From: Laura Fischer
Animal Lovers of Albania:Erleta Shala and Lezha Municipality Join Forces for Street Animals

Erleta Shala, Leta for short, is an animal activist mentioned in last month’s story, who deserves a longer blog post. Originally from Kosovo, Leta and her family moved to Switzerland as refugees, where she still lives. Ever since she was a child, her family took summer holidays in Durrës. Leta, always an animal lover, liked to spend her time with the street animals on these trips. 

About five years ago, they purchased a small apartment near the beach in Durrës. After working from home and in isolation during the COVID19 pandemic, she decided to relocate to the apartment for five weeks when travel restrictions were lifted. Towards the end of the stay, she received a call from her parents. They were stressed and told her to turn on the news. The headline (“After Korça, stray dogs are also poisoned in Lezha”) and images were incredibly upsetting. Leta knew there was a problem with street animals and humans in Albania, but she wasn’t aware people in Albania were being that cruel.

But Leta didn’t just cry about it. She sat down and wrote a long email to the State and Municipality of Lezha. She didn’t just hurl complaints and insults. “In this letter, I shared my story, my ideas, and clearly communicated my desire for change.” With a full head and heart, she sent off the email. 

People told Leta to let it be. They told her, “The Albanian state will not help you; otherwise, they would have done something about it a long time ago.” Their comments were understandable but Leta chose to remain positive and to hope. “I was sure that with my love and positive energy I had the power to convince the Lezha Municipality to help the street animals and support my project.”

Two days later, Leta received a response from the Municipality. They were kind about her email and they wanted to schedule a meeting. Leta was overjoyed.

She worked long nights to finalize a project for the meeting. The director, Elson Frroku, welcomed her and introduced himself, then gave Leta time to discuss her plan. At the end, an employee told Leta, “I haven’t seen the director so motivated in a long time ‑ you filled the room with so much positivity. For the first time in my life, I feel that the state is really willing to do something for the animals!”

“I never would have thought that I would dare to take this step at such a young age,” Leta wrote me. It was always a goal to do something for the street animals. However, she thought of it as a future pursuit (when she had enough money, time, etc.). But after the news, she realized the animals needed her now, and she had every ability to do something now, just like we all do. 

Her main goal is really quite simple: help as many animals as possible. In Albania that means castration projects; a shelter in Lezha that provides vaccinations, sterilizations, adoptions, safety and love for the animals; and educating people “because it is urgently needed as there is a lack of respect for animals”. Leta hopes to educate children and provide programs for seniors who need animal companions. She also wants to continue working with other animals rights activists in Albania. “I think we are stronger together and I met many amazing humans in the last months,” she said. “I’m very lucky that the existing organizations in Albania like JETA Tier und Mensch or Animals Need Me accepted me with a lot of love. I’m learning a lot from them right now.”

Leta may be at the beginning of her journey, but her positivity, hope and belief that something can change has impacted so many animals and humans already. 

To support, follow @lezhaanimalshelter