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.
Finding Shelter is a documentary that follows the Rowles family from the UK, as they pack up their 4 kids and move to a small town in Bulgaria, in search of a quiet life. Their plans are altered, as they butt heads with the locals and slowly transform a community, with the opening of an animal shelter, Rudozem Street Dog Rescue. Finding Shelter directed by Erin Parks recently won Third Place in the Audience Choice Awards at the 2016 Animal Film Festival Awards. 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 them and patting them. They were shocked by the locals' reactions and abuse towards the street dogs, and saw dogs spat on, kicked or had stones thrown at them. Their journey to protect street dogs and cats not only changed themselves, but their children and the community. Documentary Website on RSDR http://www.findingshelter.net/ (10% of proceeds of the documentary will be donated to RSDR) -
Now Available on ITUNES -
UK - https://itunes.apple.com/gb/movie/finding-shelter/id1124581998
US - https://itunes.apple.com/us/movie/finding-shelter/id1124581998
CANADA - https://itunes.apple.com/ca/movie/finding-shelter/id1124581998
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.
RSDR's main aim currently is to get the shelter renovated up to EU standard so the municipality cannot close the shelter down. This is a long term project, but until this is done, we cannot register a clinic or start a spay / neuter program with volunteer vets.
RSDR do neuter and spay our shelter animals and we prefer that they are done before leaving us for adoption. However it isn't always possible to do them all. There is a shortage of good vets in Bulgaria and the nearest one for us that we can trust to do the procedure, is a 4 hour drive away (8 hour round trip). When we take dogs to be neutered and spayed they will be away from the shelter between 10 and 12 hours. The vets don't always have holding pens available which means animals waiting in the vehicle or outside. During the summer months we cannot risk this because of the heat. Quite often we will book two animals in at a time to be spayed and then a medical emergency comes up so we have to use the appointment time for those emergenices. We have had offers of vets from other countries coming to neuter/spay but they have to operate from a registered clinic and also need permission from the municipality which isn't given. You can read about RSDR's shelter renovations and the requirements by the municipality on the link below.
It is a long term goal of RSDR to implement a neuter / spay program of street dogs and register a clinic. As well as benefiting the welfare of the dogs, RSDR's work in the future will also benefit the health, safety and welfare of the people in Rudozem, as there would be less street dogs and any that were about would be treated for parasites and be vaccinated. The clinic will also help spay/neuter peoples own dogs also which will again help with peoples attitudes. A lot of locals in the Rudozem area are very poor so they cannot afford to spay and neuter their own dogs, and a lot of animals are thrown onto the streets when they are older and replaced with a younger dog to use to guard their houses. There is no vet in Rudozem that can spay bitches, which means there is the added cost of also travelling which most people cannot afford to do.
We realise we cannot change attitudes over night that have been ingrained in the community for such a long time, but just by people just knowing about RSDR and seeing what we do, it is slowly changing attitudes in the town with the level of abuse. Puppies that used to be shot or beaten, have now been left outside the shelter in boxes, or given to us, whilst in the past, we know that they would have been shot or left to starve somewhere. This is slowly changing, but will still take time, and hopefully by just people knowing about RSDR and leading by example, will change attitudes. RSDR hope to set up Education in the Schooling System once the shelter is renovated and up to EU standard. Dogs Trust have been a great help to RSDR by providing Bulgarian Translations of their Spay and Neuter brochures in Bulgarian and in English for us to provide, which we hope to also use with locals.
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.
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.
Photo of new soundsproof fencing - installed September 2015
On the 15 April 2014, we had an inspection from an official from the Animal, Health and Food Offices and a representative from the municipality. 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 had a site inspection and report from a specialist sound proofing company, Decibel BG. They are going to replace the fence and gates to the exercise yards that are just a couple of metres from the building. That will block noise from the building and also from dogs in the outside pens barking when they hear other dogs going into the yards. This was a much more cost effective option as it was going to cost over a hundred thousand Levs if we were to do the whole perimeter of the property.
Decibel BG are sound engineering specialists, whom visited the shelter from Sofia, Bulgaria and submitted a report on the sound measurements and acoustics from the shelter and nearing neighbours from the village, as well as recommended quotations. Decibel BG is an international company with branches in Bulgaria, UK, Macedonia, Serbia and Turkey. Bulgaria: http://www.decibel.bg/ International Site: http://decibelinternational.co.uk/
The request to replace the fencing with soundproofing was an order from the Animal, Health and Food Offices and a representative from the municipality. As part of the process, we have to submit quotations, as well as provide engineering plans for any structures to be approved and show sound specialist reports that the sound reductions will be met to Bulgarian Sound standards. Once the quotation is accepted, Decibel.bg will give us engineering plans to be used to submit for approval.
Due to the neighbouring houses being higher up than the shelter, the fencing has to be a certain height in order for the sound reduction to be effective. If we had put up normal metal sound proof panels against a wooden perimeter fence, it would have been totally ineffective and a complete waste of money. We would still have had to replace the wire perimeter fence with a wooden fence and to support the panels it would have had to have proper foundations. For a perimeter fence to be effective at blocking noise to the nearest residential buildings, it would have to be 8 metres high.
Our other option was for a 3 metre high fence to be put up nearer the front of the building, replacing the fence and gates to the exercise yards. Engineers reports still show that this has to be 3 metres in order to be effective. Obviously a fence this high has to have proper foundations. The current fencing to the exercise yards has no foundations. At the time they were put up we did the best we could with available funds and we built them ourselves.
The new soundproof fence also has to have four gates so that we can get to the separate exercise yards and from a safety aspect, some of the panels will be clear so we can still see into the yards while the dogs are out in them, checking that they are ok.
On Saturday 7th March 2015 - There was a serious snowstorm in South Bulgaria with over 850 settlements without power. Many towns were seriously damaged and had lost power lines and trees. It was declared a state of emergency with over 150 emergency teams trying to restore power. We had very limited contact with Diane & Tony by text message in Bulgaria. They had no power and one of the pens at the family house had been destroyed. Diane & Tony managed to get in contact with the shelter boys who've been staying overnight at the shelter. The shelter fence and exercise yards are damaged and we won't know the full extent of the damage until the snow is gone. The important thing is all the boys and the cats and dogs at the shelter and the house are safe, but none of the dogs at the shelter can go outside due to the damage.
On the 12th Thursday, power has been restored back at the family home, but the shelter still has no power.
With the fence at the shelter damaged, we are also concerned for all the cats and dogs on the streets. Many of them will have tried to seek shelter as soon as it started snowing but many of them will be without food. There are going to be lots of emergencies in the coming days, and we also have to protect the 250 dogs and cats at the shelter as they cannot go outside. We urgently need donations to replace the fence. Please help us now so they have the funds when they are ready to rebuild. We had previously been appealing for a sound proof fence to stop RSDR from closing - but we are going to have to add on top of that total now for this emergency. Please either donate to our normal donate button above, or donate to the existing sound proof fencing fundraiser so we can meet that target and more to help with the rebuild.
For continual updates please go to our facebook page on what is happening. https://www.facebook.com/rudozemstreetdogrescue
Photo Album of Winter March 2015 - https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10153139338874264.1073741891.162493484263&type=3
News links about Snowstorm:
(if you scroll past this article below it has continual updates on more links).
UPDATE: We were able to raise enough funds for temporary fencing for the exercise yards.
January 2016 - This year we want to concentrate on getting as many adoptions as possible so we can make space to do the renovations for inside the shelter. RSDR has currently over 250 animals at the shelter, so we need to get the figure of animals down to at least half before starting inside. Until then we are concentrating on renovating the outside of the shelter.
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 helped 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.
Anita Weber is the RSDR Co-Ordinator, and deals with the internal processes of RSDR under Founder Diane.
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 in Dog Training and Behaviour.
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.
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 of that current year. Please email email@example.com if you have any concerns.