Annual report 2021

Annual report 2021

Report on the activities of HEROSZ Animal Shelter in Székesfehérvár

Period: 01 January - 31 December 2021

In 2021, we found new loving homes for altogether 349 animals (194 dogs, 153 cats, 1 rabbit, 1 guinea pig) and returned 20 wild animals (1 bat, 19 eastern hedgehogs) to their natural habitat.

There was a slight decrease in the number of dogs coming in compared to the previous year, and unfortunately there was also a decrease in the number of adoptions due to the covid pandemic. Many dogs were surrendered because of worsening financial circumstances, and the decrease in adoptions was also due to financial difficulties. Once again, last year there were more cats arriving than dogs! The cat population is growing at a very high rate and the authorities are not dealing with this at all!

Of the 239 dogs we received, 2 were seized, 166 were found and 71 were brought in. A fraction of the found animals were chipped, and even those coming from the owners sometimes were missing their chip. (A person who brings in the dog of a deceased owner can’t be held accountable for a missing chip). Since 2015, the rate of chipping has been steadily decreasing, and every year we draw attention to this fact. There are no controls, so owners do not care. It would be very important for the authorities to use the possibilities offered by the legislation to control the owners. Until this happens, shelters are left in a very difficult situation.

Of the 349 cats brought in, only 37 were surrendered (or this is the number of cases where the owners at least admitted bringing in their own animal), and 312 cats were said to be found.

A very important data point, which highlights the importance of spaying and neutering, is the age at which the animals are brought in. 70% of the arriving cats were under six months old, but more worryingly, the proportion of animals under 3 months old was very high: 52% of the total admissions. This is a very worrying figure for the cat population growth, as the animals entering the shelter represent only a fraction of the street population. Due to the lack of neutering, people feeding them on the street, and lack of responsibility, a large number of cats are born every year, a significant proportion of which die without anyone noticing. Raising these shelter animals, many of which are still nursing, is a huge burden and very costly. Although our staff and volunteers care for these animals selflessly, some even die in our care. The cats that do survive are very difficult to find owners for, many of them grow up in the shelter. Unfortunately, during the summer, the daily number of cats was frequently over 100, even though we have much less space. During this period almost none of the adult cats were adopted.

 

53% of the dogs admitted were puppies under 1 year old. Also among dogs, many who end up on the street are under 3 months old, which is a big problem. Several times we found dumped puppies of nursing age. The most serious case was when 8 puppies, only a few days old, were found next to a rubbish bin, their umbilical cords not yet dry. Two volunteer families took the puppies into foster care and raised them well, but sadly one died before the age of 3 months due to a weak immune system, despite receiving the same serum and vaccines as his siblings.

The proportion of older animals (over 7 years) is 10%, which may not seem high at first, but after puppies they are the most expensive, as they are already suffering from a wide range of diseases and often require additional examinations (blood, laboratory, x-ray, ultrasound), which are very expensive. These animals are the most difficult to get adopted because they have the most behavioural problems as well, so they will be more expensive to keep.

Our veterinary costs are very high, but it is very important that all animals receive the same treatment. We definitely spend the most on the proper care of young animals, in whose cases we often use serum before starting the vaccination programme, and immune boosting is very important. The same vaccination protocol must be used for all animals, because if you vaccinate one animal and not the other, the whole will be ineffective.

All incoming animals (cats as well as dogs) undergo an internal and external deparasitisation and, if healthy, receive a combined vaccination and rabies vaccination. Cats that are released are also vaccinated accordingly from the start. Of course, all adopted dogs have been given a microchip for unique identification which are registered by our vet.

We used nearly 350 rabies vaccines, 450 dog combined vaccines, around 300 cat combined vaccines, and spent 300.000 HUF on dog serum alone. If each owner would take care of the neutering himself, the shelters would not be under so much pressure, neither in terms of admission nor in terms of costs.

Animal health costs are significantly increased by the care of animals that have been involved in an accident, and it would obviously be unacceptable to put an animal down immediately because it has been injured. Preliminary tests (X-rays, ultrasound) are also a significant cost and bone surgery is very expensive, but if full recovery of the animal is achievable, then everything should be done. Obviously, the cost of keeping these animals is higher, as the recovery period after surgery is usually 1.5-2 months, which postpones the vaccination programme and neutering, only after which the search for a new owner can begin.

Grabanc and Móres became very friendly during their recovery

We have neutered 167 dogs (92 males, 75 females) and 152 cats (55 males, 97 females), had 50 other surgeries (tail amputation, eye, hernia, tumour) and 9 bone surgeries. This means that in 2021 we had a total of 378 surgeries. The importance of neutering cannot be overemphasised, there is no other way to stop this huge number of stray animals. All animals over 6 months are neutered when they are released, further all animals under 6 months are released with a neuter obligation contract, which we hold the owners accountable for. We are able to undertake this high number of surgeries because our shelter has its own veterinary department, where all surgeries (except bone surgeries) take place, so there is no need to transport the animals to the clinic, which saves both time and transport costs. Our vets are assisted by our own experienced staff. On top of the surgery costs we must also carry the upkeeping cost (overheads) of the veterinary department.

Every dog over the age of six months is screened for microfilaria by a droplet blood test. Last year this amounted to 157 cases, 21 of which were positive (13%). All but one of these animals were negative for further heartworm screening, fortunately we only had to treat them for skin worms, and the one heartworm animal was successfully treated at six months.

Most of the incoming cats are kittens and cannot yet be screened for infectious diseases, but many adult cats have arrived. Due to the high cost of rapid tests we cannot screen all of them, but we do FIV/FeLV testing in cases where the condition of the animal warrants it or if the adopter requests it.

In 2021, 49 cats were screened, of which 8 were positive (16%). An infected cat is a threat to all the others. Most of them have already shown severe symptoms, requiring the use of euthanasia. One leucosis-positive cat, who was asymptomatic, was successfully adopted to Germany, but this required finding a family among our volunteers who would take care of her for more than six months. Lufi has been doing well with his German owners ever since.

The distribution of the sex of the animals is also telling, especially when compared with the age at which they were brought in. Of the entered dogs 52% are males, but the proportion of males among adult dogs is almost 80%. An analysis of behavioural problems is also needed here. The high number of males makes it very difficult to house animals in group kennels. 80% of the antisocial, individually kept dogs are also males. Unfortunately, a significant proportion of dog owners do not train their animals, and therefore 95% of the animals entering the shelter are severely under-socialised. It takes a lot of work and time to get these animals ready to be placed in a family, and we could not do this work to the same standard without our volunteers.

In cats, the overall sex ratio is balanced, but the proportion of male cats among adults is much lower, and it is obviously more difficult to capture adult male cats. However, a male cat can breed all the female cats in the area, and a male cat can have many more offspring than a female. In addition, if the male cat is infectious (leukosis, FIV), he will pass the infection on to the female and her offspring. And even to them during the breeding season, by fighting with other males.

Of the 36 other animals included, 3 were bats, 1 domestic rabbit, 30 eastern hedgehogs and 2 guinea pigs. Most of the hedgehogs were young, often nursing animals, but there were also some that had suffered accidents. Most of the wild animals we were able to cure or rear and then release back into their natural environment. The two guinea pigs and the rabbit were rehomed.

In 2021, we had 74 media appearances and participated in the city's Civil Day, in addition to 17 self-organised events. We cooperated with municipalities and authorities on 28 animal welfare complaints.

Covid has clearly had an impact on everything, the number of visitors was less than 1000, which still has increased compared to the previous year, but compared to the years before that with between 6-8000 visitors, it was still very low. This was certainly felt in the donations received (both material and monetary) and in the adoptions. During the quarantine, we introduced appointment booking as the only way to visit the shelter. The number of volunteers is also limited on a daily basis, but of course there are always enough volunteers to walk the dogs and socialise the cats properly. The donation box set up outside the entrance in 2020 has proved to be a very good initiative, the box has to be emptied several times a day and donations keep coming in. Only those who bring or adopt animals are allowed to enter the premises. The number of programmes has hardly increased, it was not possible to organise any real community activities during the period of uncertainty.

In January, we were visited by Ministerial Commissioner Péter Óvádi, who was shown around the shelter and expressed his appreciation.

In February, we celebrated Valentine's Day virtually, with many of our animals receiving gift packages.

In March, we had planned a training session for staff and volunteers, but this had to be cancelled due to restrictions at the time.

In May, dog training sessions were held with the participation of 7 residents and 7 volunteers under the guidance of dog trainer Henriett Győrfi. The majority of the animals that participated in the training have since been adopted, and the successful sessions certainly played a role in this.

In May, we had two successful donation days at two Interspar stores. It was nice to meet people again and to tell them about our work. Our volunteers collected 1500 kg of dry and canned food, although this time we could not bring animals due to covid, only our animal catalogue. Before covid, we were able to organise similar programmes every month between April and October, and we really missed these last year.

There were an education program in the school of Zichyújfalu, about animal welfare.

In October, we were able to start children's classes, so we had two groups at Széna square, one at the school on Teleki-Sziget street, and we were happy to host a kindergarten group again, and we held classes for the Katica group at the kindergarten on Rákóczi street.

We were able to organise camps in the summer, and all three of them went well, to the delight of children and animals alike. Summer camps are an important basis for our animal welfare education. However, due to covid, we had to limit the number of participants, so that a total of 45 children attended the animal welfare camp.

In June, our animal shelter manager gave an online presentation to IBM employees as part of the company's "Lunch and Learn" programme, showcasing the work of our animal shelter. As a result, employees later volunteered as part of a corporate volunteering scheme. At the invitation of the school in Ráckeresztur, Gyöngyi Krepsz held four workshops for the school's students, with the help of our spokesperson, Kis Tit. The children also collected donations for our animal shelter.

The little first-graders from Munkácsy School visited and were delighted to meet the residents of the shelter.

In July, participants from the Defence Forces Children's Camp visited us, met the animals and also brought donations.

In August, the head of the animal shelter held several sessions in Mór, at the invitation of the Child Welfare Centre, on responsible animal keeping, the right approach to animals and how to treat them properly. The "Stringers" String Quartet organised a charity concert for us, together with a fundraising event.

In September, we took part in the Civil Day organised by the municipality, bringing dogs and cats and showing our activities to interested members of the public.

September and October saw the biggest programme of the year, which we felt was important because society and the authorities are otherwise not confronted with what we face every day in the shelter. Many of the animals are lucky to come to the shelter, because they come from such poor conditions. There is a lot of latency in this area and now they are coming to the surface. There are far more animals in the village than we had previously anticipated. Gyöngyi Krepsz worked with 11 volunteers in the village for a month and a half, going from house to house, checking a total of 617 households.

A total of 526 dogs and 320 cats were recorded. Only 91 dogs were declared in advance by the residents, a rate of 17%. 43% of the dogs were not chipped (224 dogs) and just under 70% of the chipped animals had only the compulsory rabies vaccination. This means that 60% of the dogs kept in the village do not have the compulsory rabies vaccination. This is very worrying as this vaccination system is designed to protect people. To this day there is no cure for rabies and it can be dangerous to humans. Already in this area we have identified huge shortcomings.

The keeping conditions are very varied, we have seen good examples, but many dogs are kept on chains, most of them are not released for their entire lives. Iron barrels, open cages, narrow pigsties, we encountered many different types of "dog houses". 25-30% of dogs live in poor conditions. There were people who were open to our suggestions and advice, but there were also people who shouted at us and chased us away. One man explained why it would be unnecessary to neuter when he can just smash newborn animals against the ground, while in another place a man showed us the stick he regularly uses to beat his dog. The situation for cats is even more desperate, they are considered “disposable”. (Note of translator: there is an expression in the Hungarian language that is used as an alternative name for cats, which expresses that they are considered “not worth caring for”, since “they’ll die of something anyway”.) Cats are not spent on, they are just fed. Out of more than 300 cats, only 5 are vaccinated against rabies, 7 have a combined vaccination, and only 7% (22 cats) are neutered. They breed, cluster in colonies, with many visibly ill cats. Children pet them, cuddle them, and parents don't bother to deworm or vaccinate.

In many cases, we have seen that social and societal problems are the enemy of animals. This survey also showed that a huge amount of information is needed in the area of neutering, since 8% of dogs are only neutered and 7% of cats. The village is therefore full of animals that are able to breed and reproduce, and there are far more animals than there are owners to be found.

Soponya is an average Hungarian village, it roughly mirrors the situation of the national animal keeping culture, which is very disheartening. We did not encounter any animal cruelty or deliberate abuse, but the situation of animals is still very bad in many households.

Even without concrete data, the municipality of Soponya has made a good assessment of the situation and has done a very respectable job in deciding on such a systematic way of censusing animals. Thanks to this, the situation of animals and the standard of animal husbandry here will certainly improve.

This survey also confirmed our view that laws and legislation are worthless in themselves if there is no one to enforce them. There is also a great need for animal welfare education. The Fejér County Organisation of HEROSZ started its Children's Campaign more than ten years ago, with a four-year programme of monthly lessons for primary school children and kindergarten children. Our experience has shown that animal protection education is only successful if you can find a dedicated teacher who is willing to take up this field. A change of attitude is needed at a societal level to really improve the situation of animals.

The legislative environment and the attitude of the authorities have moved in a positive direction in recent years, but the most important thing would be to improve the monitoring of existing legislation and the application of the law. The stray animal regulation has finally been adopted, which came into force on 1 January 2022, and this is also an important step forward, but the situation of shelters will not improve significantly until the financial background is sorted out. Let's not forget that a Finance Ministerial Decree would be needed to regulate this issue, as provided for in the Animal Welfare Act. This regulation has not been issued since 1999.

We could not organize an event for the World Animal Day, but many schools and kindergartens organized a collection of donations (Munkácsy, László Németh, DÖK Staféta, Comenius, Vackor kindergarten Iszkaszentgyörgy, Arany János-Víziváros, Ligetsori kindergarten, Tóvárosi school, Comenius, István Király school) so we received a lot of donations, and we were able to host some groups. On 1 October we held a workshop for the school's students in Soponya, but we also visited Széna Square, the Nefelejcs kindergarten and the nature conservation workshop of László Németh.

In November we held a training session for volunteers. Gyöngyi Krepsz, the head of our animal shelter, gave a presentation on how to make the adoption process more efficient and what needs to be done to help the rehomed animal to adapt to its new environment. She said that we have to get the animals ready, because unfortunately people are impatient and in many cases they don't even understand animals, so in the shelter besides the physical care they need proper care, nurturing, training. The better we prepare them, the easier it will be for them in their new place.

Fortunately, we were able to organise "Christmas with Animals", which turned into a full day programme. First kindergarden aged children had the chance to meet Santa Claus, then later in the afternoon we received school aged kids. The children decorated the Christmas tree, played and sang with Santa Claus, and then went into the animal houses and enjoyed petting and cuddling the cats and the dogs.

All of these institutions organised a collection too, so they arrived with a lot of donations. Even parents helped the teachers to deliver the goods. At noon, we received the Fidesz faction of the parliament and thanked them for their donations, both material and financial.

 

We closed the day with the traditional members' meeting, and volunteer’s meeting. After the talk by the president Dr. Attila Berey, Gyöngyi Krepsz gave a presentation on the achievements, difficulties and financial situation in 2021.

Our association and our foundation submitted a total of 11 applications for grants, 10 of which were successful. Our application to the Municipal Civil Fund was not successful due to the exhaustion of funds. Herosz branch in Fejér County received a grant of HUF 7.520.000 from the Municipality of Székesfehérvár for operations and programmes, and the Herosz Fehérvár Animal Shelter Foundation received 1.699.000 HUF. Thanks to Péter Óvádi, Ministerial Commissioner of the Prime Minister's Office, our shelter received a 2.000.000 HUF operating grant. We won 4.972.530 HUF from the Ministry of Agriculture for the renovation of the kennel (these works will be carried over to the next year).

Our website published less material, due to the smaller number of programmes, but we covered all the major events. The first event of the year is usually the bunny petting event, which is usually held indoors, but that wasn't possible at that time, but we held it anyway virtually, in the form of a quiz game.

We have reached 24.000 followers on our Facebook page, thanks to the coordinated work of volunteers and staff, who keep providing material to Edit Sohonyai, who is the editor-in-chief of the Facebook page and constantly monitors and analyses the statistics. We have 4-5 posts a day, more and more videos, and the occasionally live stream. All these help us attract attention. Messages to the site are managed by two volunteers, helping us to communicate effectively. We are very pleased that all our appeals are well received and our followers respond by sending money or packages to help the animals to be better cared for. Several people got their circle of friends together to organise donation collections for us. All of them would be impossible to list, but we would like to mention a few examples: Alba Car Tours, R-Cup from Mezőkövesd, the Animal Friends of the Velencei Lake Area, Reni Rusznák, also the team of Enthroners. We received several donations of items for auction, and our external donation collection stations have also been successful. The number of these collection stations has again grown in 2021.

Fortunately we are continuously supported by the attention of the press. We regularly issued press releases, first the report for 2020, then a progress report on the new covid measures and the effect of covid on our situation, later a report on the day camp, and at the end of the year a report on the "Christmas with Animals" event. Of course, the greatest interest was in the animal census project in Soponya, where we reported on the launch of the programme in September and the results in October. The local channel, Fehérvár Television filmed several times in our shelter, and a local radio, Best FM, and several on-line platforms regularly feature our news and our animals awaiting owners. Every second Sunday, Radio Vörösmarty broadcasts a programme with Csilla Sasvári, in which the introduce animals looking for homes. Radio Kossuth with it’s nationwide reach features a weekly show on animal welfare hosted by Andrea Benkő. Hardly a show goes by without an interview, with the head of our shelter on general and local topics. Táskarádió is a truly unique student run radio channel, who have interviewed Gyöngyi Krepsz on various aspects of the shelter's operation. These recordings could repeatedly be heard on their radio.

 

Our volunteers have completed the expansion of the individual kennels, so that all our seperately kept dogs have now twice the space, thanks to the financial support of our German sponsors. Without the help of our volunteers, we would not be able to achieve our results. Some people regularly come to the shelter and walk the dogs, look after the cats and help the staff with their daily work. Volunteers who also help as temporary adopters are a huge help, they have raised many puppies, but the rehabilitation of adult animals is also important. Without the selflessness and valuable work of our maintenance man, Jani Fekete, things would have collapsed on us a long time ago. It's wonderful to have a handy man to turn to for any small problem (dripping tap, broken window, burnt wiring) but also to help when we sponsors enable us to do a major renovation, which is how these major works have been made possible.

It is not enough that animal carers and volunteers work hard, the work has to be "sold", it is important to get the word out about what we do. Good quality photos are essential. Fortunately, there have always been volunteers who have taken on this not so easy task. Animal photography is a difficult field. Currently it is with the help of the photos of of Évi Szarvas that we are looking for owners for our animals. The staff and volunteers are also happy to take snapshots and videos, without them we would not be able to show our work and results. Many volunteers help us from home with our website, Facebook page, the operating and maintenance of our animal registration system, with translations, and the list goes on. We would like to thank both staff and volunteers for all their dedicated work!

Fortunately, our German sponsors were able to visit us more often in 2021, giving more of our animals the chance of a new life in Germany. We also received a significant donation from them each time, and with their help we were able to expand the individual kennels, with a special donation to help feed the ten-strong Bichon mix team that came in from poor conditions. The Kolwer couple, Mister Thomas Burger, Hund und Katz Tierhielfe and Hundehilfe Hinterland have been supporting our work for years, which we are very grateful for!

Among our domestic supporters, we must highlight the Municipality of Székesfehérvár. In addition to the task-supply contract we have received an additional 1 million HUF support thanks to the Mayor, and many of the members of the city's representatives have supported our work from their own budgets.

Our Supporter Team  has grown by the number, even if not by many, yet nearly 1.000.000 HUF come from members annually. We have had regular virtual adoptions, in addition to the donation box we have received many cases of support by postal parcel, and many have supported us by transferring money into our bank account. Inhold Join Stock Company donated 200.000 HUF, Zala Metál Ltd. donated roofing materials to us.

We received three paintings from Tímea Sturcz, head of the DIY art studio “Festegess Timivel”, which decorate the walls of our office and medical department.

Thanks to the support of Nestlé Purina, Fressnapf and Spar-Interspar supermarkets - and many individuals - our animals have been fed all year round. Nestlé-Purina also supported our Association with its "Share around" campaign.

Alongside the achievements, we must also talk about the difficulties. Unfortunately, the financial background of our animal shelter is very uncertain, it is difficult to plan, as the success of donations and tenders is not guaranteed in advance. At the same time, expenditure is foreseeable: maintenance of the animal buildings (water, electricity, gas, sewage, waste disposal), veterinary costs and salaries and contributions on salaries are very high, and there have been large price increases in all areas. As a result, despite receiving donations at a similar level to previous years, we ended 2021 with a loss (similar to 2020) due to the increase in expenditure. This means that our expenditure exceeded our income and we had to draw on our reserves, which were depleted for this year. If we don't make a significant change in income, we will be in a very difficult situation for our animal shelter, which, by the way, turns 30 years old this year!

Györgyi Krepsz

Fehérvári Állatotthon (Animal home of Fehérvár)