Duke had both front legs broken, was chained
to a cart and left to die. RSDR arrived and
took him to safety. Duke made the long road
to recovery. He is a happy and friendly little
guy and was adopted in the UK.
Bella was born at RSDR after her mum, Rosie
had been rescued from a busy road. Bella has
found her forever home in the Netherlands.
Below is also information about the food the dogs/cats have been eating, worming, pet passport, pet register, training topics, behaviour issues, and other information. If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact the members of the Adoption Team in your country, as they are here as a support for you.
Please read first about RSDR, how we started and the culture of Bulgaria on our About Us Page
RSDR's training philosophy is to use reward based, science based and positive reinforcement methods and do not believe in using force with punishment. We are against using pain, discomfort, intimidation, chokers, pinch/prong or shock collars or leash corrections. We also do not agree with aversives like water sprays, or pet corrector spray. We do not agree with dominance theory, pack theory or trainers that use compulsion & force methods.
Trainers RSDR recommend: Dr Ian Dunbar, Zak George, Emily Larlham, Victoria Stilwell, Karen Pryor.
Trainers RSDR DO NOT recommend: Cesar Milan.
Most of the cats taken in by RSDR are young kittens. They usually stay at the family home as kittens. During their stay at the house, they may see or mix with the dogs there. Later on as they get older, they are then transferred to the shelter to the Cat Pen where they are introduced and become socialised to the older cats. Even though we do as much as we can, to make the cats happy in a shelter environment, the shelter is not a home, and does not have the freedom, space and familiarity that a good home will provide. The good news is that a great majority of our long term cats make a smooth transition into their new homes. While the adjustment, especially for shy cats, can take 2-6 months, some adopters see a full "recovery' from the shelter experience within 4-6 weeks, as adopter and cat bond with each other over time, and in a home setting. Some cats will however be fearful so consideration in gradually introducing the home environment needs to be done very slowly.
RSDR cats are generally inside cats only as most live in a pen at the shelter or inside at the family house. All cats adopted are to be inside cats or have access to an outside enclosure or catio. Exceptions to this are very rare and would only be if we think the cat is suitable and the home environment.
An RSDR dog is a rescue animal that might have suffered or seen much abuse on the streets and has been taken to the RSDR shelter. Some of the stories are shocking. Our dogs come from abused and horrible backgrounds. Many dogs are shot, kicked, tortured, had thrown stones at them, puppies thrown in rivers, left abandoned in the landfill or forest or streets, tied up on chains outside houses, fed on bread only, starving, frozen in the snow. When RSDR takes in a dog, there is a lot of time spent rehabilitating them. The dogs at the shelter over time, become less frightened, and more confidence is built. Their security becomes the shelter. They are under a roof, fed, and they have a pack of dogs at the shelter that support them, as well as the humans they become used to. They become confident and healthy happy dogs and used to shelter staff and other dogs.
Many RSDR dogs pre-shelter, have only lived on the streets before the shelter and have never lived in a house before. They've only lived in their pens inside the shelter, and exercised in the yards and walked outside the shelter on leads. We find that some of the older dogs that have lived longer on the streets when taken in have developed better coping mechanisms to change. Whilst dogs that have lived from a young age at the shelter, may take longer to adapt.
During his/her time at the shelter, an RSDR dog will become well socialised with other dogs of different ages. The dogs are let out twice a day into the exercise yards, whilst their pens are being cleaned. This time spent outside, enables them to mix and socialise with other dogs. Most of the pups/youngsters do not wear collars at the shelter, due to their destructive chewing nature, so they are mainly introduced to collars when leaving on transport. The dogs are however used to a slip lead that the shelter uses when taking them for walks. Some are used to harnesses in co-junction with slip leads, but in general most of the dogs are walked with a slip lead.
Most of the street dogs at the shelter will not be used to cats unless they have been looked after in the staff room, or at the family house, and would only have seen cats in the streets. Many adopted dogs / pups, learn to live peacefully with resident cats, whether puppies or adults. The most important thing for adopters to know is that this adjustment is a process, not a one-time introduction. Care must be taken to introduce dogs and cats slowly (even for dogs that are used to cats), making the process as stress-free and pleasant as possible. Adopters must then be prepared to manage their pets’ interactions for the next several months, if not longer. Read introductions to cats and family members
All RSDR animals travel on TRACES registered transport throughout Europe as part of commercial movement. An export health certificate is generated for the animals for import/export allowing them to travel. Each animal comes with it's own pet passport which details their vaccinations, microchip and health check.
Our transporter is DEFRA and TRACES registered and uses a large van to transport our animals. The van is air conditioned and has the means of adjusting the temperature in the rear of the van. The cages used are approved for travel, with the means to secure the cages and transport boxes to the van safely for throughout the journey.
Our transporter first collects item donations from our UK and NL Collection points before travelling to Bulgaria to collect our animals. Once arrived, before the animals leave, a final health check is done by the Local vet for our cat and dogs.
The transport vehicle is then approved for TRACES & signed by officials before travel commences.
Before the animals leave on transport - We ensure the dogs are introduced to each other before hand if they haven’t met before the transport, so they are more comfortable travelling together. When loading the vans, some of our animals prefer to travel in company so we sometimes try to let them share in larger cages with ones they feel comfortable with. The reason for this is that dogs are less stressed when they have company and so long as they can stand up and stretch to change positions while actually travelling they are more comfortable snuggling. During the journey the animals are fed and given water, and the transport stops every 3-4 hours so the animals can have a toilet break and stretch their legs. The long journey can be quite stressful for some of our animals, and some can suffer motion sickness.
**Dogs and cats travelling to the UK on TRACES transport, will stay in kennels on arrival for 48 hours and may be randomly checked by a AHVLA official vet, before collection. **
When leaving on transport to go to their new adopted homes, the animals are leaving the only place of security and love they have ever known. So they are already going through a lot in just a few short days.
They are experiencing:
If your dog is upset at the arrival, it is important to greet your dog calmly and give him lots of reassurance and talk in a calm voice.
TAKE A SLIP LEAD TO KENNELS
It is very important that when collecting your dog at the Kennels a slip lead MUST be used for the safety of your animals. The animals can be quite frightened after travel , so preventing escaping in the handover, as well as in those initial first few days/weeks at home, until a bond is established is vital until the animals have settled. When an animal is frightened it will go into flight mode and will do anything to escape. Please do not use a normal collar and lead at handover or a harness that hasn't been fitted properly. A dog can easily slip these when frightened. We have had adopters where our advise has been ignored and used their own lead/collars and the animals have escaped.
At handover - give your slip lead to either kennel staff or transporter, who will fit him with the slip lead before taking him from his pen/cage.
For dogs - Please bring along also dog collar with ID tag for your dog. This can be used separately to the slip lead, and put on the dogs neck.
For cats - Please take a secure cat carrier for them to travel in.
FOOD /WATER / POO BAGS
If you are travelling a fair distance, please also bring along some water / dry food, bowl, warm blanket & some dog poop bags for your animals.
NOTE: Please do not take your existing family pets with you to the kennels/collection point
When you are taking a rescue dog from any shelter you are starting afresh like you would with a puppy. So an adult dog needs to be re-trained just like a puppy. Be consistent, give clear directions, space, patience and time. Those first few months, you need to build trust with your dog, enjoy your dog, but also show them calm assertion and understanding, like you would with an adopted new child as they may have many fears. It is important to remember that RSDR dogs pre-shelter, have only lived on the streets before the shelter and have never lived in a house before, are not house trained and not used to the new environment so at first it might be daunting. The dogs have only ever lived in their pens, and exercised in the yards and walked on leads. When they first arrive in a new house with it all being so different it will take weeks to adapt just to the house and garden alone before introducing the outside world.
When you first arrive home with your dog, take your dog on a slip lead outside to show him the toilet in your yard when you first arrive home, and let him sniff the area and give him some space. Reward him if he eliminates with praise. Then take him inside and take him into his area you have set up for him with his dog bed. We recommend a small room/area away from from other animals or use a baby gate to divide areas. Show him his dog bed and make sure water and food bowl are near to his bed if he is fearful. Leave him to rest on his own in his new area, so to not overwhelm him, but regularly check on him every hour to see that he is okay and take him to the toilet. Give praise "good dog" each time you see him, to calm him in a gentle voice each time. For dinner, give him a light meal after travelling as his stomach might be upset. It is important that the dog has access to fresh water daily.
Bathing - We advise waiting a few days, before washing your dog after the arrival. The smell on his own body will still have some of the scents from his time in Bulgaria. Now that your dog is in a new and strange environment, one with a strange smell, let him be for a few days. Bath him then after a few days. His scent will still then be on the blanket in his bed giving him a place of comfort, security and reassurance. Note ** (For UK animals - as he has been at the Kennels for a few days, this probably is unnecessarily. I'd probably advise wait a day then bath)** Some dogs may need a bath straight away, if they have had motion sickness during the journey and may smell.
Introducing to inside home / garden - Please do not go out and walk your dog within the first 7-14 days. There will be a lot of overwhelming stimuli in your household and garden for your animal to take in the first weeks. The new sights and sounds to a dog if introduced too quickly is likened to placing a 3 year old child in the middle reservation of a motorway! You just wouldn't do it to a child so keep this scenario in mind . Tortoise and the Hare. Please take things slow and not overwhelm your dog and let him just adapt to the house and garden for the first few weeks. Supervise him in the garden for the first few weeks also to ensure their is no escaping of fences.
Introductions to tv/radio, items, clothing like hats, objects, sounds outside, vacuum cleaner, washing machine, broom, different surfaces – carpet, lino, garden outside, clothes line with clothes, plants, grass etc. Many of these will be new to the dog so have to be done with time, patience and understanding.
Some dogs may also "appear" to have good coping skills and be in a "honeymoon stage" when you first take them home, but be careful doing things too fast as some of our dogs can backtrack fast and you may have other issues later on.
Sleeping - In the first few weeks you will find that your dog sleeps a lot. This is because of all the mental stimulation he is getting with the new environment in the house/garden.
Do not be alarmed at this. The dogs are taking in a lot of new things, so it can be quite mentally stimulating and exhausting so they will sleep a lot. Some dogs also find their "security" blanket in their dog bed or even a sofa, and don't want to leave the security of this for weeks.
We advise for the few few days/week to keep your new dog separate from other pets, aswell as visiting friends/family and introduce them slowly under supervision over a period of time.
The long 3 day journey by road can be quite exhausting on your dog, and he needs to settle in a stress free environment. Introducing your pet too soon to your other animals, can have consequences on future relations. The saying "First Impressions Matter!". Many dogs can react differently, and even though some may look fine, they could still show signs of stress we don't always understand or miss in their body language, before it's too late. When first arriving at home, please ensure they are kept to their own room, or divide the space with a babygate or barrier so they can settle quietly by themself.
Despite the stereotype of “fighting like cats and dogs,” many adopted dogs learn to live peacefully with resident cats as well as resident dogs. The most important thing for adopters to know is that this adjustment is a process, not a one-time introduction. Care must be taken to introduce dogs and cats very slowly, making the process as stress-free and pleasant as possible. Adopters must then be prepared to manage their pets’ interactions' for the next several months, if not longer. With existing dogs, try to introduce them on neutral ground. With cats, use a babygate to ensure the cats always have a safe haven. We have some wonderful articles on introducing cats & dogs - please read here
Introducing your dog to Children:
Please ensure that you always supervise your dog with children and never leave an animal alone with a young child. Teach your child about the responsibilities of pet ownership and what to do when they approach a dog. Parents also learn about the stresses with dogs in their body language. Kids need to learn that pets are not toys, and that they can feel pain if they're roughly handled. There are some wonderful websites with articles/dvds on introducing dogs and children - please read here.
Try to set up a routine with house training with your dog, so your dog has success and is less likely to make mistakes.
I would suggest taking him out to begin with on a lead for the first few days, so you can show him the area to eliminate, but also be on hand to reward and praise when he does so to help with associating the area. (If you feel they won't go to the toilet if they are uncomfortable with you being too close, then use a long line with a properly fitted harness to create more distance or take them then off the lead - but supervised). Puppies generally relieve their bladder every 30-60 mins whilst adult dogs every 1-3 hours.
When you first bring him home it will be daylight. Take the dog outside every hour on the hour (Even set a timer on your phone or clock to remind you). This will get him into a routine. Take him out first thing in the morning, during the day every hour, and last thing at night to eliminate in those first few weeks. Take them also outside 15 mins after they eat and drink. Once outside - use a cue word to associate outside with that word. "eg. Say toilet or Potty. Point to the spot (which becomes the hand signal). After awhile if the dog eliminates then "Praise with a word, "good dog" and give 3 treats.
If the dog does make a mistake in the house and you are not around to see the accident, then ignore the mess.
DO NOT! point it out to the animal, and DO NOT! scold or punishment. Dogs do not understand or relate past incidents unless caught in the act. (If you do catch them in the act), distract within 3 seconds of it happening) and say "outside".
After the 3 seconds of it happening, they do not relate it. It's best to ignore the incident, and concentrate on positive reinforcement and associating the area where they do go with praise. (If you are having issues -- put newspaper or paper towels over the wet area, and take this outside to put in the area where you do want them to eliminate. This well help associate the area. Try to avoid using a crate for house-training, and instead keep them in their room or area with tiles/lino using a babygate.
As the dogs are not used to living in a house, you will need to keep on top of house training for the first few weeks, as they will need to be retrained and the new environment might be daunting. If this is the case and you have trouble moving them, put a lead on them and lure them outside with treats. The dogs need to settle and get used to new routines and environments. The main thing is not to get stressed or scold them if they do accidentally eliminate inside, as that will just stress them out and when they do go outside, praise them. If they do eliminate inside, it is important to use a biological cleaner or an enzyme cleaner from your vet or pet store to break down the enzymes in Urine. Otherwise, some cleaners will actually encourage your dog to toilet in the same spot! Try to also be vigilant taking the dog outside 15 mins after they've eaten or drunk, so the dog can release his bladder. The dogs might at first be wary of going outside in a new environment, and might not want to go through the door or be scared of hallways and stairs, so put them on a lead and encourage them by "luring" them with treats (eg. chicken or sausage). Once the dog has eliminated, give the treat to the dog and praise.
Some dogs in the first week, might drink water excessively and then urinate more frequently, meaning you have to be more watchful taking them outside. This is due to anxiety after the travel and introduction to the new scenery. Keep an eye on this and as they settle more into their new home this should reduce. It is important that you remain calm otherwise the dog will pick up on your own anxiety and be more anxious. If the excessive drinking and urinating does not stop, check with your vet that they do not have a bladder infection.
We advise when you first start walking your dog to do a short session once per day. One session meaning (10-15 mins). Do this rather then one big long walk, especially for puppies whose joints are growing. Gradually over the weeks, increase the sessions to twice a day, and add extra time to the session over the weeks.
The scenery and environment is very different to Bulgaria so to help with getting familiar with the new smells, sounds, cars, and objects try sticking to the same route, and go for a short walk. We advise also during the walk to stop and stand still for a few minutes. Your dog will just look to take everything in and slowly adjust.
Slip Leads - Must be
used for the first few weeks/months (longer if necessary) until a bond and trust has
been established. Some RSDR dog are more
comfortable with harnesses in which case the slip lead can be used in
conjunction with a correctly fitted harness.
Harness- Use a Y shaped harness. This keeps shoulder joints, neck and armpits free to avoid injury or chaffing.
Read Article on damage to neck, and using a properly fitted Y harnesses - http://www.freedogz.be/equipment/image/data/pdfs/posters_web_EN.pdf
Good Y harness recommended – Haqihana Harness http://www.haqihana.com/en
Retractable Leads - Do not use retractable or Flexi Leads - due to the dangers with snapping, and extending near very busy traffic. For your dog to feel comfortable when walking with you on lead, it is very important that he does not feel the constant tension of a self-retracting lead.
Longlines - Use longlines in parks with harnesses and do not let dog off lead until a reliable recall has been established unless you are in an enclosed fenced area.
Facebook page in the UK of suggested enclosed areas - https://www.facebook.com/dogwalkingfields/
Please ensure your dog also has clearly marked Pet ID Tag on his collar.
There is a fine in the UK for those dogs that do not have Pet ID Tag. (Read more on Dog Identification Tags)
Before You Bring Your Cat Home:
Cats are territorial, and coming into a new home leaves them feeling really uneasy. There’s all that unexplored space, and who knows what may lurk there, and therefore sensitive to any changes in their environment, so expect them to want to hide and not interact with you. They may disappear under your bed and not venture out until you are asleep, and it is normal for them to have no interest in food or toileting. Depending on how confident your cat is, this behaviour may continue for a period of days. To make things easier on him, provide a small area to call his own for the first few days or weeks.
A bathroom , laundry room or spare room works well. Furnish the room with cat amenities, such as food, water and a litter box. You’ll want to spend time with your cat, so make sure there’s a comfortable place for you to sit as well. Fill a litter box with one or two inches of litter and place it in his room where he can use it undisturbed. After all, everyone deserves a modicum of privacy when pottying, and giving him that will help forestall litter box aversion. Set up a feeding station with food and water bowls. Locate it away from the litter box.
Cats love to get away from it all in small places, and you can provide one for your new cat as his own little safe haven. If he came home in a cat carrier, that might be a good choice. You can also make one by cutting a doorway for her in the end of a box. If you prefer, you can buy a covered cat bed at a pet supply store. In either case, make sure the space is big enough for the cat to stand up and turn around in. Cat “feng shui” probably requires that he or she be able to see the door to the room from his hidey hole, so he won’t be startled.
A cat’s claws need to be worn down, and they do this by scratching on things. Since you prefer that it not be your chairs and sofa, provide your cat with a socially acceptable scratching place. Some types are made of corrugated cardboard and lie on the floor; others are posts which have to be tall enough so that the cat can extend himself upward to scratch. You can encourage your cat (once he has arrived) to use the post by sprinkling it with catnip or dangling a toy at the top. He’ll get the idea. You’ll probably want a scratching post in each room where there is soft furniture, perhaps blocking access to it. You can also install sticky tape (available at pet supply stores) to corners of upholstered furniture to dissuade scratching. Look at your house with a curious cat’s eye view for its climbing and exploring potential. When your cat is acclimated to your home, you may be surprised to find him on top of the upper kitchen cabinets, so make sure there’s nothing on display there or on other high shelves that can be damaged or knocked off. Look for holes or registers that leave ductwork accessible and cover them up. A kitten can easily slither into one of these. You won’t want firemen in the house, jackhammering the concrete floor to extract your cat. If possible, buy a cat tree for your new family member. Cats like to survey their territory, so a high perch is often a favored resting place.
If there are other human family members, go over the ground rules about your new pet. Remind them not to startle him and to keep the door to his room shut.
At the kennels take a cat carrier with you to keep her safe and secure. Once home, as she has seen a lot of excitement, take her directly to her new room. Ideally, you would restrict her exposure to the whole family, but naturally, everyone is going to want to see her. Remind them of the ground rules you’ve set up. And ask them to let her be for a few days. Sit on the floor and let her come to you. Don’t force her. Just let her get acquainted on her own time. If she doesn’t approach, leave her alone and try again later. Some cats are particularly frightened, and she may retreat to her hidey hole and not come out when you’re around at all. She may only come out at night when the house is quiet. Give her time. Your newly adopted cat may not eat much or at all at first. It’s best to give your cat the same food she had at the shelter, at least at first. The cats are fed a medium quality dry diet. Be sure to change her water frequently and make sure that she is drinking. If your cat hasn’t eaten for a few days, call your vet to ask for advice.
It may take your cat a few weeks/months adjust. Be patient. As your cat adjusts, she’ll show signs that she wants to explore outside her safe haven. Make sure other pets or family members won’t startle her while she gradually expands her territory. She may be ready to play, so you can furnish some toys. Many cats like feather wands from the pet supply store, but homemade toys are often favored. A wad of a tissue paper to bat around or a paper bag to hide in can be fun.
After such a long journey from Bulgaria, some animals experience motion sickness because of the stress from the transport. We recommend for the first few days after your animals arrive, to feed your animal a bland diet to help with settling upset stomachs. This will also help with the transition of changing to the food you will eventually feed your animal. We recommend feeding the animals a diet of boiled chicken and white rice and gradually weaning them off this over a few days, and introducing them slowly to the new food that you wish to put your animal onto. Read how to prepare Chicken and White Rice for Dogs
The animals at the shelter are fed a good medium quality dry food and are used to sharing with other animals as they are fed together, but it is complete dry food. We would suggest feeding them on a similar quality dry food to start with. The brand the dogs eat is a Bulgarian brand not available in other countries. A lot of dogs that we rescue may be food aggressive due to living on the streets, so they are all fed adlib. Adlib - meaning they learn there is food continually all the time so they learn they don't have to fight for food and don't develop aggression to compete. This means filling up bowls constantly all the time during the day/night. Eventually as they learn they don't have to compete, we reduce the food to twice a day (morning / night) in their pens at the shelter. Once they realise that there is always going to be food, they stop being so protective of it, especially if they are around a lot of other animals.
We recommend if introducing raw or cooked meat or tin food into their diet, we suggest feeding them at first separately from other existing pets. The animals are not used to these types of foods, so they may well react differently and be more competitive for it. If you have other pets, keeping them separate in different rooms or using a babygate /divider to start with when eating, will help them realise they do not have to compete, gradually reducing distance of the bowls on either side of gate to eventually removing gate.
All of the dogs and cats are wormed before leaving Bulgaria, but we advise to worm them again with either Panacur or Drontal Plus about 5 days after arriving, as they are walked in various places on the journey.
All dogs and cats are vaccinated, microchipped, wormed & flea treated before travelling. Each dog comes with their own EU Pet Passport. A Export Certificate will also be generated for TRACES. At the collection point, you will be given the animals EU Pet Passport.
Details of the animals vaccinations, any neuter/spay, microchip, tape worm treatment & other wormings and final health check, will be recorded in their Pet Passport.
The dogs/cats are given a combination vaccination to treat against common diseases/illness. Due to the requirements of the pet passport scheme before travelling all animals must be given as a “single dose” by itself of the rabies vaccination which is required. After the single rabies vaccination has been given, the animal can travel 21 days later to the UK and Netherlands.
Our dogs are vaccinated with:
Nobivac Rabies (after 12 weeks old)
Our cats are vaccinated with:
Purevax RCP (first shot & second shot)
Nobivac Rabies (after 12 weeks old)
Athough we prefer all our animals to be neutered/spayed before adoption this isn't always possible due to age and the fact that the vet is approximately a 8 hour round car drive from Rudozem. If your RSDR dog/cat has not been neutered by RSDR, as part of the terms in our adoption contract we require all our animals to be neutered within 4 months of being adopted. The usual requirement for neutering is about 6 months old, but you would have to check with your vet on the age recommended. Once your animal has been neutered, please advise RSDR by email or phone that they have been done so.
As part of our adoption contract, we ask you to register your animal on a Pet Register in your country. In the Netherlands we recommend registering with either Petlook or NDG.
In the UK, RSDR will register your animal with the Pet Register PETtrac for you. This is a service provided by PETtrac for rescues for free. The animal will be dual registered with both the adoptant and RSDR.
RSDR have had over 500 adoptions since 2009, when RSDR started. You can view on this page all the links to our animals success stories.
In the Netherlands and the UK, we try to arrange events for our adopted animals to come together at least once a year, usually in a dog walk or other event.
We will advise all our adoptants on our facebook page when the next event is organised or by email.