. . . . for dozens of years, ever since Stalin took over when Armenia was a part of the Soviet Union. So when a recent visitor to Armenia wrote in an Armenian newspaper his distraught at seeing the stray dogs of Armenia's Capitol city, Yerevan, surround anyone who sat at a bench in a public park, begging for a pat on the head and a bite of anything edible, I was not just going to say the usual "what a shame, those poor starving creatures." That's for the general public and "animal lovers" to do. I was going to "do something" about ending the horrific misery and eventual violent deaths of man's best friends in my country of origin, though I had never been to Armenia.
The newspaper had reported that in Armenia there was not a single animal shelter nor an animal protection or advocacy organization. Far more underdeveloped countries such as Bhutan, Botswana, Malawi, Rwanda, and war-torn nations such as the Congo, Sierra Leone, and even those freed at the same time as Armenia from the former Soviet Union such as Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan all have animal protection organizations and/or animal shelters. How could Armenia be one of only a handful of countries in the whole world with not even a single animal shelter or organization? Armenia was the first Christian nation, 10 years before Rome, and is one of only two nations which has existed under the same name for 3000 years (the other being Egypt). With such a long history of religious compassion for others had Armenia somehow left its compassion for animals behind? Obviously so.
I started to do research by calling the Armenian embassy in Washington, DC. They were extremely difficult to extract information from. In fact, I was first told by the Press Officer that Armenia has more serious problems and that he does not have time to get me information about animals in Armenia. Grudgingly, he agreed to let me send him my questions. Months of follow up resulted in no reply. Finally, upon insisting over and over again, and not receiving even a single return phone call, let alone a reply, I was forced to contact the Press Officer's superior. This gentleman was much more understanding and agreed to personally get the information for me. He asked me to re-send my questions again as my original submission had been lost, discarded or ignored. A few more weeks went by but I eventually received a sufficient reply. Basically, we confirmed that no animal organizations existed, but they did give me several names of people in Armenia to contact. After months of emails to them I was promised they would do everything I asked and in the second email asked me "how much money are you going to send?" CLICK ON PICTURE OF DEPUTY MAYOR AT LEFT TO WATCH ARMENIAN TV NEWS REPORT ON SWITCHING FROM SHOOTING TO TNSR
It became apparent that they were just crooks who thought they were going to con me with lies. A year or so later I was referred to another group, which called itself a "charity." I proposed to write a formal proposal to switch the capitol city of Yerevan to Trap Neuter Spay Release if this group would translate it. We entered into a formal agreement and in the summer of 2003 it took me about 3 months to gather the documentary evidence on the efficacy of Trap Neuter Spay Release and write the proposal. I named it "Killing the Crisis, Not the Animals." I put out an international call for letters from humane organizations who had success with TNSR, and boy did I get responses. I received over 20 responses, even from as far away as India. Those coupled with research I conducted on all the TNSR efforts in the 50 States gave me the ammunition I would need to have a chance at convincing the Mayor of the Capitol City of Armenia to stop shooting and try something more modern.
In the ensuing years I had over a dozen people referred to me who wanted to help Armenia's dogs and cats, and all would agree to collaborate and then would never do a single thing they promised to do. I did get disappointed numerous times, especially when I found out that my partnering "charity" had been using my name to obtain thousands of dollars of grants from British foundations claiming they were opening Armenia's first animal shelter. They did nothing of the sort and I presume pocketed the grants. I terminated our relationship with that "charity." Nonetheless, I did not get deterred, much less give up. I was doing all this while I was still working at a very demanding job at the major TV networks as a broadcast engineer and running my own volunteer organization, producing my own TV program and distributing it to 14 major cities coast to coast, and taking care of over a dozen dogs and cats.
At the end of 2005 I was contacted by anoither Armenian, Herman Hintiryan from Michigan. He too had been referred to me by some other people he had met while visiting Armenia. The people he had been referred by were a couple who had sent me pictures of a facility they had just opened as a dog shelter, Armenia's first. But I had been unable to get a working dialogue, much less a working relationship established with them, partly due to the language barrier and partly because they were just not competent at keeping committments.
CLICK ON PICTURE AT LEFT TO WATCH VIDEO OF THE NEW ARMENIAN TRAP NEUTER SPAY RELEASE PROGRAM
Upon speaking with Mr. Hintiryan, he explained to me that he operates an orphanage in Armenia and visits it 4 times a year, having already made 19 trips in 5 years. He said that his wife saw the animals' plight in the freezing Siberian-like winter on their last trip and wanted to do something. I asked him to act as my liaison with the Mayor's office and on his next trip there, to put forth my proposal and try to get an answer whether they would consider following its "roadmap" to end the killing. He agreed and in June of 2006 he came back with videos of the latest news reports from Armenian TV as well as copies of the announcement from the Mayor's Office that he had accepted my proposal and was going to issue a contract for TNSR instead of shooting dogs, a first ever in Armenia! I was floored, literally! Herman flew to New York City and we met in the Jewelry district and we pretty much laughed and cried at the same time, watching his videos and reading the Mayor's proclamation and contract.
A new company was formed to do the TNSR, called Unigraph X, whose owner and I have communicated several times. The spay neutering began, however very slowly as they do not have the "workflow" nor the "assembly line" established to do mass volume sterilization. I had proposed to send the Humane Society of United States' "Rural Area Veterinarian Services " team if the Mayor tried TNSR and so for the rest of 2006 I worked on coordinating the scheduling for Unigraph, the Mayor's Office, the RAVS team and Herman Hintiryan. Herman agreed to fly with the RAVS team to act as their translator and guide, which was the final link to fall into place. The RAVS team will be led by Dr. Jennifer Scarlett from San Francisco and one other veterinarian and an expert vet tech. RAVS is holding two fundraisers to raise the monies for the flights. The date is set for early Fall of 2007
Who was it that said you can't change what happens on the other side of the world?