Serbian stray dog advocate fights to save 450 pooches

By Jovan Matic ,AFP

NIS, Serbia — Surrounded by hundreds of dogs, wagging their tails and running free on fenced-off land in a Serbian town, Sasa Pesic knows each of the pooches by name. ��I know exactly how each dog arrived at my shelter, I know their names, personalities,�� says Pesic as he patted one of his charges. It all started when Pesic, out of work like around 17 percent of Serbians, came upon four abandoned puppies in woods near his home. The discovery changed his life dramatically, setting him on a path to becoming an advocate for stray dogs and opening a shelter in Nis in southern Serbia.

Today it is home for more than 450 animals, but Pesic may soon have to move his canine horde as the city wants him to find a new location. When the 45-year-old walks into the shelter, set on a piece of land near the center of town, hundreds of mongrels of all sizes and colors run to him barking happily in greeting. The refuge is located at a former equestrian club stable that Pesic got rent-free from the owner back in 2010 where the dogs can be outside all day long. ��It is only when night falls that we put them in their cages. They are happy this way,�� he tells AFP, adding that all the dogs have been vaccinated, sterilized and have microchips. There are 280,000 registered dogs in the Balkan country, but veterinary authorities say it is practically impossible to determine the exact number of stray canines, many being pets abandoned by their owners in hard economic times.