Dubrovnik, Croatia is a beautiful city located right on the Adriatic Sea. Due to its prime location and historical significance, this city is a popular destination for many tourists. By walking through, you can see the beauty in the ancient architecture. This includes an old fort, way up on a hilltop above the city. This fort is home to Dubrovnik’s stray animal population.

Sandra Sambralio has taken on a seemingly impossible task. She has taken the incredibly large populations of homeless dogs and cats in Dubrovnik, animals that may have otherwise been culled, into her care. For the past 13 years, Sandra and her sister have been working to build an adequate shelter for these animals. They were given the old fort as a starting point, and have struggled to make the historic walls work for the ever growing number of animals in their care.

It seems that Dubrovnik’s political interests do not fall with the animals of the city. Despite numerous promises to the Žarkovica shelter for workers, food donations and, most importantly, a new building, nothing has come their way. Funds allotted to the shelter at the beginning of the year are reallotted to other projects. And this has been occurring for years. Their current situation is not good. The fortress walls offer little protection from the elements. Old shipping containers and other makeshift buildings are the primary source of protection. The shelter has no electricity, no running water, and is nearly impossible to get clean due to the rocky ground. Volunteers are hard to come by and Sandra pays workers from her own pension when she can. Otherwise, it is Sandra who takes care of the dogs, 24/7.

Despite the hardships, Sandra has dedicated her life to these animals. The shelter originally started with just 26 dogs. They now have nearly 400 in their care! Their goal of finding homes for the animals is difficult in a place like Croatia, where keeping animals as pets is not a priority for most people. Though Dubrovnik is beginning to do better economically, many people are still poor and don’t have the resources to keep a pet. The incoming animals far exceed the outgoing animals, so the Žarkovica Animal Shelter faces an uphill battle.

This shelter needs our help! They are currently doing a great deal of fundraising in order to help care for the animals and pay workers to help maintain the minimalist shelter. If you are interested in learning more about this shelter and their plight, join their group on Facebook. If you or a friend are vacationing in Dubrovnik, make a day of helping out at the shelter. Every volunteer can make a difference in the lives of these dogs. If you want to donate, you can visit the shelter’s fundraising page. You can also sign the shelter’s petition for help from their government. One amazing woman is trying to make a difference for the dogs in this city, and she needs all the help she can get, from volunteers, donations, and most of all, from her own government.

Though the Žarkovica Animal Shelter has an amazing view, it provides little protection from the elements.

Almost 400 dogs now call the Žarkovica Animal Shelter home, up from the 26 dogs when it was started.

The dogs all tend to get along and cuddle for warmth.

Donations make it possible for the shelter to have food and houses for the dogs.


All image source: Tina Duk