We got them out in the nick of time. As the five street dogs, smuggled by The Mail on Sunday out of a notorious state-run pound in Romania, were being readied for their journey to the UK, the shelter shut its doors to charity workers, who feared the notorious ‘Butcher’ vet, Dr Avram, was killing the animals inside.
Fifty demonstrators descended on the compound, but no one was allowed inside. A picture of the body of a dead dog inside an empty sack was later published in local newspapers.
Six weeks ago, I travelled to Romania to highlight the terrible plight of the country’s three million street dogs, many of which are starving, targeted by drivers, and routinely kicked, stoned and beaten.
Saviours: Liz Jones, right, and K-9 Angel Pola Pospieszalska with dogs Hilda and Spot, who were rescued from Romania
Reunited: Liz Jones is handed her Romanian rescue dog Hilda by Dana Puscoci from pet charity ELI for Animals
Alongside me were Victoria Eisermann, 42, Anneka Tanaka-Svenska, 39, and Pola Pospieszalska, 32, the founders of British-based charity, K-9 Angels, set up in 2011 to help stray dogs in Eastern Europe and dogs bred for meat in Thailand
It was these three very determined women who showed me that, while life is tough for Romania’s street dogs, their fate is often much worse if they are caught by the state’s pounds.
When we visited the shelter in Craiova, two hours from the capital Bucharest, the filth and the overcrowding was shocking. And when the ‘Butcher’ vet lifted an ancient, frail little grey dog up by her hind leg, I knew that I had to save her.
Near death: Hilda had been dehydrated, starving, and suffering from hypothermia when Liz found her in a shelter in Craiova
We later crept out of the pound with this sorry bundle wrapped in a sweater, along with her four cage companions: Spotty Dog, a collie-cross puppy, Bobby, a Bassett cross, Mabel, a gorgeous blonde, and Sad Eyes Angel, a nondescript brown scruff.
At a private veterinary clinic, the little grey dog, which I named Hilda, was found to be dehydrated, starving, and suffering from hypothermia. Bobby had an open wound, while Spotty had parvovirus, which can be fatal.
All have since been treated, inoculated, given passports and microchips – and a ticket to a new life
At 8.30am yesterday I, along with the other adoptive parents – all Mail on Sunday readers moved by reading about the dogs’ plights – were at Dover.
Mabel is being taken by Scott and Ros Stewart, from Sheffield, while Sad Eyes Angel was being picked up by Susan and Ian Blann, from Southampton.
Bobby is being fostered until he can be taken home with Pamela Gosling, also from Southampton.
As they arrived, I glimpsed them in the back in their cages. They had changed almost beyond recognition; Spot has put on loads of weight, and Hilda seems to have grown some decidedly fluffy fur.
Holding them in my arms, remembering how close they had been to death, made all the hard work worth it.
Happy families: Liz Jones and Hilda, centre, with fellow new owners, left to right, Ros Stewart with Mable, Scott Stewart with Spot, Susan Blann with Angel and Ian Blann with Bobby
They were tired, but no longer scared or aggressive. Their new owners were soon in tears
But it is not an entirely happy ending. On our visit to Romania, we also spotted six animals we christened ‘the dogs in the dark’. They had been kept in a cage, completely in darkness, for two years.
Since my initial article was published on April 28, three have been liberated thanks to the £7,000 raised by generous Mail on Sunday readers. But there are still three dogs left behind. To save them and for more information, visit k-9angels.org.
To the rescue: Liz Jones with K-9 Angels Pola Pospieszalska, Victoria Eisermann, Namu Madalima and Anekka Svenska rescuing dogs in a state dog pound in Craiova, Romania