When I left for my internship in Georgia in February 2019, I had no idea that I was about to witness a whole new level of animal cruelty and lack of animal welfare. As much as I enjoy the country, the culture and the people, the circumstances many of the country’s animals are living in makes it unbearable to witness.
During my first month, I had tried to comfort frozen, underweight puppies in Kakheti, tried to make sure stray dogs were not hit by cars whenever I left my home, I went to the supermarket and bought whatever decent meat I could find to feed the starving dogs outside the local shops. The sheer number of stray animals made me think twice about traveling around in Georgia, it was just too horrible to see.
In a desperate attempt to find someone to help me change this nightmare of an animal welfare situation, I went on google to see if there were any organizations close to my flat in Tbilisi that would be working on these issues. Luckily, and because of the good reviews, I found GSPSA. On a rainy Saturday in April, I went to visit the shelter and it changed my life in so many ways. Nowadays I’m a proud member of this wonderful organization and trying hard to make a change for the better for animals in Georgia. I’m also in the process of adopting a dog, Belka, from the shelter. Something I urge you to do as well if you can. It is of massive help both for the dog, GSPSA and your own mental health.
However, GSPSA is much more than a dog shelter. Apart from housing 52 traumatized dogs in their shelter, they are working hard on rescuing animals from the most awful living conditions, as well as reviewing existing and new legal frameworks for animal welfare in Georgia, as these are not always seeking what’s best for the animals in the country. For example, laws including fines on animal cruelty are not enforced.
As for most organizations operating in Georgia, the lack of funding is one of the most difficult challenges to overcome as there are no domestic funding opportunities. I’m fundraising for the shelter since my first visit in April and regularly try to transfer the money raised. I’m also a Guardian from a Distance to Anano, a great way of supporting a dog in need of help if you cannot adopt one.
Sometimes it feels like nothing will ever change, but persistence is key in this issue and I know GSPSA has achieved some massive changes since the organization was founded 17 years ago. I know how much of a difference it makes in terms of raising awareness about animal welfare and biodiversity in Georgia and I know how much I want to be a part of making that change!
GSPSA consists of a handful of staff and several volunteers, working day and night on rescue missions, feeding abandoned dogs in the forests around Tbilisi, assisting individuals who have found injured or sick stray animals with medication or transportation as well as trying to get as many animals as possible adopted.
It is so easy to think that “this is not my responsibility”, “this won’t make a difference”, “if I donate money it will be used to cover salaries”, but in this case, it isn’t true. Your engagement in GSPSA will make a difference for both animals and people involved, it will lead to a Georgia with fewer cases of animal cruelty and a deeper understanding of the general public why things such as animal welfare and biodiversity matter. Tillsammans kan vi flytta berg (Together we can move mountains)!
Maria Pettersson - member of GSPSA and volunteer from Sweden.
Photo collage from Maria's volunteering period in GSPSA