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Berlin: ‘Fifty’ and His 1,299 Friends Live at Europe’s Largest Animal Shelter

This little fellow, Fifty, is fluffy, very white and has a personality. He lives at Animal Shelter Berlin. And he is not alone.

Berlin, December 9th, 2020 (The Berlin Spectator) — Fifty (see main photo above) is a cute and unconventional little doggie. He is a little insecure, but also headstrong. The beauty is eleven years old and has been at Animal Shelter Berlin for two years. During this time, he was adopted twice, but returned to the kennel in both cases. The issue is that he needs someone who shows both leadership and support. Whoever adopts Fifty needs to love him and invest time.

Up for Adoption

But some of the above applies to Fifty’s 1,299 friends as well. At this huge animal shelter, he is one of 200 dogs right now. The other 1,100 buddies are cats, snakes, birds, hamsters, a pig and apes. The shelter even has taken over three sheep who were not photographed yet. They had goats and two donkeys too who already found new homes.

This customer really likes his Caesar Salad. Photo: Tierheim Berlin

The exact number of friends and neighbors Fifty has actually varies. It changes every day, because new dogs and cats arrive all the time. At the same time animals are being picked up by their new families. But not everyone is up for adoption here. For instance, the monkeys are not.

A Good Spot

After Germany’s reunification, Berlin grew a lot, from any perspective. Once the excitement about the fall of the Berlin Wall died down, it became clear that abandoned, abused and lost animals needed some room and help too. The Animal Welfare Organization in the German capital looked for a good spot. It needed to be a really big one for a shelter. They found it in Berlin’s north-east.

Who has the most beautiful colors on the planet? Photo: Tierheim Berlin

They sold the original shelter which had been used since 1901, because it had become far too small. For 6 million Deutschmarks, they purchased a 16-hectare plot in the Falkenberg borough. Now all they needed was buildings for hundreds of very different animals, including cute puppies, colorful parrots, cats, rabbits, snakes and many other species. Sixty-five million Deutschmarks later, in 2001, they had what they needed.

The Whole Package

The Animal Shelter Berlin is as big as 22 soccer fields. It has as many as six buildings for dogs, four cat houses and one building for all kinds of small animals. How about a big enclosure for cats? They have that too. They even added what they call “animal protection farm” for livestock and an extra place for exotic animals, including reptiles. And they have their own veterinary practice. Of course there is plenty of space for dogs to run around at too. It’s the whole package.

One of the cutest of them all, Ratz, poses for the photographer. Photo: Tierheim Berlin

Not only is this the largest animal shelter in Europe, but also a very unique one. It looks like Drax’ Californian space ship factory in the 1979 James Bond film ‘Moonraker’. The whole thing is a giant circle with 18 round buildings inside. The dogs, including Fifty, the little guy everyone wants to be friends with, are separated from the other animals, but they do live inside the big circle too. They even have there are ponds out there.

Adopt a Cutie

Many of the doggies are what Berliners call ‘list dogs’, buddies that need experienced owners who will treat them the right way. There are three main kinds of ‘list dogs’ in Berlin, namely Pit Bulls, American Staffordshire Terriers and Bullterriers. The shelter will provide detailed information in this regard too.

Both animals and humans make friends at Animal Shelter Berlin, including animal care attendant Daniel Prinich and Snoopy. Photo: Tierheim Berlin

Online, Fifty and his dog friends are part of categories so that families or individuals who intend to adopt a cutie can pick the right one, or get picked by the right one. There are three sizes, dogs suitable for families, neutered dogs, city dogs, list dogs (as mentioned above), dogs that like other dogs and dogs that like cats. There is no category for dogs that like snakes or hamsters, by the way. Almost the same categories exist for cats.

Human Parents

Under normal circumstances, there is a lot of activity for both humans and animals at Animal Shelter Berlin, including ‘Kids Read to Cats’. At this stage, because of Corona, the shelter is closed to visitors. Of course a lot of work is being done behind the scenes, and adoptions are still happening.

Animal Shelter Berlin is quite a sight. Photo: Camcopter TV/Andreas Klug

By the way: Neither dogs nor other animals are being given to anyone who comes along. The shelter staff will make sure any new ‘human animal parents’ know what to expect and how to treat their animals.

Politics for Animals

The Berlin Animal Welfare Association, the organization behind Animal Shelter Berlin, is also politically active. For instance, its representatives just reiterated they oppose the use of fireworks and firecrackers on and around New Year’s Eve, also because these things scare Fifty and his 1,299 friends. They fight animal testing and want horse-drawn carriages for tourists to be banned from the streets of Berlin in order to protect those animals.

Someone looks a little sleepy here. Photo: Tierheim Berlin

Accommodating 1,300 animals costs money, and a lot of work has to be invested. The Animal Shelter Berlin needs support. At this stage, Berlin’s Animal Welfare Association, an NGO, has 15,000 members, 10,000 donors and 800 volunteers. More support is appreciated, also because 180 employees need to be paid. Running the shelter costs 11 million Euro (13.3 million U.S. Dollars or 9.9 million Pounds Sterling) per year.

The organization’s website (German only) can be found here. Many animals are listed with detailed descriptions. Are you interested in adopting a dog, a cat or a snake? The staff will gladly answer your questions.

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