An Open Letter from Polish animal protection organizations on the activities of Hotel and Shelter for Dogs in Wojtyszki managed by Longin Siemiński
As people sensitive to animals suffering, working in animal protection organizations, we ask for help and assistance from all individuals and institutions in the liquidation of the business of cruel profiting from animal homelessness, which is euphemistically called the Shelter for Dogs in Wojtyszki.
Despite the obvious evidence of a series of abuses in this facility run by Longin Siemiński, shelter regulators and law enforcement agencies for years have been turning a blind eye to the suffering of dogs staying there and an evident violation of the law.
The facility in Wojtyszki (district Sieradz) looks like a Stalinist collective farm. It was established in 2004 for the purpose of 3000 dogs - the largest such facility in Poland, located in a secluded place. This 6-hectare (approx. 15 acres) property is surrounded by walls, under constant surveillance cameras, without the possibility of access by unauthorized persons.
The dogs come to Wojtyszki from more than 100 (!) municipalities which have signed the contract with Longin Siemiński for the care of homeless animals. Municipalities pay a daily rate for looking after the dogs (ranging from 5 to 8 PLN per day). This state of affairs leads to the situation in which the dogs are kept alive, while reducing costs of keeping them for the shelter in the same time.
Adoptions are rare because each one means loss of income and profit. Most animals are kept in large paddocks (enclosed areas), circa 360 square meters (3875 square ft) in the average number of about 100 - 150 dogs. There are no doghouses in the paddocks, some have shed-like constructions erected for the winter period which are not able to accommodate all animals. In addition, there are several smaller sectors in the facility, areas around 40 square meters (430 square ft) each. In those parts dogs also live in large groups. This way of keeping animals promotes conflicts between dogs, often ending in death for some of them. The conditions also cause chronic stress in animals.
The staff supervising animals uses whips to hit the animals with when it comes to clashes between them. It is no secret that most of the "employees" in Wojtyszki are homeless people, with alcohol problems, working for "room and board", often after serving a prison sentence or sought by law enforcement officers.
So far the inspections and controls showed no infringements, against logics and facts - animal protection organizations have been pointing out at the dramatic conditions of housing and breaches in the documentation for years. Even with the far-reaching faithfulness, it is hard to avoid the suspicion that the Sieradz District Veterinary Inspectorate and Provincial Veterinary Inspectorate in Lodz are interested in the existence of the shelter in Wojtyszki in its current form. Motives for this lack of action are absolutely impossible for us to understand, especially since the Veterinary Inspection shall exercise the statutory supervision of the Animal Protection Act.
The provisions of the Animal Protection Act, according to the Sieradz District Veterinary Inspectorate assessment, do not apply to Wojtyszki - as apparently it is nothing reprehensible keeping animals in a large breeding area, feeding the animals by throwing food directly on the ground, lack of any shelter from the weather, a complete mess in the records, non descriptions of dogs and multiple microchips.
Local governments use a similar approach to the records and welfare of dogs which pay public money for solving the animal homelessness problem in their area. The vast majority of them do not check anything - neither the existence of "their" animals nor their welfare. Only few out of over 100 using the services of this facility - have expressed interest in the legitimacy of issued public money.
No physical inventory has ever taken place in Wojtyszki - the number of dogs is estimated, based on data provided by Longin Siemiński.
In our opinion, this is shameful - many dogs are probably missing, but for such negligence it is impossible to prove that fact. It also means that municipalities most likely pay for the dogs which do not exist.
The Argos Foundation over the years has described the pathology of control system in that facility:
"The Siemińskis shelters have been working under the protection of the Veterinary Inspection since the beginning (...)
(...) there is no reliable records of the animals in the shelter in Wojtyszki. Municipal authorities who tried to verify sent them out monthly invoices think similarly.
It is hard not to connect the history of long-term monitoring Siemiński’s shelter with the Lodz Provincial Veterinary Doctor, D.V.M. Roman Owecki, who has gained personal experience in the area of animal shelter management, while being in charge of the urban shelter for homeless animals in Lodz from 2004 to 2007. At that time, the shelter showed more than double overflow of dogs and a there were few fatalities per day resulting from dog biting".
Agros Foundation on their website also informs that:
“Conclusion is (...) that in L. Siemiński company about 73% of dogs in relation to the admitted (the national average is about 25%), die"
This information, together with the fact of multiple micro-chipping of the same dog, unknown fate of other animals indicate suspicion of duping the municipalities into paying for non-existent dogs. There are also other horrific abuses taking place in that facility which are widely described by the witnesses.
Our main complaints are as follows:
• extremely unprofessional supervision of Veterinary Inspection, which is at variance with the provisions of the Animals Protection Act;
• dogs have been implanted with more than one microchip, each one with a different number. Micro-chipped dogs are not registered in the database, which contributes to a situation in which several municipalities pay for the same dog;
• documents show that dogs are subjected to sterilization and castration - while verification of the facts do not confirm that statement;
• number of dogs, according to the information from municipalities is different from the data obtained from the Veterinary Inspection. There is no possibility to compare any information with the facts, because the owner does not agree to this kind of verification by officials from both sides, neither municipal officials who pay the costs, nor pro-animal organizations. He also refuses any partaking by the media representatives;
• poor physical and mental condition of the dogs staying at the facility - at first glance, dogs seem to be in good condition (good weight), but unfortunately the more detailed check-ups show they suffer from vitamin deficiency, untreated diseases such as skin and ear infections, tumours, orthopedic disorders, the vast majority of them have scars after biting;
• incompatible way of keeping dogs with their physical and emotional needs as species - too large herds, lack of shelter, lack of environmental enrichment, abuse of dogs by hitting them with whips by employees;
• difficulties in adopting dogs by pro-animal organizations and individuals;
• lack of control over the shelter by municipalities and investing public money outside their administration activity area, creating jobs outside the municipality.
These allegations are supported by detailed visual inspection of the 63 dogs transported from Wojtyszki on March 25th and 27th 2013 to the Medor Shelter in Zgierz. For about two years the municipality of Aleksandrów Lodzki tried to reclaim their dogs from Wojtyszki, facing the strong resistance from Longin Siemiński, although the agreement to hold the dogs had long expired. This resistance has become clear upon dogs receipt.
The state of transported dogs was very serious - medical inspections have shown among others lack of sterilization of all 24 females brought in. They were also diagnosed with symptoms of heat. Lack of castration in 23 dogs, with one male having only single testicle (16 dogs were castrated). There was also reported breast tumours and enlarged mammary glands in all female dogs, significant teeth deficiencies, ear and skin inflammation, many scars (mostly after bites), hernia present in 1 female dog.
All 63 dogs were in poor health resulting from neglect, ill-treatment which is a breech of Article 6 of the Law on the Animal Protection Act, and are eligible for submitting reports of conscious dog abuse lasting several months.
Documentation provided together with the received dogs did not correspond to the gender and appearance of the animals. There were invoices discrepancies in the numbers of microchips delivered on a monthly basis by L. Siemiński to City Council of Aleksandrów Lodzki.
The dramatic situation with the "Polish dog death camp" (the term often appears on the internet) in Wojtyszki has been going on for years. Many times media dealt with that subject.
Lack of response on the part of law enforcement institutions and leaks of information from police witnesses to Longin Siemiński raises serious concerns. Turning a blind eye to breaking the law by L. Siemiński and by other officials arises our suspicion that the reason for withholding from any action is not only a lack of desire, but there are also other considerations that we believe should be investigated by law enforcement agencies from outside the area of Lodz district.
Despite the common knowledge, witnesses’ statements, available photos, the state of dogs removed from this macabre place, media reports - Wojtyszki is still an enclave of lawlessness, while Longin Siemiński in Poland is synonymous with cruelty and the unique ability to “buddy up” with everyone who assists the function of this place.
The shelter for years has been called a ‘dogs concentration camp‘.
Therefore we demand closing down the Shelter in Wojtyszki and to stop this bureaucratic absurdity that turns the care for homeless animals into cruelty, handsomely paid from municipal funds.
Our request is a call on behalf of the defenceless, sentient beings, completely depended on their value of daily financial rate, paid by the municipalities without a single thought, which has found an easy way of getting rid of the problem of animal homelessness.
Nowhere in Europe is this kind of ordeal to animals possible, especially knowing that in Poland it happens with the approval of the veterinary inspections and with silent acquiescence of law enforcements.
We remember the thousands of dogs, whose fate remains unknown, and ask for help. Let us write to the international organizations and the media, let us turn to the central authorities, seeing that everything else has failed.
We believe that in the end a thorough examination of this terrible place will be carried out, especially in terms of animal welfare and financial flows between municipalities and shelter.
We also hope that municipalities still having contracts with Wojtyszki will enquire about what they are paying for.
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