Reporter: Hello, Ms Petra Ciocan. We are in Stanesti.
Petra Ciocan: Yes, Stanesti, Giurgiu county.
R: How many dogs you have here, in this shelter?
P: There are 2 locations. I have 498 dogs now.
R: I wish them all good health! P: Thank you!
R: When did you start in this activity?
P: I loved dogs all my life. And I love all animals. I started by taking care of the dogs in the public shelter. My husband helped me buying food for them and I was going there every day, when Veneciuc was the administrator of the public shelter here, in Giurgiu. At a certain moment, even I was getting help from my husband, I could not manage any more to buy food for all of them every day. This was happening in 2009.
R: So you practically started in 2009.
P: As it was becoming quite difficult, I started to ask people to help me with the dogs, especially those of Veneciuc. This is how I got in touch with a Swiss organization. They first came here in March 2011, they saw my work and the dogs in the streets. I did now own at that time any location, any shelter of my own.
R: How many dogs were here at that time?
P: Over 300, in the public shelter. I cannot remember exactly, but I was taking care of dogs in the streets, in the field too, and I was feeding them every day. This is how I started to work with this Swiss organization. The president of the Swiss organization donated me some money to buy a 13.700 sqm land to build a dog shelter on it, here, in Stanesti village. I bought this land and we started the construction of a private shelter. In August 2012 (or 2011, I cannot remember exactly), they came on site along with a group of volunteers from Germany, we started to build on that land, the first “guests’’ were 4 puppies, we were not having a surrounding fence, we did not have anything, and my husband was living there with the puppies. The first thing we did after we bought the land was building a fountain, because the first thing you have to do when is to bring in some dogs is to have current water. We paid for this with our own money, nobody helped us with anything. It cost us 700 euros. ……. P: I bought the land with the money donated by the president of the Swiss organization, so in fact this land belongs to her. In September, after we started to build, the president of this organization was removed by some villain people from a German organization, whose name is now Ein bisschen wärme Deutchland. In 2011, without telling her the reasons why she was removed, a new organization with the same name was created in Germany, nobody asked me if I wanted to continue the collaboration with the Swiss organization or to start with the new one in Germany, the Germans decided on their own, the lady in Switzerland was told that I did not want to work with her, and I was told the lady in Switzerland did not want to work with me.
R: Have you managed to find out the truth?
P: I found out the truth, yes. I was not asked about anything.
R: What do you think it really happened?
P: I suppose they had other kind of purposes. (…) I can say we had a good collaboration, I could not say the contrary, there have been some incidents, as always, especially when 2 different nations work together there are always contradictions, we had some minor incidents.
R: The main thing is that it was good for the dogs.
P: Yes, it was good for the dogs. Until a certain moment, in May last year.
R: What happened exactly?
P: There is a lady, Catrin Catte Zander. In May 2014, this Catrin Catte Zander was asking me to do a lot of things for the dogs, and I was not having the possibility to help them. More exactly, I was separated from my husband, because of the dogs, of course, because we had an apartment we bought with a credit, and I was spending all the incomes of the family with the dogs, we could not pay the credit anymore, therefore the bank auctioned our apartment. It was normal to have such problems in a marriage, especially because of the lack of money and because somebody in the family spends all his incomings only for the dogs. I was being asked to do things for the dogs, and I was not able to do it, I was telling them: “I have no means to do it. I am not receiving any donations, all the donations are sent to you. I needed to build kennels for the dogs. It is not efficient to build kennels in straws, because it is a useless spending. They break up, the dogs tear them up and so on. Let’s build something durable. Because we cannot build the same kennels every year.
R: What was her answer?
P: That she did not care, I had to do it. And then she started to denigrate me on Facebook, in May.
R: So she was aware of your financial difficulties and she kept on?
P: I don’t know if she was aware, she probably thought I had tens of thousands of euros that I don’t want to spend with the dogs. Therefore, on the 2nd of June, representatives of this organization came here. When they came here in June they saw the situation on site, the dogs were very well.
R: Who came?
P: Catrin Catte Zander, her husband Mark Turau and Markus Gartner, the president of this organisation. At that time they came with the proposal to sell the land. I told them: ‘’this land was not bought with my money. If you want to buy this land, please contact the person who donated for it, Angela Notz, from Switzerland. Because she paid for tis land. Even if it is on my name and the papers are on my name. I will always agree that this land does not belong to me, if Angela wants me to give it back to her, I will agree with any objection, because this land does not belong to me. Even though it is mine on paper. So they left, decided to start all over again, no matter the problems, to live the past behind and take care of the dogs. … They told me they had 1.800 euros in the organisation’s accounts for neutering. These money have never been spent for neutering. I asked her where the money was, 5 minutes later she told us it was in the organization’s accounts.
R: I don’t understand, what was the money used for?
P: It was left in the organizations accounts. I don’t understand why, they just told me that they wanted to use them for neutering.
R: And have there been neutering at that time?
P: Only the ones that I paid for. A few neutering that I paid for, only the ones that I could pay for. This location from the ancient mill in Stanesi, with the mayor and the owner’s permission, they let us stay here. First, I wanted to make a quarantine for the sick dogs we rescued or for our dogs who get sick, because it happens. They haven’t asked me to pay any rent until December last year.
P: Because I knew the mayor and he told me I didn’t have to pay any rent.
R: Maybe because he is an animal lover too?
P: Probably. In August, more exactly on the 13th of August, I will never forget this day in my life, at night, my husband was here. He was taking care of the dogs here. He heard somebody whistling at the gate, maybe it was somebody who knew what was going on: if the dogs hear somebody whistle at the gate, they all go over there. It was very easy to come in from here, we had just finished to clean up, it was very clean, we had also arranged to get in water for the construction of the new site (a kind of clinic). Nobody was by the gate, all the dogs went over there, the person probably jumped from there, because there was no fence. My husband came into the house and 30 minutes later he heard a very loud thud, and when he went out, the building was on fire.
R: So practically this is the building that went on fire that night?
P: Yes. At 2.30, he called the firemen, the connection was lost, I don’t know what happened, the lady from the emergency calls did not forward the call to the firemen, and there was a lady on the road who saw the fire and also called the firemen. My husband called me at 2.50 o tell me to call the firemen.
R: What happened eventually that night?
P: Eventually, the firemen managed to reach. We had in the building on fire 4 tons of dog food that burnt almost completely. A week later, I made a lot of calls for help because I did not have food for so many dogs.
R: What was the organization in Germany saying?
P: They wanted us to make lists for them, and that was all.
R: Lists of what?
P: Lists of materials or whatever we needed. But if they saw my posts where I was saying I needed food…
R: The building burnt completely, as I can see.
P: Exactly. I posted the photos of the burnt food, why did they need me to tell them again what I needed, when they saw clearly I needed food? It was not difficult at all to realize I was out of food for 500 dogs. I made a lot of calls for help, nobody came in to help me.
R: Nobody helped you?
P: Absolutely nobody, for 2 weeks. I was crying at home with my husband, wondering what we were going to feed our dogs with. We borrowed money. It is not a problem, we will pay it back.
R: You borrowed from the bank?
P: No, from certain people. We did it in order to be able to feed the dogs. About one week later, Ms Oana Virga came to us with some German people, to help us.
R: You knew her?
P: I didn’t know her.
R: So she contacted you?
P: Yes. She came here, at the gate. My husband was here alone, I was in Bucharest, to pick up a German journalist. Eventually, the food had arrived, about 2 weeks after the event, I had thanked on Facebook the pictures of the food and my thanking. My husband knows a little German, but not enough to make the difference between an adult dog and a puppy in German, he calls them all ‘’dogs’’, adults and puppies as well. And he told the Germans ‘’we have food, but we need food for the puppies’’. He calls ‘’hunde’’ all the dogs. He also asked Oana Virga to tell the Germans we need food for the puppies. I told her the same thing on the phone: to explain to the Germans that we needed food for the puppies. I called her 3 or 4 times and asked her to help us with food for the puppies.
R: What did she do?
P: We received no answer. I was slandered on “Echipa anti-trafic’’ page….. ….
R: The month when Oana Virga interfered.
P: Exactly the month when Oana Virga interfered, my relation with this foreign organization changed completely. Our collaboration stopped since the 26th of September.
R: And what did you do?
P: The same problem, again. 500 dogs left alone, with no food. We borrowed money again and we are still paying for this debts. It was extremely difficult, but we didn’t want to give up. We were very upset, because of the stress and the problems. I could not say we have never made any mistake in my relations with the former organisation, everybody makes mistakes….
One cannot of 500 dogs. You must have employees, from what salary? As a volunteer you can’t ask the people to work with the dogs for your sake, but, I do it and anybody else can do it! They come for money! Oana Virga together with some Germans I did’t know came, without telling me, pretending they wanted help us.
R: Why are you saying that?
P: Because they haven’t helped us, they left and started to slander us, this was their help, probably trying to force us give up on the dogs.
R: Did you know Oana Virga?
P: No, I did not know her. Afterwards I tried to contact her to ask if she can help us with food for the puppies, she never replied, that was probably the whole idea. She only took some photos, just like the others that copied photos from my Facebook account, and they did fundraising events in our behalf, without giving us any kind of help.
R: Ms Oana Virga’s intentions were to denigrate you, not to help?!
P: Yes, these were her intentions.
R: What happened next?
P: Further on, we were insulted and threatened this Facebook page (I don’t want to mention its name, it doesn’t deserve it), offended and threatened with death.
P: They were saying we are animal abusers. As you can see for yourselves, we are big animal abusers! Even if my personal life was destroyed, my house destroyed with 18 dogs and 17 cats in a 44 square metres apartment that does not belong to us anymore (if anyone buys it we will be thrown in the street), they considered us abusing the animals by losing our house, live, everything.
R: So the purpose of this visit was to denigrate you?
R: But what was their interest?
P: You can see the interests now, because the organisation I was with, the one that left 500 dogs without EBW help, moved with Oana Virga. This was the interest.
R: Oana Virga has a shelter herself?
P: She breeds Great Dane as I know. She breeds them in order to sell them. Breeding and selling. Probably the people, seeing what was happening to the stray dogs in Romania, started adopting those ones, instead of bying pure breed. Maybe their profit went low.
R: Oana Virga owns only a breeding shelter?
P: I don’t know, I didn’t care about what other people were doing. I had my dogs, this was my concern, taking care of my own. The others didn’t interested me unless I was involving as I could in specific situations. I helped a lot of dogs, also food for when I had it, without asking for money to go there. “The Diary of a Volunteer’’ can confirm that, I travelled several times to Bucharest to give them bags with food.
R: How long after Oana Virga interfered did you stop your collaboration with EBW?
P: Almost a month after. They lied on their Facebook page that I had 15 tons of food, I had only 3. They started again to slander me, they told donors I was abusing the animals and to stop helping me. From September and until November, nobody helped me!
R: What the organisation pretended to be the reason?
P: I was working with them with receipts. I was sending the receipts, they were sending me the money. We were only working like this, with receipts and invoices. Catrin Catte Zander, after she left from here, the next 4 months, she was only giving to me half of the amount back. That is how we were left with borrowed money, with debts.
R: So they were paying you back what you were spending?
P: Exactly, but only a half! They argued that they were not paying retroactively. They received everything from me. In September I sent Catrin Catte Zander 1000 euros receipts and invoices, she sent me back 500 euros.
R: So your relationship with the organisation changed the month when Oana Virga interfered?
P: Yes, indeed! Then is when the relationship changed. I stopped collaborating with them the 26th of September, I was left alone again with 500 dogs, and other debts that we are still paying now. It was very hard, but we didn’t give up. But from leaving 500 dogs without support and moving to a Breeding kennel is a huge difference. You can’t call yourself an animal rescuing organisation if you leave 500 dogs with no food.
R: How many dogs do you have in the shelter?
P: 200 here and 300 at the other location. Catrin Catte Zander, after leaving here on the 15th of September, saw the dogs with demodicosis because of the stress. As I said before, from the night with the fire, their immune system dropped, because of the lack of food, the stress … we struggled to treat them without money. My only solution was Ivermectin. I didn’t have money for other treatment.
R: Have you tried asking for help on Facebook?
P: Yes, I didn’t want to denigrate the organisation I had worked with, so I sent them private messages telling them about how the dogs were feeling, and that they needed treatment. But after the fire, Oana Virga’s implication, my denigration, my Facebook page was closed and I was left with no proofs. They posted photos with my dogs, saved by the other organisation that I sent pictures to, showing how the dogs are, that we have to do something about this if they care how my dogs are, or any dog in general. But I don’t believe they care, from what I saw, they proved they care less about these dogs, they were merely another money source. Considering that Catrin Catte Zander is unemployed, and her husband opened a car service in Germany, lying to us it was with the European funds received by some Bulgarian guy (but the car service was opened in Germany). Since November, another organisation came to visit me with a good friend of mine, a journalist in Germany, who had come previously in March as well and saw that I care about the dogs, and in August after the fire. She also asked this organisation to help me, I gave her the receipts to send them the organisation and I told them that they gave me only half back. In November, they saw that I care for the dogs and they said they wanted to help me. They sent me a helpful hand, for which I am very grateful!
R: Now you are with them?
P: Yes, I am with them, you can see that the dogs are doing well, we started the spaying, that were supposed to be done last year. People should not believe everything on Facebook, I saw that they did the same with Kola, trying to denigrate him as they have done to me. The dogs are the ones to suffer from this, not me! I can start over with my life, but what about the 500 dogs? Or where will Kola put the hundreds of dogs? No one will come to take them, especially not a particular person! They sent the DSV in control, and I got a fine instead of help. I would have done a lot of things with that money for the dogs. I do no harm, I don’t want to, because I know that I am hurting the dogs and this is the difference between me and them! A harm can be done quickly!
R: Practically, it was a denigration campaign.
P: Against me and Kola, because we have hundreds of dogs, they are thinking that we are getting thousands of euros on monthly donations, and the other ones, favourites of a certain page, are left on the side. I give them my donations, I had 40 euros in one month, if they can manage with 500 dogs, I allow them to replace me anytime they want. I give them my dogs and my life, which isn’t a life anymore. … it is lost, I come here to dogs, I go home to dogs…
R: What you are telling us is shocking!
P: This was meant to happen from August, we were the ones accused of setting fire. What for? The place isn’t even mine! We are now forced to buy. They said that the former organisation paid rents of 400 euros. This is not true, we are paying rent here from December last year, and the rent is paid by the new organisation, not by EWB. They said that I have a salary, I don’t! I had 610 euros that I had to pay 4 employees with.
R: You have some bills to pay here, water, electricity, employees. Who has a shelter knows this.
P: The dogs don’t live with air! Apart from food and water, there are many things to be paid. One cannot take care of 500 dogs, on his own, employees are needed. They need to get paid. They do not come as volunteers, I can’t ask people to come and work for the dogs. I do, but they come for the money. I want the dogs to have a life, to get adopted, living in a shelter is not a life for them!
R: Whoever wants to adopt a dog from you, how can they reach you?
PC: My Facebook page is PETRA CIOCAN the phone number is published there. Anyone can contact me, if they want to adopt a dog from me, with the biggest pleasure, of course with the proper checks and an adoption contract.
R: Thank you Ms Petra Ciocan for this little interview.
PC: Thank you very much!