Anja Stein, Germany (Rolda voulanteer)
I volunteered for 5 weeks work experience at ROLDA in Galati, I personally witnessed and experienced the following during my time there.
In the Small Shelter (called Adopt Centre) this houses approx. 40 – 50 dogs, alarmingly there is only one employee who has to handle all dogs alone.
The kennels houses up to 3 dogs (if the dogs are small). There is a retreat and the dogs can daily run in the group.
The Adopt Centre is a good shelter. It has burdened me that there was no shade in the runs. In the summer it gets very hot in Romania (up to 45° C) and the dogs were lying panting. With the help of another volunteer, we built (in May) from a dismantled ceiling and other materials a small makeshift shelter. The employee said that one shade would be installed later. On the YouTube video “Carmel in Small Shelter (Adopt Centre)” now saw (in August !), no other shade than the one we had built. This means that the approx. 15 – 18 dogs are probably still arguing at about 3 square meters for a shady spot.
The whole area is contaminated with mouse barley and neither Dana Costin nor the employee know about the dangerousness for dogs . Perhaps it´s these mice barley fault that some dogs have strange bumps and eye or ear problems. I’ve explained Dana Costin and the employee about it and maybe next year they can avoid the flowering of this grass.
There is no supervisor at night at the Adopt Centre as you would expect for emergency cases.
The “Best Animal Shelter” predicate awarded by Merritt Clifton can only refer to the Adopt Centre, because the Large Shelter was still under construction at his first visit.
The Large Shelter is a camp and basically far from a “home”. Up to seven dogs are housed in one kennel.
I saw Dogs only skin and bones. Dogs with scares or wounds, sometimes old, sometimes fresh. Some with bloody ears, others with pieces of flesh hanging form them . . .
Through the bars between the kennels sometimes it comes to vicious biting attacks, often ending fatally for the victim. The victims could also be a puppy or a pregnant dog. In one of these attacks I have witnessed. Four dogs had bitten into a long-haired bitch in the neighbouring kennel. This dog was literally being pulled through the bars and screamed horribly. If we had not have intervened she would never have been able to free herself or get away from the attack. One of the bars was broken, so the hole was bigger than usual. Dana Costin said sometimes the men find in the morning a dead dog. Myself and other volunteers nagged Dana and the staff there to repair the mesh in that kennel to avoid that another dog being dragged through the wire mesh by neighbouring dogs. Dana left it for 3 days until this wire fence was repaired, but it is the same all over the kennels. The Romanians are very slow in reacting of instructions and consultingresistant, too.
The space between the front grille of each kennel is big enough for dogs to stick their heads through but not big enough to escape. For some animals they stick their heads through the gaps and are found dead in the morning, this was another regular occurrence I was told, yet nothing was done about it.
I saw vulnerable pregnant or lactating mothers in kennels with adult dogs, male and female for them it was especially hard. Also when the mother dogs have been able to defend the lives of their puppies, when suckling them they are constantly wary of the other dogs in the cage with them, always on the defensive keeping guard and this has led to their milk drying up and are unable to feed their pups who then die. Also problems between bonding between some females and their pups arise because of the aggressive and unsuitable environment they have been forced to give birth in, to fee their pups etc.
For the puppies that do survive this stage, they are left undernourished and full of ticks. Also puppies are regularly found dead in neighbouring kennels where they have slipped through the gaps or holes in the fencing and have been unable to make it back the safety of their mother. If I imagine how distressing it is for the mother to watch as she sees her puppies being ripped to pieces and she cannot reach them to help. It is horrible!
Other vulnerable dogs who are old or need medical treatment are deprived of individual attention, they are not allocated separate kennels, time and are treated no different to any of their dogs in those kennels.
The staff only clean the kennels and feed the dogs. Feeding means to throw dry food onto the cleaned ground. This type of feeding means low ranking, weak, old or sick dogs and puppies have no chance to get enough food and this is clearly seen to be the case yet Dana and the staff though time and again made aware of this by myself and other volunteers failed to do anything about it. I’ve seen some dogs that were just skin and bones and I do not doubt are dead now.
Each kennel has a retreat area that is to close by a metal door. The refuge consists of four windowless walls. Some of the doors were closed. I demanded on one occasion that a door to one kennel be open and to our horror an old, scarred bloodhound-like dog came out, crept to the water bowl (there were about 28° C), drank and crept back into the room. Behind him, the metal door was closed. The reason why the dog had to stay locked up inside the windowless, dark room without water, we never really found out because of the language barriers. However there could be no reason for imprisoning a dog poorly or not inside that oven. We demanded that the other doors in the kennels be opened but we were unable to make us understand and so the doors stayed close. Whether there was a dog behind each of those doors I can´t say with certainty, but regardless of this, with the doors closed which they were in each kennel, the space for the dogs to move around was halved and meant no real escape from the sun.
We debated and discussed with Dana Costin about our suggestions and considerations what could contribute to improve the lives of dogs. But all were rejected by Dana Costin as not feasible. Few days later, after a lot of discussions Dana said that even with more money for food they wouldn´t get fed more than they were now, because it is paid by ArcelorMittal. Also structural measures wouldn´t be allowed by ArcelorMittal.
Two volunteers bought a lot of dry and canned food and feed the most needy, skinny dogs in the Large Shelter. Some dogs couldn’t be fed, they were too afraid. They pushed against the wall and were very rigid and stiff. A dog squeezed between two other dogs, and looked away from us into the kennels edge. Motionless! When we came back after about 10 minutes, he stood still like before. Staring into the corner without moving. Our hearts were aching from the sight fo this poor dog!
A volunteer asked Dana Costin to bring a mother dog that suckled her puppies to Adopt centre, so it could nurse the pups in peace. As I have previously mentioned, regardless whether pregnant, giving birth or suckling their puppies bitches are put into the same kennel with several adult dogs. Dana Costin said she would let them bring to Adopt Centre on Monday. The volunteer left on Saturday. The bitch with the puppies arrived either on Monday or on Tuesday, my day of departure in the Adopt Centre. One week later she was still not there, even though Dana Costin had promised.
The dogs in Large Shelter never get out. Although this is understandable, because the large number of dogs and too few staff, but terribly sad for the animals either way. Some dogs have been given up on just left to rot. They were not emaciated, they were only lying without any moving. Apathetic and motionless. Depressed!
This all took place in May, so I can´t understand how Carmel, the volunteer from UK can now, 3 months later, act as if she were in a paradise for dogs. Hasn’t she seen the dogs were just skin and bones? And where were the old and sick dogs? On the video you’ve seen no apathetic, panicked and shaking dogs. I don´t know what Carmel all has seen, but the small part from the Large Shelter that was visible in the video, looked like a backdrop, a scenery. On one side were to see an empty kennel in construction (where were the dogs?) and on the other side were to see almost empty kennel – in relation to May. The dogs were friendly, inquisitive and “normal”. And one or two dogs were running around. All these dogs – the dogs in kennels and the dog(s) running around – were selected specimens. Selected dogs to give a false image of what really dogs are like at that place!
Dana Costin is proud to announce she has a no kill shelter. This is only indirect true. The dogs are not actively killed, but it is known they starve to death slowly or bite themselves. On the road, the dogs had at least one more chance to find food or being fed by humans. But in captivity with dominant dogs in a kennel, it is hopeless and only a matter of time when they are dying. It is also worth noting that the majority of the dogs at the large shelter are not simply strays that have been rescued by kind individuals. These dogs are the ones that have had the misfortune of wandering onto steelplants property, now he has them collected to die an even slower death in the large shelter.
The collars, leashes and toys requested on the ROLDA website are not used. The collected and still incoming items are in travel bags and boxes piled in the cottage. Literally to the rafters. I asked, why they don´t delete this items from website, Dana Costin said, that more volunteers would come some day and the material would be used, but this did not make any sense and I doubt if they are in use this day.
No volunteer got to see the home of Dana Costin. When I was at ROLDA at Easter and asked if I could even see her home and her workplace, she showed me her mother’s apartment, the official ROLDA address.
Even when the cottage was overcrowded with 6 people, she didn’t offer one of us to sleep in her home. Dana Costin reasoned, her dog doesn’t like strangers and she does not want to lock it in the bathroom. On the other hand, she wasn’t squeamish when it concerned to the emotional or physical welfare of dogs in the kennels she manages.
When Siri, a Norwegian volunteer refused to take a totally terrified dog with her on their flight home and instead of this take another dog who has to fly one week later, it ends in an tearfully discussion – on volunteer side. Ultimately, the anxious dog (in fear making pee) would be sent by cargo without an escort.
The paralysed Rudy had to have the same experience. He was terribly afraid of men, so I wanted to accompany him on my lap to the airport. It´s a journey of 3,5 hours. Shortly before Rudy´s departure Dana Costin told me that it wouldn´t work, because there was only space for two people in the car. And so it ended up Dana forced this dog Rudy to sit on the lap of a male employee staring at me completely shocked and stiff with fear with huge eyes. Dana Costin said: “He had to learn! Why not yet!”
After my return to Germany, I wrote a report about my volunteer work and Dana Costin published it on the ROLDA website. Also on Facebook, I told only of my positive experience. With my report I would like to animate more volunteers to go to ROLDA to give the dogs activity and attention. I thought, the deficiencies resulted from a lack of money.
After publication of my report several people told me independently their bad experiences with Dana Costin. First, I didn’t want hear. However after a while I could no longer ignore the newly created image of Dana Costin and asked Dana herself about the changes that had not been done. Her response to my specific questions ultimately confirmed (unfortunately) exactly what many have come to expect of Dana Costin, deflection, accusations and excuses. Because under these circumstances I choose not to support ROLDA any longer, and because of the new evidence confirming my own experiences at Rolda.
I have asked Dana Costin twice to remove my name and my report from the ROLDA website. But as expected, she ignored my legal right. Although Romania has a data protection law and she is criminally liable, she has again only her own advantage in mind and is using my report wrongfully on her website. Last week I wrote to the NATIONAL AUTHORITY FOR PERSONAL DATA PROCESSING and now I´ve to wait what will happens.
I state the above is a true and accurate account of what I witnessed and experienced as a volunteer at ROLDA / Dana Costin.
Anja Stein, Germany