Have you met Animal Rights Foundation?
Tell us a bit about Animal Rights Foundation and its main battles.
Animal Rights Foundation in Kosovo (ARF) was established in 2018, with the aim of improving non-human animal welfare, focusing on the legislative aspects of protecting and promoting animal rights. ARF contributes to the legal and policy aspects of improving animal welfare in Kosovo and improving human-animal relations in general. The organisation is committed to all animals, whether they are stray, companion animals, farmed, for sport or in the wild.
The main battles of ARF include the work with the state institutions. The lack of law implementation and institutional commitment to animal protection and their rights is evident and has great consequences for animals and people.
Unfortunately, Kosovo as a young country is facing many problems, and animal rights issues are at the "bottom of the ladder". Even when the situation becomes critical, as it is currently the case with the large number of stray dogs and the endangerment of their welfare, public health and safety. Improper animal keeping, brutal dog fights, illegal breeding and selling of animals, illegal wild animal hunting comes due to the lack of a systematic and structured animal care and welfare protection in Kosovo and the dysfunction of a sound cooperation between all public and private actors responsible for animal welfare and care. ARF tries to fill these gaps by attempting to convince each party to act towards a common goal.
Another difficulty of our organisation is the lack of financial and human resources. Currently only two people are actively working for the organisation. Although we have some volunteers who help us from time to time with small tasks, it is far from enough.
In which countries is Animal Rights Foundation present?
Animal Rights Foundation is only present in Kosovo at the moment, but has been invited to cooperate and guide two NGOs, one from Albania and one from Bosnia and Herzegovina, mainly through sharing experience and advice on how to address animal protection issues in the Balkan countries.
What about you? Tell us a bit more about your role within Animal Rights Foundation and why you joined.
I am one of the founders of the organisation. I studied law in Italy and when I came back to Kosovo, the situation of stray animals suffering on the streets was worrying and I wanted to be part of the solution; this is how it all started due to the lack of activists and NGOs dealing with animal protection on an institutional and legal level. Stray animals need to be managed, controlled and protected, with a strategic and well thought out plan.
With the support of LAV and ATB, the Animal Rights Foundation was created. Organisations such as the StrayCoCo Foundation of Switzerland, TIR, Stumme Bruder and PETA Germany also give us enormous support, without which we would find it difficult to survive.
ARIF ALIU: After researching different NGOs in Kosovo that deal with animal protection, I found ARF, whose vision directly aligns with my vision of animal protection, and joined in November 2021. After my first meeting with Elza we saw that we were on the same page: she is the most hardworking, honest and ethical person I have met in my life.
When did Animal Rights Foundation join Eurogroup for Animals and why?
ARF joined Eurogroup for Animals in July 2021. The core of our work for the protection of animals is the collaboration with and learning from big organisations around the world, especially in Europe.
Since Kosovo has EU aspirations and still has a lot of work to do in terms of legislation and its adaption to EU standards, joining Eurogroup for Animals is a great opportunity for us to learn about the best practices in animal welfare and protection and propose new legislation in this regard.
What are Animal Rights Foundation's main achievements in 2021?
We have had quite a busy year. From law revision to institutional meetings, ARF has advocated for animal protection to be a bigger priority.
Regarding the situation with stray dogs, our main achievements include:
- Approval of amendments to two Administrative Instructions (sub-legal acts in Kosovo), which make it mandatory to register dogs as pets in a state register.
- Finalisation of the Administrative Instruction for control and licensing of pet breeders in Kosovo.
- Delivery of the proposed national strategy for the management of the stray dog population: After more than 18 months of work, our organisation has finalised and delivered to the relevant institutions the proposal for the national strategy for the management of stray dogs.
- Establishment of the inter-institutional working group on the situation of stray dogs: After handing over the national strategy proposal in September 2021, we asked the relevant institutions to set up a working group to revise the strategy and adapt it to an official national document, and finally, an inter-institutional working was established by the Ministry of Local Governance Administration.
- Information campaign about responsible keeping of dogs
- Meeting with the State Prosecutor General:After the unreasonable refusal by a State Prosecutor of three criminal complaints for dog abuse, we requested a meeting with the State Prosecutor General, in order to discuss the work of prosecutors regarding the criminalisation of animal abusers.
- Meeting with the Prime Minister and other Government Ministers: Although this is not a 2021 achievement, we have been lobbying for months for this meeting, which finally took place in January 2022.
How can the public act for Animal Rights Foundation?
Unfortunately, most people in Kosovo think that rescues are the only way to help animals. Many people do not understand the purpose of our work and think that since we do not directly rescue dogs on the street or animals in general, our work is not as important.
Our role is to inform not only society but also the 'animal welfare activists', as they are often the ones most in need of advice. Our organisation is supported by short-term volunteers or active volunteers but this is not enough to work sustainably and consistently on different issues. Therefore, we really need people to help us and be part of our difficult struggle.
The main areas of support that our NGO would need are the following:
- Participating in lobbying
- Sharing our messages on social media (Instagram, Facebook)
Word to live by / Inspiring quote you like
Although animal protection work (especially in a country like Kosovo) requires a lot of hard work, sacrifice of personal life and sometimes even health, it is one of the most necessary and noble things a human being can and should do.
When people ask us why we protect animals, we always think of Jeremy Bentham's famous quote:
The question is not, 'can they reason?' nor, 'can they talk?' but 'can they suffer?'"