Some of the WPX team celebrate 2021 World Dog Day at our own no-cage, open-yard animal sanctuary.
During my adult life, I lived mainly in rented apartments in Brisbane (many years), Sydney (10 years) and London (8 years) and that ruled out having pets as landlords weren’t OK with animals.
Then in 2012, I moved my online business from London to Sofia, Bulgaria (WPX launched here in 2013) and as soon as I bought an apartment here in 2014, I adopted Joey, a female Golden Retriever puppy – she’s 7 years old in December 2021:
By the time we adopted Joey, we already had 2 cats, Sasha and Misha, orphan kittens rescued from the streets. We lost Sasha, our first cat here, in January this year to stomach cancer, best cat ever (we currently have 7 cats at home and 3 dogs):
Meanwhile, the general attitude towards animals in Eastern Europe that I have seen here ranges from complete indifference to often shockingly cruel violence – something that Bulgarian law enforcement has no interest in stopping.
Being a part of the EU makes no difference to Bulgarian law enforcement when it comes to animal cruelty.
An unwanted dog or cat in any Western country can have a very difficult life but here it is 10X worse.
Here, the poisoning or shooting of stray animals is very common, the abandonment of family pets when moving home is pretty normal, putting dogs on very short chains in yards for life for ‘home security’ is also everywhere and a general cruelty or utter disinterest in the wellbeing of any animal – dogs, cats, horses, donkeys etc – is the normal cultural habit here, despite most of Eastern Europe being a part of the EU now.
Years ago, I started volunteering at the largest shelter in the country, where 1,500+ dogs live in appalling tiny cages, are rarely walked, are fed terrible food and deprived of almost everything a dog needs for a healthy life – it’s a heartbreaking place, like so many other dog ‘shelters’:
I was on a British guy’s podcast about entrepreneurship and one of the listeners was a lady called Lozinka Bakalska, who had her own nonprofit that was looking after around 500 homeless dogs on a massive abandoned industrial complex not far from Sofia (the capital of Bulgaria).
Her underfunded foundation was struggling to feed all the dogs so WPX stepped in to make sure the dogs were all fed properly there.
As a company, WPX had decided to expand our mission of change to not only WordPress hosting, but also to making an impact on a very real problem here, namely, animal welfare.
Today, via WPX’s financial support, the dogs are still being properly fed, castrated and given medical care there. At last count, we had gotten the number of dogs down to about 100:
With the growing success of WPX, WPX became more ambitious and we revised our mission to permanently fixing the animal welfare problem here.
Instead of just being a donor to nonprofit NGOs and leaving them with the responsibility of fixing the problem (which they usually lacked the funds to do on any scale), WPX created its own nonprofit, EveryDogMatters.eu, which is under the direction of the invincible Lozinka Bakalska, my wife and I.
This also involved funding other existing private shelters, castration campaigns and rehoming action.
In September 2020, we moved into our own first site for an animal sanctuary, a former pig farm on 25,000 m2 of land (about 6 acres) roughly 35 minutes from the WPX office.
Though this derelict site in a run down area is massively broken (electrics, water, roofs etc) and requires huge investment to modernize, this Kostinbrod site has allowed us to execute our no-cage, open-yard philosophy – a model that we hope many other organizations across the world will eventually copy – you can see it in action here on a local media story:
Our goal is to free every single dog from horrific caged shelters in Bulgaria by 2025 (like the one shown earlier above).
These ‘shelters’ (more like concentration camps for dogs who didn’t do anything wrong) are usually desperately underfunded and apathetically unmanaged sites of extreme canine distress.
These medieval-style shelters – the normal model throughout Eastern Europe – are designed and run entirely for the convenience of human beings, regardless of the terrible emotional toll on the animals housed there.
After 2025, Every Dog Matters EU should have several (as many as 8 eventually) very large, open, no-cage, safe-haven sanctuary sites across the country where dogs can happily roam freely on their way to loving forever homes locally or in other countries.
We also look after cats too and with more sites, we also want to rescue donkeys and horses in the future as they often suffer terrible abuse here as well.
In addition to that, we are moving ahead with campaigns for castration, law enforcement reform and education, models we will promote in other nearby countries in the future: Romania, Serbia, North Macedonia and Greece, where life is similarly awful for unwanted animals.
Here is the experience that we have created so far at our first animal sanctuary:
Some of the WPX team on a recent work day at our own no-cage, open-yard animal sanctuary:
We will keep you posted on the WPX mission to make a huge, permanent impact on animal welfare in our part of the world.
You can also keep up to date with the work of Every Dog Matters EU here on the foundation’s Facebook page.