The Croydon-based founder of a dog rescue charity wants the public to support fundraising efforts to neuter street animals in Serbia.
Serbian-born Jovana Ivastanin, 32, set up the charity Serbia’s Forgotten Paws in 2012 after finding no registered dog charities from the country operating in the UK.
The charity focuses on supporting two rescue centres in Nis and Obrenovac and rehoming animals suitable for adoption, but their main effort goes towards neutering street dogs at risk of disease, in order to keep the population down.
“Neutering is one of the most important things that we do, but we really struggle to raise money for it,” she said.
“Because street dogs aren’t an issue here people don’t understand the importance of neutering for Serbian dogs.
“Diseases like distemper are rife in Serbia, so puppies die in the most horrific ways.”
Jovana is also encouraging more people to consider becoming foster families for eligible dogs, to help the charity’s adoption efforts.
She said: “We’re always looking for foster families because people are understandably hesitant about adopting a dog they haven’t met or who hasn’t been in a home before.” Fostering a dog also helps spread the word about the charity, said Jovana.
“We’re-home all over UK, but most of our dogs are homed here in south west London, close to us, and most of them have been re-homed with friends and family through word of mouth.”
She added: “Not all dogs can be re-homed for various different reasons, but we have about 150 at the moment which are ready to travel tomorrow.”
Nine-year-old Charlie is just one of the dogs who has been rescued from a life on a street by Serbia’s Forgotten Paws.
“He has probably spent eight years of his life on a metre long chain,” said Jovana.
“He’s never been walked, been inside a house or been part of a family.
“When we found Charlie he had no hair at all.”
This weekend, Charlie charmed the judges and was the recipient of the ‘Best Rescue’ prize at Surrey’s Ashtead Village Day event.
Jovana said: “There are so many dogs that need help and it’s very addictive; you can’t just walk away once you start doing it.”
Serbia’s Forgotten Paws has re-homed close to 700 dogs since it started, and is currently supporting around 650 across its rescue centres, kennels and foster homes.
The charity is run entirely by a small group of volunteers, who also work full-time jobs.
“We go out to Serbia regularly, and that’s how we rope people into helping,” said Jovana.
“We’re going on July 5, and anyone that wants to come is more than welcome.”