Let Them Live Out Their Lives: Dog Shelter for Sale, for Free

As its ninth month nears the end, it can be said with full confidence that 2020 has not been the best year; with the pandemic, climate change and whatnot, it always seems to have ever worse things hidden up its sleeves. More sad news for Georgian society came on September 8, when Tamaz Elizbarashvili announced that he would be giving away the dog shelter under his ownership, which houses over 250 dogs and four brown bears.

The property, covering 2,500 square meters along with the buildings on the shelter’s territory, is worth 1,350,000 GEL. The question on everyone’s mind was what would make Mr Elizbarashvili give away his beloved dog shelter?

I addressed the shelter owner himself with that question, but before we move on to his reply, let’s take a look at the background. The Georgian businessman founded the dog shelter back in 2004 and has since, with no help from the state or private sector, welcomed stray, abandoned, and sick dogs into his shelter, providing them food and healthcare. So why would this man decide to give up the shelter he has so willingly supporting for 16 years?

“The coronavirus pandemic hit us all. Some of my businesses are struggling, and I’m finding it nearly impossible to support the shelter. It’s not just the dog food and medicine. We’ve got staff there, and 250 dogs. That’s not a small number. More and more dogs might need to come every day. We’ve got the veterinary clinic, too. So we have staff that cannot invest their time and energy there unless they are paid. The government and business sector are not helpful, and the reality is that I can no longer support it alone. So, I decided to give it away, as long as the interested party agrees to look after the animals,” Elizbarashvili told GEORGIA TODAY.

He went on to outline his only demand on whoever is interested in taking his “give-away:” they have to sign a document that obligates them for 10 years to support the animals already living on site. He noted that the dogs currently living in the dog shelter will likely pass within the next ten years from age anyway.

He further revealed to us that the cost of supporting the shelter each month can sometimes run up to 20,000 GEL, so it’s “not exactly a good deal for businessmen thinking of taking up the offer just for the sake of the property. It has to be for sympathy for other living beings.”

This demand worries the Georgian Society for the Protection and Safety of Animals (GSPSA).

“How can we control this?” Teimuraz Tsikoridze of the GSPSA told us. “I mean, someone might sign and say they are going to take care of the animals for 10 years, and then the next thing we hear a dozen dogs have died at the shelter, then over the course of the next two years all of them die of some ‘disease.’ I mean, how does one control it?”

As it has been a while since the Elizbarashvili Dog Shelter made the give-away announcement, GEORGIA TODAY asked Mr Elizbarashvili if any takers had shown up either from the state or the private sector.

“There have been calls from both sectors. Some of them even went as far as to initiate negotiations: they wanted to get me to agree to them feeding the dogs for two years and then euthanizing them. The nerve!” Elizbarashvili told us.

Tsikoridze sees a way of saving the shelter in foreigner donors, saying that foreign organizations and individuals would be the best fit to help out the dog shelter. “Georgian society has proven itself incapable of standing up for animals,” said the GSPSA representative.

Fortunately, in this light, Mr Elizbarashvili had some good news for us. “So, no-one that you could trust with the shelter has contacted you yet?” I asked Mr Elizbarashvili over the phone. “No,” he replied. “Only those lusting after the property have reached out to me. Of course, I could not give it to them. The shelter is safe for this month, though, as thousands of Georgians have made a contribution to our bank account. Their donations did not cover the costs fully, but every Tetri is important for us, and we appreciate everyone’s generosity. We just hope that this spirit does not die out, and society continues to support us in the following months, at least until the business sector is fully recovered,” said the shelter owner, adding, with regret in his voice, “But people’s interest fades; it’s human nature to soon forget what it was that we cared so much about.”

His words hit me: the realization of what our flawed memory costs us. What will happen to the 250+ dogs, four bears and dozens of puppies if people switch their attention in October?

2020 has been a year of sad news, but it is also a year of realizations. It has been the mirror that shows us where we stand as a society. In this mercantile world, a businessman thinking about how to make a profit in situations like the one above is hailed as “realistic” and “smart”. But doesn’t it sometimes go too far? In a country where numerous people have serious problems surviving the day-to-day, the fact there are countless stray animals and no functioning law protecting them is something that, for many, is low-down on the list of priorities. But ahead of World Animal Day on October 4th, which will be respected with events in Tbilisi this year, doesn’t it just sound like an excuse? Our lack of empathy, flawed memory and shifting focus can cost these good-natured beings their home and lives. Think about it, and maybe consider donating to the Tamaz Elizbarashvili Dog Shelter.

By Nini Dakhundaridze

24 September 2020 17:02