Teen dog rescuer exposes horrific shelter ‘raking in thousands using Facebook’
A British schoolgirl blew the whistle on a Romanian charity that allegedly milked a fortune from Facebook pet lovers while letting almost 100 animals die of neglect.
Katrina Neve, now 16, managed to save 17 dogs from appalling conditions after she did a volunteer stint with her mother at the Rainbow Shelter.
The pair, who were horrified at the cruelty they witnessed, alerted an animal rescue team who carried out an undercover raid.
They say they found 69 dogs and around 30 cats starved to death in a pit behind the charity headquarters – a former abattoir 30 miles from the capital, Bucharest.
The shelter’s boss, Bogdan Cepoiu, has now been reported to police who are investigating the organisation.
Katrina said: “I have always loved animals. I want to be a vet so I decided I to go out there and help after seeing an appeal for volunteers on Facebook.
“But what I saw was disgusting. Someone has blood on their hands. The animals were in a terrible state. The dogs were so hungry they were fighting each other for scraps.
“Many had cuts on their noses, faces and ears from bites.
“They were all clearly distressed and living with faeces everywhere.”
Her mum Helen, a 52-year-old nurse, added: “All the animals were very malnourished. Some were so skinny you could see their ribs.”
The shelter – in the pretty village of Prejmer in Brasov County – attracts animal lovers like Katrina and Helen on social media by describing itself as a “safe place” in a country which has one of the biggest street dog problems in Europe.
Charity The UK Pack Project is believed to have made substantial donations of money raised through
its own Facebook appeals.
A source claims Rainbow Shelter took donations totalling at least £11,000 from kind-hearted members of the public.
It has previously held an online auction to help fund bills and rent on its Facebook page.
But as soon as Katrina and Helen arrived at the shelter, they say they realised it was far from “safe”.
Katrina, who had saved up all her Christmas and pocket money for the 10-day trip last April, which cost £1,000 between them, says: “The animals were feral and some were being kept in a freezing cold yard.
“The shelter was in an awful state of disrepair.”
She and her mum were so concerned about one dog – who they say had a weeping, infected eye socket – they adopted her themselves.
They sent her to another local rescue shelter, paid vet bills to treat her infection and had her transported to the UK.
After they got back to Britain, Katrina and Helen then alerted an animal rescue group on Facebook – The Good Guide To Romanian Dog Rescue – to conditions at Rainbow Shelter.
Five volunteers from the group went on a rescue mission in January. They said what greeted them was “beyond imagination”.
A spokeswoman for the page, who wants to remain anonymous, said: “Many of the dead animals looked as if other dogs had tried to feed off their bodies to survive.
"They were in a varied state of decomposition with some being dead for months. There were black bags of remains strewn about.”
The team found bags of blankets, toys and dry food – which appeared to have been sent by kind-hearted animal lovers – lying nearby unopened.
“There were pallets of wet and dry food, bedding and blankets found in the shelter, but they hadn’t been given to the dogs,” said the spokeswoman.
“All the survivors were suffering from severe dehydration, although the ones outside had fared better having access to the snow.
“Those incarcerated in the building had little chance so it was a miracle any of these survived.” She said the 16 dogs Katrina and her mum’s quick-thinking saved in addition to Angel have now been placed in other shelters.
The spokeswoman added: “One of the people now looking after the animals said the dogs were so weak many could not stand and he had to hold up their heads to enable them to drink water.
“Another rescuer who took some
of these dogs had them thoroughly checked by her vet.
“The diagnosis was ‘deep starvation’. All the dogs were less than half their expected body weight.”
Animals at the shelter were strays rescued from government pounds – nicknamed “kill shelters” – where they were waiting to be put down. The UK Pack Project is now planning legal action to recoup fundraising money it donated to the shelter.
A Project spokeswoman said: “We went to Brasov to make a formal police complaint about Bogdan Cepiou of Rainbow Shelter last week and we are pursuing a legal case against him.”
Cepoiu, who is in his thirties, was questioned after Helen flew out with an animal welfare charity boss to give statements last week. Regional police and officials from the Brasov Veterinary Sanitary Division confirmed they were investigating what Katrina and Helen had uncovered at the shelter.
A police spokesman said: “Policemen at the Prejmer station have been notified that a number of dog cadavers were found in the village.
“On the basis of a complaint, a task force was set up and moved to the designated location, with on-site research being carried out. The building was sealed and specialists will carry out thorough research and sampling.
“We are carrying out investigations into the offence of killing animals intentionally, without right.” Roman-ian dog rescue is big business in Britain since the EU made it easier to bring in animals in 2012.
It is not known exactly how many dogs are imported from Eastern European countries as Government statistics on dog imports include commercially bred puppies.
But in 2014, 2,616 dogs were brought in, while the figure was 15,548 last year.
Helen, of Littlehampton, West Sussex, is now warning fellow animal lovers to be careful about giving money to organisations they know little about.
She said: “Anyone thinking of making donations to foreign animal welfare needs to thoroughly research the organisation and its charitable trust. And they need to find out evidence of how the money is spent.”
Katrina is just glad that something is being done about what she and her mum uncovered. She is so glad she managed to rescue Angel.
“I’m so glad that 16 were saved alive,” she says.
“But I just feel sorry for all the animals that starved to death there after I left.”
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