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Józefów. They have been caring for homeless animals for 27 years. This could be the end of their business

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The shelter for homeless animals in Józefów (Legionów County) has been operating for 27 years. Now it may cease to exist. For seven years now, the district veterinarian has found that the facility does not meet the requirements. Now the municipal authorities have started to enforce it. The facility's management wants to ask the mayor for the opportunity to operate for another two years.

The shelter for homeless animals has been operating for 27 years. It is located in Józefów, in the Legionowo district. Found animals are brought there and volunteers often come to pick them up.

– When something happens, they get in the car and go to pick up the animal. We do not charge the commune for admission costs, and we do not have any contracts signed with them for such services. We do it for the sake of animals. If they need help, we rescue them and look for a home – explains Bożenna Rajczak, director of the shelter.

60 volunteers are involved in the help. Cats come to the facility, although they are in the minority, the majority are dogs. – Recently, a dog from Ukraine came to us, it had a lot of pellets in its paw. We took him for treatment, but unfortunately he lost one paw. Now he is in a temporary home with a garden, there are also other dogs there. He is the biggest troublemaker – says Rajczak.

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Temporary homes give animals a roof over their heads and care. Dogs and cats that do not fit in the shelter often end up there. – They don't eat or drink, they don't take care of their needs. They come to life in temporary homes, he explains. – We provide people who provide a temporary home for an animal with funds for its maintenance. We want to relieve them in this way, because it is enough for such places to teach animals about cleanliness and that not all people are bad – explains the director of the shelter.

Animals from shelters and foster homes are put up for adoption. This procedure consists of familiarization visits to the shelter and to the adopters – There is also a conversation, because it is not a decision made on impulse. Some people stay for several months before making a decision. Most often it ends positively, says Rajczak.

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There is no contingency plan

Unfortunately, the shelter in Józefów is in danger of being closed. – We found out about it by accident. The mayor withdrew our permit to run the shelter. It was valid until August 31, 2025. He changed it to May 30, 2024. It is not known why this happened, says Rajczak now. – We are the only facility in the area that, according to people, is a good shelter and the dogs are doing well here. Our pets are spoiled. The volunteers are very upset about the closure of the shelter, some have fallen ill, he emphasizes.

The shelter does not have an emergency plan. – Getting out isn't that easy. We have 60 dogs, some of them have special needs. They have medical care here. Our shelter was built thanks to people and sponsors. People bring food for animals and take part in collections. Last year, a company from Norway provided a safe, metal fence. We have replaced the roofs and gratings so that the dogs have a substitute for home. Now we are going to have sponsorship from the company, we wanted to make screeds, refresh the boxes and paint them – Rajczak enumerates. He adds that a new place will not be found immediately. – Even if someone offered us something, it would probably be a bald field. And where will we get the money to build the boxes? We don't know what to do, we are in a black hole – says the director of the shelter passionately.

– We have the support of the mayor of Legionowo, the mayor of Wieliszew, the clinics, that it is a good shelter, that the dogs are taken care of, look good, are well-groomed – emphasizes Rajczak.

“This facility is no longer a shelter”

The facility leases land from the Jabłonna Forest District. There we asked about the situation of the shelter. – The agreement with the “Shelter for homeless animals in Józefów” foundation was concluded on November 15, 2013 for an indefinite period. At the moment, the contract has not been terminated, so it is valid – assures Piotr Szyszko, head of the forest education and tourism team

Under the current lease agreement, the forest district may control law and order in the shelter area. Animals are supervised by the district veterinary inspector and the mayor of the Jabłonna commune, within the scope of statutory competences. – However, the Forest District, as the area manager, must respect the decisions and findings of these bodies – emphasizes Szyszko. – And this facility is no longer a shelter within the meaning of the currently applicable law, because in 2017 it was removed from the register of entities supervised by the veterinary inspection – he explains.

The reason was the facility's failure to maintain a distance of 150 meters from human habitations.

The decision of the veterinary inspection means that it is not currently an animal shelter, but only a kind of shelter. – This changes the spectrum of action and the scope of control. However, the facility is still run by a foundation called “Shelter for Homeless Animals in Józefów” – he adds.

– The mayor of the Jabłonna commune withdrew the issued permit. As the justification for this decision indicates, the foundation's actions violated the terms of the permit issued in 2015 to run a shelter for homeless animals, Szyszko says. – This does not change the fact that when analyzing each possible variant, we try to focus on the welfare of the animals living in the shelter. By entering into negotiations with other institutions and offices, we strive to establish cooperation that, regardless of future decisions, will ensure maximum safety and stability for animals – he adds.

“The District Veterinary Officer banned running a shelter”

Jabłonna commune officials also emphasize the legal status of the facility.

“In the light of the decision issued on July 7, 2017 by the District Veterinary Officer in Nowy Dwór Mazowiecki, the center run by the 'Shelter for Homeless Animals in Józefów' Foundation has not been a shelter for nearly seven years. The District Veterinary Officer banned the operation of the shelter and this decision remains in force since 2017. The reason for the decision issued on July 7, 2023 (withdrawal of the permit – ed.) by the local authority was the operator's violation of the conditions specified in the permit. The above decision was delivered in accordance with the provisions of the Code of Administrative Procedure is animal protection, they may provide care to homeless animals and, for this purpose, run animal shelters, in consultation with the relevant local government authorities. However, the conditions that must be met by an entity applying for a permit to run an animal shelter are clearly specified in the relevant legal provisions. – they wrote in response.

They emphasized that the future of employees depends on the employer's decisions and, indirectly, on its behavior towards external entities, e.g. compliance with applicable regulations or fulfillment of obligations resulting from them.

“In accordance with the relevant regulations, providing care for homeless animals is the commune's own tasks. The owner of the area is the National Forest Holding State Forests represented by the Jabłonna Forest District and it is this body that decides on the development of the area,” they noted.

The officials did not answer the question why they only now, after seven years, dealt with the issue of the shelter and why things suddenly accelerated.

Bożenna Rajczak, the director of the shelter, admits that she knew about the decision of the district veterinarian, but she thought that something would change. Now he plans to write to the mayor of the Jabłonna commune.

– He did not respond to our previous letter. Everything depends on him. We will ask for an extension of the contract for two years so that the dogs we have can be adopted – he explains.

For now, the shelter is still operational. However, it is not known for how much longer.

Author:Magdalena Gruszczyńska

Main photo source: Artur Węgrzynowicz/tvnwarszawa.pl

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