More than mere numbers: the stories behind our milestone achievements in 2023

una signora con una maglia gialla

Betty, one of the dogs we met during the spayathons

We could begin by telling you about the fact that individuals assisted by Friends on the Streets, our project dedicated to dogs belonging to the homeless in the city of Milan, increased by 155% in 2023. Or we could recount the tale of meeting Doug and his human companion for the first time last year, both of whom have been living on the streets of the Lombard capital for three years and had never received any help of this kind before.

We could report the details of our sterilizing 1,201 animals in Romania in the course of a single year. Or relay how we sterilized Betty for free during one of our marathon spayathons, assisting the family in caring for her properly.

Thanks to you, we have achieved several important milestones in 2023. However, even more impactful are the lives we’ve collectively changed, stories that are concealed within those numerical achievements.

Our initiatives in Romania, from sterilizations to interventions in the field

In 2023, we have sterilized 526 dogs and 675 cats, a total of 1,201 animals, in Cernavoda, Romania, mostly for animals that live with families experiencing huge economic difficulties who cannot afford to pay for expensive treatments.

These include the family of little Betty, who we spayed in September during one of our spayathons, a sterilization marathon. We have been following Betty since she was only a few weeks old, after she was found abandoned in an elderly lady’s back yard in an isolated part of town. Despite having severe financial problems, the lady fell head over heels in love with her and decided to adopt her. We now help her by providing regular supplies of food and cover her veterinary expenses, such as spaying and neutering, free of charge.

Included in these 1,201 animals are also many strays that we monitor in the field. Sterilizing both privately-owned animals and those surviving on the streets or in the countryside around Cernavoda enables us to contain the number of births, effectively combating the issue of stray dogs.

Another vital function we perform at our clinic is providing aid in emergency cases. These are mostly stray cats and dogs that have been victims of road accidents, encounters with other animals, or have various types of injuries. We have taken care of 235 such cases, some of which were then admitted to the shelter and later entered our adoption program.

Wendy a Footprints of Joy

Wendy at Footprints of Joy

The international adoption crisis

Amid so many achievements, however, 2023 was also the year of the international adoption crisis. 134 dogs and 55 cats left our facility to join their new adoptive families. Among them was the famous Wendy, who had suffered a bad injury to her jaw and eye when she arrived with us and who now lives with a wonderful Swedish family. Little Dalia, who was very weak and was delivered to us in a cardboard box, now has a home and a sofa of her own in Italy. And the lovely Benjamin, taken in when he was seriously ill, now sports his colorful coats in Sweden.

Read also: Dog adoptions in Italy – A necessary choice

While each and every adoption is a huge victory, it is impossible to ignore the crisis that is affecting this sector and that has overwhelmed our facility as well. In 2022, 203 animals were adopted, an increase from the 189 who were given new homes the previous year.

This has prompted us to look for new partners, which we will continue to do in 2024.

Mr Nicola and Pippi

Too Many Puppies: over 3,000 sterilizations carried out in Italy

We first launched Too Many Puppies in 2019, our program to combat canine and feline strays in Campania and Calabria. Today, thanks to the help of our partners, we have carried out over 3,000 sterilizations.

Read also: Too Many Puppies, a day of complimentary sterilizations in Campania

This milestone represents salvation for dogs like Pippi, who will no longer continue to produce litters at home, or Chita who will no longer run the risk being abandoned.

Friends on the Streets: a growing need for assistance for dogs belonging to the homeless

Perhaps the most biggest increase we have seen this year is with Friends on the Streets, the project dedicated to caring for the dogs belonging to the homeless in the city of Milan. In the span of just one year, the number of cared-for pairs increased by 163,8%.

Doug, one of the dogs we take care of with our Friends on the Streets project

The initiative involves individuals and animals like Doug and his human companion who have been surviving together on the streets of Lombardy’s capital city for three years now and have never received any help of this kind before.

Read also: Working alongside pets belonging to the homeless of Milan for the last two years

With our project, we have been able to take care of the duos we follow, donating food, harnesses and leashes, but most importantly we provide veterinary care free of charge, thanks to the presence of a group of volunteer veterinarians who accompany our Street Unit during their outings.

These regular check-ups have ensured our being able to monitor the animals’ health and, in many cases, help them access the best possible care. The number of clinical visits carried out in 2023 totaled 58, an increase of 866.6% compared to 2022, when we had conducted just 6 follow-up visits.

Ukraine: we remain dedicated to both providing sustenance and carrying out sterilizations

One of the stories that undoubtedly marked 2023 was that of Henry, an elderly mixed-breed rescued by one of our partners in Ukraine after the destruction of the Kherson dam.

La trasformazione di Henry, uno degli animali salvati dopo la distruzione della diga di Kherson, in Ucraina

Henry, before and after

When he was discovered, he was stuck at the side of a destroyed building, completely covered in oil and toxic substances. Save the Dogs covered all the costs for his care, and after a long period of hospitalization (and many moments of despondency), his health slowly improved. He was eventually adopted by the same person who had taken him in as a foster, and today he spends his days in Poland, in the company of a cactus-shaped stuffed animal that has been with him from day one.

Read also: Ukraine. How the rescued animals are faring after the destruction of the Kherson dam

Henry is one of more than nine thousand animals who have since received our food supplies. From the outbreak of the conflict to the present time, we have sent over a thousand tons of dog and cat food, aiding the survival of thousands of stray animals across the country.

In addition to sending food, we have also started a sterilization program to help concretely combat the vast number of animals roaming around the whole country. To date, we have sterilized over three thousand stray dogs and cats.

We never forget any single animal we have encountered along the way. We remember every moment spent by their side in the clinic, when we feared they wouldn’t make it, and every joyful run around the garden of our shelter when they finally recovered. We remember every life we have lost. We keep a photo of every animal that has been adopted. Each one has imparted valuable lessons that have shaped and enhanced our initiatives across all the territories where we operate. And it is with this strength that we will also approach the challenges of 2024.