(STRAY DOGS/ANIMAL SANCTUARY) Based just 25 kilometres (about 15 miles) from Varna, Lucky Hunt Foundation is a clean, spacious sanctuary for dogs rescued from the streets of Bulgaria. It’s currently home to more than 150 dogs and puppies who were abandoned, abused, or homeless before they were brought there. Everyone is well looked after, with lots of room to play and sleep.

The shelter is on the premises of a chemical plant owned by founder Svetlana Hunt’s husband. With plenty of room for the residents to roam free, the foundation is able to neuter stray dogs, provide medical care to those wounded, and accommodate them while they recover. Some dogs will find new homes to go to, and some will live out a happy life on site.

Now Lucky Hunt Foundation is in need of volunteers. With plenty of dogs in the area in need of care, short-term volunteers can help stay on top of the animals’ needs, and keep costs low enough that the shelter can continue to operate.

Original Volunteers, a UK-based volunteer organization, have already sent volunteers to Bulgaria to work with children and local communities. Since June 15, the Lucky Hunt Foundation has been included in the list of projects their volunteers are working with. A volunteer’s day typically runs from 9:30 am to to 4:00 pm, including a lunch break.

Volunteers help with feeding, walking, and playing with dogs and puppies to give them a good quality of life, as well as other activities to assist in the day-to-day workings of the shelter. It’s an opportunity to spend time with animals who need a lot of love, and a chance to learn about how an animal shelter is run.

Future volunteers will also be provided with a list of items needed which they will be able to buy and bring to the shelter. From veterinary equipment to dog food, it’s not just physical help the volunteers give. It’s a good opportunity for volunteers to practice their fundraising skills back home, too.

Lucky Hunt also educates locals about abandoned animals, teaching the public not to be scared or abusive towards homeless dogs. Stray dogs often end up in municipal shelters, which don’t always have the best conditions or funding, because people reporting or taking them in don’t care enough to check whether the animals will be in good hands.

Municipal shelters like the one in Kamenar, near Varna, sometimes treat the animals so poorly that petitions have been started online to get their doors closed. Better local education could help to change Bulgarian citizens, police, and government’s outlook on dealing with stray animals.

If you want to search online for information about the Kamenar municipal shelter, be warned that a lot of the images you’ll find are very distressing, so please use your discretion. A short-term volunteer role at a shelter like this would be too upsetting to be a viable project, because it would take far too long to see real improvements in such conditions.

But if people see volunteers working with independent shelters like Lucky Hunt, they might be more inclined to take stray dogs there instead. More volunteers at Lucky Hunt means they can accommodate more dogs, so less will end up at the municipal shelter.

Another animal shelter in need of volunteers is the Animal Hope shelter, also in Varna. In February 2018, Animal Hope was the victim of an arson attack. The fire was set by a man who was annoyed by the dogs’ barking and howling, which reflects the apathy local people seem to have about stray dogs’ lives.

Bulgaria’s relationship with its stray dogs is a complex one, which won’t be resolved overnight. But if you want to make a difference to the animals’ lives, and contribute to the education for welfare of homeless dogs, volunteering at the Lucky Hunt Foundation will be a rewarding experience.

— Caroline Revell, exclusive to Global Animal

Caroline Revell is the office manager at UK-based organization Original Volunteers. She got into animals late, only getting her first pet at age 37 and is now hooked! She plans to develop more partnerships with animal projects worldwide in need of volunteers.