There are many views on bringing dogs from other countries back into the UK, but that’s another conversation. It is estimated there are up to 40,000 abandoned dogs in the UK alone, due to the impact of Covid-19. The UK charity Dogs Trust sees an increase in our four legged friends needing to be rehomed after events like Christmas and especially after Covid, once people have gone back to work. But the scale is low compared to stray dogs over in Greece and Albania. It is estimated there are around 2 million stray dogs and cats in Athens alone.
One of the many reasons that there are so many stray dogs in Greece is because the country wants to protect Europe’s oldest pure-breed dog, the Cretan Hound. However, by not neutering all strays, in order to protect one, now means that there are dogs who starve every winter, who have to fight for the next meal and have to bring up their young without the proper nutrition needed, and the cycle then goes on year after year. In 2021 there was proposed legislation to make neutering mandatory, but it hit a brick wall. You can read more about it here.
In Greece there is a form which all tourists can fill in the make a complaint to the Tourism Board about how seeing so many stray dogs has affected their holiday. If enough people use this form, then maybe the country may see how it is affecting tourism, and therefore €€€.
After Greece we headed to Albania. This is where we met Alba.
She wasn’t called Alba then, she was just another stray.
When we left the UK we decided not to get a rescue dog from someone like Dogs Trust or the Blue Cross, because even thought we fully support the work they do 100%, we thought it would be too hot in a van travelling around Europe for one year. However, we planned our route to chase the sun in the mid 20 degrees c as both Mike and myself like this temperature the most. We can bike, we can run and hike at this temperature. The van stays cool at this temperature and we live outdoors with the awning up, which is what I am doing right now. There’s a light breeze, birds singing, Alba sleeping, surrounded by greenery in the mountains of Thethi National Park.
Anyway, straight away upon entering Albania we saw stray dogs at Permet Hot Water Springs. We had picked up some dog food which we have decided to only give upon leaving a location because it is not fair for the dogs to get attached to you and then leaving them. It will be heart-breaking for you both.
We saw strays again at every place we visited, all were skinny, one with three legs, some aggressive, some with scars on their nose, the dogs which are not strays here are shepherds dogs and farm guards (most look like they will bite your head off) but then others we gentle and looked at you with the kindest eyes. We saw many of these strays in the area of Shengjin near Shkoder Lake.
Here is where we adopted Alba.
Our process for adoption a dog in Albania:
We became attached to Alba at a beach bar on Kune beach, just outside Shengjin. The bar owner Mario said that she was born last summer and doesn’t know what has happened to her mother or the other offspring and that we can take her if we wish. We didn’t think it was sensible to have a dog, but we thought about it properly for a few days and then decided we have to have her in our lives.
Some friends we made along the way had also just done the same, a week ahead of us, they adopted a stray from Theth, where she was very skinny and just wanted love, and food!
Together the six of us went to the vets in Shkoder where they speak good English. The vet details are: Klinika Veterinare PUTRAT, phone: +355 695 601 111. The vet appointment you most probably will get will be at 7pm. He works for the government during the day and then is open all evening. Closed on Sundays. Call in advance.
At the vets I asked about the work they do, and found out they have a charity called Animals Need Me that is a volunteer based organisation which looking after strays in the Shkoder area with particular focus on promoting neutering and raising awareness. I would love to volunteer here however, if I am being honest, I would be in tears every day and probably break down. So I have decided to keep up to date by following their Facebook and Instagram page and make a donation. All donations can be made via paypal using their username email address firstname.lastname@example.org. Below are some of the images of the animals they are rescuing and looking after.
At Putrat Vets Alba was given a 15 digit microchip, rabies vaccine, she was wormed, treated for ticks (of which she had maybe about 20 on her) and given an ALbanian passport. The cost of this was 9000 Leke which is about £60.
One week later we went back to the vets for a Polivalent vaccine which prevents infection by the bacterium Streptococcus pneumoniae. Basically stops dogs getting a fatal respiratory disease, Pneumonia. You can read more from the Royal Veterinary College here. We did this and also picked up some junior dog food as that is hard to find in the country. The only place we found dog leads and a bed was in the shop, Jumbo. The vets also have leads, shampoo and dog food.
In order to then the cross border we needed to get a Pet Health Certificate, which lasts 72 hours. We got our certificate for about €10 from the vet in Albania. Apparently, we needed this in order to get into Montenegro, however at the border they did not check it, or Alba’s passport, they just smiled at her. You may be able to get a Rabies Titer Test (FAVN) in Albania where the vet can send the blood sample to an approved centre, but we didn’t. (See below our experience of getting one in Croatia).
Then at the Montenegro / Croatia border Alba was laying on the floor of the van asleep and they didn’t see her, or check her passport. So not having a Titer Test was not an issue for us. (Technically, dogs need a Titer test to enter the EU, but we waited to get one in Croatia, so unless you get one in Albania, you’ll be crossing the border at your own risk without one).
30 days after the Rabies vaccine, Alba will need a Rabies Titer Test (FAVN) which apparently needs to happen in an EU country (as mentioned above you may be able to get one in Albania, if you have lots of time there). We got ours in Croatia. After this, and assuming everything is okay, Alba can then enter the UK after 3 months time.
UPDATE: Alba has had her Titer Test at a vets in Karlovac in Croatia. (Vets details: Ambulanta Anima, Ul. Ante Starčevića 26, 47000, Karlovac, Croatia). We went in and said what we needed and had to come back the next day for the blood to be taken. We are now waiting three weeks in Croatia for the results. UPDATE 2: Alba’s test results came back positive for Rabies antibodies after about 2 weeks which is great, so we have now continued our travels and have been to Slovenia, Italy and back down south to Montenegro, Albania, North Macedonia and only been asked once for her passport).
In order to bring your dog back into the UK they will need:
A pet passport or an Animal Health Certificate
Tapeworm treatment within 1-5 days of travel which must be administered by a vet and must contain Praziquantel to be effective against Echinococcus tapeworm. The vet must stamp your passport or Travel certificate for confirmation.
Needs to be an ISO 11784/11785 compliant 15 digit microchip, which is the standard for most countries, including the UK . You can find out more here. You then need to register the chip on a worldwide microchip registration website. I am currently researching this and will update this blog with the best ones that I find.
Is Albania a rabies high country?
Kind of. By this I mean it isn’t on the ‘low rabies’ list but the last rabies case in animals in Albania was confirmed in September 2014 in a fox in a village in Kukes region, so this means it is however still on the high list. You can find out more about the eradication of Rabies in Albania here. Not that we have been asked anything at any of the borders we have crossed. Since having Alba with us, we have crossed over about 15 borders and have been asked for her passport once.
How long can I adopt a dog in Albania before I can bring them home?
In case you need to get a Rabies Booster, this may add another month on so I would say about 4 1/2 months. In conclusion, if you are travelling and would like to adopt a dog, make sure the process is in motion with no less than five weeks until you have to get back into the UK.
Where can I buy dog stuff from in Albania?
As dogs are not really regarded as pets then the best place we found to by leads, beds, collar etc is a shop called Jumbo. It’s like a cheap and tacky Dunelm / toy shop. Dog food can be found in most Spar or Bio shops. Or the vets.
I really hope this shows how simple it could be to help change an animals life. Of course there are the continued expenses of having a dog, but by adopting you are stopping your four legged friend starve, get abused, impregnated and/ or poisoned.
My top tips for travelling in a van in regards to strays:
- Pick up a bag of dog food to feed strays
- Feed strays when you leave to save heartbreak
- Make a donation to the local vets or animal shelter
UPDATE: Alba has been neutered in Croatia and she has healed well so things are all set for travelling back down to Turkey for winter before coming back to the UK.