Bosnia to Germany dog move: From shelter to quarantine

This blog is the second in a series chronicling the International Fund for Animal Welfare’s transport of dogs from a shelter in Bosnia-Herzegovina to foster homes in Germany. Read the first installment here.--The eds.

When rescuing dogs, it’s heart-wrenching to have to make decisions as to who is on the first transport out, and who has to wait for the second.

Our veterinary team had been at the local shelter in Jajce the previous two days in the mud and rain trying to sort out, from a list of microchip numbers and months-old photographs, who was who.

We needed to know who had received which vaccinations. It was made more complicated by mistakes in the recording, the fact that some dogs had two microchips, while others appeared to have none, and a slew of puppies that seemed to keep multiplying.

IFAW program officer Ellie Milano catalogues dogs for the transport out of Jajce.

We matched photographs with descriptions, catalogued any new dogs, and got vaccines and dewormer into all of them. We got all this information back to the local veterinarian, who issued the official “pet passports” which, after a three-week quarantine period, will allow these dogs passage into a new country and a new life.

Unfortunately, there were simply too many dogs to take in one trip.

Initially, we had agreed to take 38 dogs in two phases, but the number at the shelter had crept up to 45. By the time we counted the gang of puppies, new or previously overlooked dogs, and the mama we found living with her three-week old puppies in a culvert, the number was nearly 70.

We called our partners: Could we bring just a few more this time around? We didn’t have homes for all of them yet, but yes…they’d take 35 dogs this time and find a way to make it work for the rest.

The transport trucks arrived.

Veterinarian Kati Loeffler with dogs about to be loaded on the trucks.

Everyone who already had a home lined up already was loaded into the trucks. Then we chose a few more. Anyone who needed immediate veterinary care, check. Mama and brand-new puppies, check.

With three spaces left, who would we choose? We made quick, difficult decisions. Nobody wanted to leave anyone behind, but knowing we would be back in three weeks for the rest made it just a little easier.

Two more dogs loaded up.

We had space at our destination for one more, but there was no kennel space left in the truck for lovely, sweet Sarabi.

She had been the most isolated dog in the shelter, left alone to live in a house apart from the others along a path in the woods, probably for years.

The first time we had come to the shelter, whenever we had walked away, she would lie down and cry pitifully.

She tore my heart out, and I couldn’t bear to leave her behind this time.

Lovely, sweet Sarabi with the author before the trip to quarantine.

So we loaded up, and off we went: 34 dogs in the back of the truck and Sarabi on my lap.

It was about 75 miles to our destination.

Hours later, we delivered the dogs to a quarantine shelter in northern Bosnia, just a few miles from the border with Croatia.

The author arrives at the quarantine site with one of the dogs.

They will stay here for three weeks before they can make their way into Germany. We’re all on pins and needles. We’re impatient to move the dogs out of kennels and into real homes, where they’ll get the love and attention they really need.

And we can’t wait to get back to Jajce, to take the remaining dogs off their chains and put them on the road to their new lives too.

NEXT: Bosnia to Germany Dog Move: Three Weeks in Quarantine


You can help the Bosnian dogs, and animals around the world, find new homes.


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Senior Program Advisor
Senior Program Advisor
Brian Sharp, Emergency Relief Officer, Stranding Coordinator
Manager, Marine Mammal Rescue and Research
Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, Director, France and Francophone Africa
Director, France and Francophone Africa
IFAW Veterinarian
Katie Moore, Deputy Vice President, Conservation and Animal Welfare
Deputy Vice President, Conservation and Animal Welfare
Loïs Lelanchon, Animal Rescue Program Officer
Animal Rescue Program Officer
Shannon Walajtys
Manager, Animal Rescue-Disasters
Vivek Menon, Director of IFAW partner, Wildlife Trust of India
Consulting Senior Advisor to the CEO on Strategic Partnerships & Philanthropy