Appalling feed prices threaten Berlin’s animal retirement home in Pankow

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Appalling feed prices threaten Berlin’s nursing home for animals

08/02/2022, 16:49

| Reading time: 6 minutes

Feed inflation: Ronja and Ronaldo mastiffs need two kilos of canned food per muzzle.  For shelter operators Dirk Bufé (left) and Hartmut Benter from Pankow, this means 40 percent more costs with the same appetite.

Feed inflation: Ronja and Ronaldo mastiffs need two kilos of canned food per muzzle. For shelter operators Dirk Bufé (left) and Hartmut Benter from Pankow, this means 40 percent more costs with the same appetite.

Photo: Thomas Schubert

The Ukrainian war hit the shrine in Berlin-Pankov three times hard: food and medicine cost extra. Even the death of animals is becoming more expensive.

Berlin. When a loved one dies, it is still the saddest thing that can happen to an animal nursing home. But even this farewell now costs extra. Until recently, crematoria charged 400 euros for the disposal of the dead remains of dead dogs or cats. As a base price, of course. This does not include the fact that a gas crisis is clouding the future prospects of Berlin’s economy. “Crematoriums now add an energy bonus. So we pay at least 24 euros more for every death,” says Hartmut Bender about the more macabre detail of the price hike for pet owners. About an inflationary crisis that hits the only shelter in Pankow as hard as Berlin’s animal shelter in Falkenberg.

However, the nursing home founded in 2006 in an old Blankenburg villa is practically a two-man operation. Cleaning, feeding, care: Hartmut Benter and his partner Dirk Bufé take care of everything themselves. The two even manage a completely new shelter in the Am Possenberg industrial park in Pankow. The two animal lovers expect the cost of this essential project to increase by at least €200,000 to €1.7 million as a result of the war in Ukraine.

Finding lizards could endanger the new nursing home building in Pankow

But the longer it takes for construction to begin, the higher the prices will skyrocket. “First of all, we had to pay 12,000 euros for expert opinions,” says Benter, referring to a demand imposed by the Pankow Regional Office. “This is to rule out that there are protected lizards on the new construction site.”

The project decided in 2018 is again several months behind schedule. “The protected species that might be on the construction site are preventing our protected species from getting a new home,” Benter quips. In fact, some of the older Amazons in the sanctuary enjoy this status.

Pet food inflation: Bird owners are hit especially hard

With which Dirk Bufé brings us to the topic of animal feed – because bird owners in particular are particularly affected. Inflation caused by the war in Ukraine and grain shortages are so clearly reflected in the bill that the monthly budget of 8,000 euros for domestic work has reached its limits for the first time in the institution’s history. It starts with the fact that many members of the club can no longer pay their contribution of at least 20 euros and leave, warns Bufé. And it continues with private donors reducing their commitment. They are not the only ones who are shocked when they see the prices of animal feed.

Bufé and Benter calculate what is happening: they used to buy millet for the parrots and parrots in bulk for 80 euros – now it must cost 200 euros. Home operators have to buy even cheap nuts, which the macaws eat as if they were delicious cookies, in packs that now cost €1.99. “Before the crisis it was 99 cents,” Bender recalls. Dog food grew by a comparatively modest 30 or 40 percent. Canned food, of which the giant Great Danes Ronja and Ronaldo devour at least two kilos a day, the shelter must now get 2.29 per can – it was 1.79 before the Ukrainian war. In short: the home for the elderly needs donations more than ever, so Bufé and Benter don’t hide it.

Reversing the Corona pet boom: Pankow’s nursing home for animals is already full

If it used to be people calling to drop off a few boxes of bird seed, this summer it’s more likely to be Berliners wanting to part with the animals they just bought. It’s the same tiresome counter-movement to the Corona pet boom that’s pushing Berlin’s animal shelter to the brink. Rabbits, which should have been playmates for children in lockdown, are now an unwanted cost factor due to inflation. “Suddenly families are standing in front of our fence and saying: Can you take the rabbits? We can’t do it anymore,” Bufé says of everyday life during the summer holidays.

It is not for lack of will that the sanctuary says no. The fact is that you are fully occupied, the enclosures have been damaged by construction work on a neighboring bridge. And that they are planning a new beginning in Posseberg. Above all, the animal-loving postman duo wants to give regular residents, such as the Amazon Randy or the mastiffs Ronja and Ronja, a decent retirement. A decent pension for old animals, bought dearly during the Ukrainian war.

Dog heart pills and vet visits – all cost extra

“The money won’t go away. But what you get for your money is getting less and less,” says Bufé, describing the mechanism. However, the shelter wants to take care of 230 birds, 21 dogs and 19 cats until the bitter end. Even if food, energy, especially medicine for animals and visits to the vet become more expensive than the same cost for humans. Heart pills for men, special flour for digestion, diuretics for bloated bitches: all these must fit into the budget, which Bufé and Benter cannot raise at will.

The Berlin shelter protects elderly animals from the heat

But now – in the midst of the dog days – another problem hangs over the stables in the courtyard of the sanctuary villa. The heat. Old animals suffer from it almost worse than humans. “You can’t say you’re hot,” Bufé says. Care professionals’ advice to all other Berliners with pets: “You have to spare them all the stress.” This includes them walking under the hot midday sun as well as cycling with a dog trotting alongside them.

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“We can’t really recommend new types of cooling ceilings that are commercially available,” says Benter. Four-legged friends would find the cheapest solution themselves. “They just lay on the tiles.” Not because they know the skyrocketing price of animal accessories. But just by instinct.

Information: If you would like to help the nursing home in Berlin-Pankow with donations or would like to become a member of the club, you can register online at:

More news from Pankow can be found here

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