Wanda Dejnarowicz has been managing the Paluch animal shelter for five years.
Under her direction, the shelter was transformed from a run-down location into a modern establishment that can boast splendid results when it comes to finding new homes for its four-footed wards. Mrs. Dejnarowicz tells us about her work, the needs of the shelter and the assistance she has received from Dom Development.
How did you come upon the idea to ask Dom Development for support?
Actually, we didn’t have to ask. The company came forward on its own and suggested donating to us. Of course, I had to explain what expenditures would be made. We wanted to use the donation for something enduring and visible. For example, animal food is a budget contribution, so we should get that from the city instead.
So what did you use the donated amount for?
At that time, the shelter was being modernized and we were short of funds to carry out all our plans. The amount donated by Dom Development really came at the perfect moment. My decision was to enclose our drainage ditches, secure the stalls to avoid animals biting each other, and install an additional fencing span. This cost the majority of the amount we received. The remainder was used to provide medicinal and veterinarian treatments that needed to be performed offsite. We could not perform them at the shelter, as in 2006 it was more like a huge construction site. In that year, we had almost 500 animals under our care, more than in the previous year, and so the number of required treatments was proportionately higher.
Has the modernization been completed?
Yes, although there are still minor details that are regularly being fixed under statutory warranty. However, even though the shelter has been modernized, we are still facing the perennial challenge of insufficient space. It needs to be said that the ground on which the shelter is located is owned by the Capital City of Warsaw. It has a size of one hectare, suitable for holding 700 animals, while we now have 2,140 dogs under our care. As you can see from this, the site is crowded. Luckily, thanks to the kindness of nearby airports who have permitted us to use 3 hectares of their land, the animals do have some breathing room. We moved the oldest stalls there. Unfortunately, however, only 700 animals can live in the modernized section – all buildings at the shelter are adapted to handle no more than that figure. One of our fundamental rules is that we do not euthanize animals. We are fortunate to have an eighty percent adoption rate and that has been saving our skins, so to speak. As I have already mentioned, it's not so much about lacking food, because money for food can always be found somehow. The biggest challenge is ensuring a safe place for each animal and being able to provide medical treatments.
Each year, about 5,000 animals end up with us, a very large figure. Every animal we admit needs a lot of work: it must be vaccinated, chipped, given preventive care and usually medically treated. We socialize dogs and call each of them by name. Often, we need to work together with the police, for example when a dog is readmitted.
The shelter has a staff of almost 50. We are also assisted by volunteers whose role is mostly to walk the dogs. This is a challenging job, both physically and mentally. Not everyone is suited to it, but those who work here must respect and love animals. With such an attitude, shelter work can be extremely satisfying. This is especially the case when we admit a dog that is very sick but ends up fully healed before being adopted.
The adoption rate is indeed impressive. How do you manage to achieve that?
As I have already said, this is the result of work of many, many people. We derive additional satisfaction from the fact that even dogs over ten years old are getting adopted. We are, however, focusing on quality, because proper adoption ensures that the animal will not return to us.
Whenever possible, we try to make background checks and verify who is adopting our animals. We must not expose them to hurt, but unfortunately people's motivations vary. It must be remembered that adopting a pet means a duty that may last as much as a dozen or more years. It's not just as simple as walking in and taking an animal away. Each prospective adopter must sign an agreement with us.
Are donors such as private persons, companies and institutions eager to provide assistance?
We are a budget unit of the Capital City of Warsaw and receive funds from the city budget. Of course, there are always some needs that we cannot foresee. In such cases, we go out and look for institutions that can help. There are also many people, usually wishing to remain anonymous, who donate cash to our bank account, and we also earn funds from adoptions. Everyone who wants to adopt a pet has to pay a contribution to the shelter. These contributions are minor but total about PLN 200,000 each year. Some of our most valuable visitors include pensioners who, despite their meager income, regularly pay a monthly contribution of 10 PLN. It must be remembered that, apart from the financial cost, this is quite an effort for them: they need to visit the post office, fill out the transfer form, wait in the queue etc. There are some very touching stories too, for example there was a lady who had lost her dog. She had been looking for him for two weeks and when she finally found him, she handed over all her salary to us, even though she likely had nothing to live on. When we refused to take the money, she said that recovering her pet was more important than anything else. And this was as plain as day when they saw each other, you could see it. Of course large donations such as those offered by Dom Development are another matter entirely: they allow us to conduct specific actions and plan larger undertakings.
What are the most pressing needs of the shelter right now?
The most important thing is space. We are going to try to extend our agreement with the airports. Money is also important because we need to put stalls into unused spaces. But, first and foremost, we want people to start thinking and become responsible, because only responsible behavior can reduce the number of pets ending up here. This is our greatest dream. The fewer animals we admit, the more we can make life comfortable for those that are already here.
And this is exactly my wish for you and your shelter. Thank you for the interview.
Publication date: 08.04.2014