning pens, and walking the dogs. Liam has rescued many animals from the streets and helps with gaining their trust and rehabilitating them to humans and other animals. He is an integral part of the running of the shelter.
Luke Rowles, the youngest son helped prompt his family to start the charity. Luke has a special bond with the animals, and helps the family by either working with the animals at the shelter or the house, he does the daily chores and helps with gaining the trust & rehabilitation of scared animals on the streets.
Yavka has been with us for a few years now and has a very gentle and quiet nature which is particularly good for someone working with dogs and cats.
Tysan helped us with the dogs before we had the shelter and would often join us on rescues. He very often comes in to work on his days off.
Nicky is a friend of Liam and Lukes who helped us voluntarily with the dogs before we were a registered foundation.
He is a great help with the animals.
Recently applied for a job with RSDR. Sean is from the UK, he is still getting to know the dogs and how we work but is keen to learn.
Anita Weber is the RSDR Co-Ordinator, and deals with all administration, Adoption Co-ordinating, PR/Fundraising and internal processes of RSDR with Founder Diane. Anita has IT skills, and helps manage the website & facebook fanpage, database, co-ordinates with the adoption teams, helps co-ordinate any media & promotions, online shop, fundraising and answers any adoption email enquiries. Anita represents Diane & Tony when they are not available. Anita has done her own sponsored event for the RSDR and is a a great help online with her organisational skills. Anita has completed a Certificate III in Dog Behaviour and Training with the National Dog Training Federation in Australia. If you have any questions about RSDR, you can contact Anita at email@example.com
Rudozem Street Dog Rescue is registered as a non-profit foundation in Bulgaria which is recognised by the European Union and the British authorities (registered non-profit Foundation number 175647065).
RSDR Adopt is a non-profit unincorporated association based in Britain acting on instructions of the Rudozem Street Dog Rescue founders in Bulgaria. RSDR adopt exists solely to provide administration and banking facilities in Britain on behalf of Rudozem Street Dog Rescue in Bulgaria. For more information on RSDR Adopt please go to:
Since 2009, the Netherlands Adoption team has been finding our dogs homes.
The NL team consists of many persons with a variety of skills that help with all aspects of arranging adoptions, from Management experience, administration, PR, Advertising, dog training & behaviour advise, translations and having a general love for all animals. The Adoption Co-Ordinator in the Netherlands is Ineke Kleij.
If you would like to ask the adoption team any questions, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the dutch website at: http://www.rsdrnederland.nl/
Photo Left: One of the dog events organised by our Dutch team for RSDR Adopters.
A UK team has been established in the United Kingdom. As of the 1st January 2012, new DEFRA laws changed UK entry requirements for persons travelling with pets, Dogs or Cats require the initial single rabies vaccination (12 weeks or older), then 21 days after the vaccination, can travel to the United Kingdom.
The UK team will help with a range of jobs from arranging adoptions, advertising, home checks, emergency fosterer and any fundraising. The UK Team are looking for other volunteers in the UK, that can help with home checking of our dogs and being a part of the UK Team. If you are interested in being a part of the team or putting your name down as an emergency foster carer in the UK please fill out a Application form - press here
Photo Left: UK - RSDR Dog walk in the UK in 2014 organised by the UK Team.
All persons in the above teams in the UK or Netherlands have the authority to act on behalf of Rudozem Street Dog Rescue. If any persons whom approach you for donations, with an Authorisation letter that is older then 12 months old, please be aware they do not have the authority to act on behalf of RSDR. All authorisation letters expire each year on the 31 December and are renewed the following January. Please email RSDR Co-Ordinator Anita Weber at email@example.com if you have any concerns.