“Many animal shelters are on the brink”

Falkensee. “I’m not allowed to bring any animals home” – with this phrase the Federal Minister of Food and Agriculture, Cem Özdemir (Greens), started his visit to the Falkensee animal shelter yesterday Monday evening. Unenthusiastic, dressed in jeans and a polo shirt, the 56-year-old headed to the cat’s home on Dallgower Strasse, where he was greeted by the director of the animal shelter and president of the Falkensee Animal Welfare Association, Heike Wegner, and Thomas. Schröder, President of the German Animal Welfare Association.

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Federal Minister Cem Özdemir (Greens) himself started the visit to the animal shelter in Falkensee

Thomas Schröder explained that the minister contacted him to get a first-hand impression of the “critical situation in German animal shelters”. The animal protection facility in Falkensee represents approximately 540 animal shelters throughout Germany. According to Schröder, they are currently facing a “tsunami of costs. Many animal shelters are on the verge. This is caused by recklessly purchased ‘crown animals’ being given away and causing overcrowding in facilities, rising energy prices, higher costs for animal feed, veterinary treatments and the increase in the minimum wage, which also has an impact on animal shelter workers,” said the President of the Philanthropic Association.

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The situation will get even worse in autumn and winter. Animal welfare workers as well as volunteers had also bled mentally and physically after the crises (Corona War, Ukraine). Schröder and Wegner made it clear that this significantly worsens the situation of animal shelters and animal shelter-like facilities across Germany.

Federal Minister Cem Özdemir (l.) in conversation with the director of the animal shelter Heike Wegner (2nd from left) and the president of the German Association for the Protection of Animals, Thomas Schröder (r.).

The director of the Falkensee animal shelter gave Özdemir an insight into the home of the cat, the small animal and the dog. Unafraid of contact, the federal minister got up close – first with the plush paws ‘Ufo’ and ‘Bandit’ and a little later with the dog ‘Sunny’. She has had her home at Falkensee Animal Sanctuary since April this year. “She was suspended. A placement is not that easy, Sunny is blind and about 14 years old,” said animal keeper Charlotte Bernstengel, who lovingly cares for the four-legged friends at the dog house. “It would be great if Sunny found a loving home in her old age,” added volunteer Marie Glasemacher. The two preferred to watch the commotion surrounding the minister’s visit – about 25 press representatives from several national newspapers, TV and radio stations had come – from a safe distance. Even if Ozdemir struggled, by his own admission, there were no four-legged additions to his family that afternoon. “An animal means a lot of responsibility, time and free time – even during the holiday season. You need to know this before you get a pet.”

The Falkensee Animal Sanctuary was the first choice for a ministerial visit

In his childhood he always had cats and small animals. Today, his time-consuming job no longer allows it. The federal minister is concerned that pets are repeatedly abandoned, especially during the holiday season. That is precisely why it was his wish to carry out the site visit during the summer holidays. According to Rico Lang, President of the Brandenburg Animal Protection Association, the Falkensee animal shelter was the first choice. “The animal shelter in Berlin is definitely closer to the ministry. But it is the largest in Europe and therefore not really suitable for a picture of the base project. It was important for the minister to take a close look at such an institution – which operates at the grassroots level. Falkensee was also geographically the closest.”

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During the tour, Heike Wegner used the opportunity to tell Özdemir about the many intricacies and pitfalls of day-to-day animal shelter work. Both in terms of daily work with found animals and pets, and new challenges related to the pets of the many refugees from Ukraine who now also live in and around Falkensee. The federal minister continued to ask questions and listen carefully.

The federal government provides five million euros to support Ukrainian pets

After the tour, he first explicitly thanked all animal rights activists and volunteers for their commitment to animal shelters across the country. “You can’t overestimate that,” Özdemir said. In view of the federal government’s decision in May, as a result of the war in Ukraine, to grant five million euros from the federal budget to animal shelters across Germany that care for animals from Ukrainian war refugees, Özdemir said: I am happy to be the first federal minister to bring and spend so much money on it.” He also emphasized that the five million “must go where they are needed. They’re supposed to be helpful and not a bureaucratic monster.”

Cem Özdemir (left) also got up close and personal with the plush foot

Cem Özdemir (left) also got up close and personal with the plush “Ufo” leg.

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According to Özdemir, he knows that the current inflation and skyrocketing energy prices have long created new problems. He does not want and cannot get involved in the financial means of the municipality responsible for animal shelters. However, according to the minister, one thing is clear: “Compulsory duties must be returned. Animal shelters perform important work for municipalities.” What must be paid by the facilities must also correspond to the cost reimbursed. “I’m very happy to help in discussions with the municipal umbrella organizations, that’s what he promised. We are dealing with it so that a good, mutually acceptable solution is found,” Özdemir clarified.

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After about an hour, the federal minister started again for Berlin. Özdemir was just getting into his car, Heike Wegner exchanged views on the high-level visit in the MAZ interview (“A very good conversation, Mr. Özdemir listened carefully, asked many questions, was very interested.”) when the shelter manager knocked the phone.

During a ministerial visit: Unknown people expose the Labrador in front of the animal shelter

On the other end – the police, who reported a dog that had just been abandoned. Just a few meters from the shelter. Unknown persons had tied the Labrador, equipped with a leash and tow rope, next to the premises and left it to its own devices. Everyday life so quickly caught up with the animal shelter employees. Unfortunately, Cem Özdemir didn’t notice anything anymore.

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