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From Waldviertel to Johannesburg: 25 years of FOUR PAWS:


© FOUR PAWS | Gabriela Koch

New study highlights need for work on animal welfare

At a press conference this morning, on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of FOUR PAWS, the founder and president, Heli Dungler, took stock of a quarter century of work for animal welfare. Dungler presented some of FOUR PAWS’ landmarks and successes and offered an overview of the organisation’s development from a small group of animal rights activists at the time of the founding in 1988 to today’s global player, now represented in twelve countries. For a glimpse of the future of animal welfare Heli Dungler, together with Dr. Sophie Karmasin of Karmasin Motivforschung, also presented the study “Animal Welfare 2020” (Tierschutz 2020).


The representative online survey (with 1,000 participants) revealed that animal welfare is “very important” for 45% of Austrians. Heli Dungler enthused “This means that almost half of Austrians can be said to feel an affinity with animal welfare, which not only legitimises our work, it also makes it much easier.” Almost two thirds believe that by 2020 animal welfare must even gain significance, with the younger 71% of 14 to 30-year-olds championing this cause with particular vehemence.

This study is only valid for Austria and can not be allocated to other countries. But if you think it’s interesting in your market you could write For Austrians, …

The survey also made it clear that Austrian animal welfare still has a long way to go: when asked to evaluate animal welfare in Austria, only 4% would give a mark of “very good”, 25% “good”, and 44% would give “satisfactory”.  However, 15% would give a lukewarm “adequate”, and 3% “inadequate”.


Heli Dungler, who grew up in Austria’s northern Waldviertel, says “What is interesting is that a lot of Austrians are prepared in principle to change certain habits for the sake of animal welfare.” The Study shows that 76% are prepared to give up goose meat from force-fed or live-plucked birds. 74% want more attention to be given in general to the quality of food products from animals, for instance the origin or the type of husbandry used in production.


Heli Dungler: “Confirmation of our work and a clear mission for the future

Heli Dungler sees the study as a confirmation that animal welfare will also have to be advocated in the years to come. “We can also see a great responsibility and a clear mission for Austrians.” In any case, Heli Dungler sees confirmation of his strategy up to now: the study also highlights that population gives a clear thumbs-down to radical animal rights groups. Heli Dungler: “FOUR PAWS lays great store by dialogue and workable solutions. We are always trying to get people on board for our cause. We want to convince them, not beat them over the head. Animal welfare without people is quite simply not possible.”

Heli Dungler has been in action for FOUR PAWS for over 25 years now. He founded the organisation in Vienna in 1988 and with the help of his colleagues over a quarter of a century he has developed it into an international player in animal welfare.

Milestones: fur, wild animals and battery hens

Heli Dungler sees the bans on fur farming and on the use of wild animals in circuses as landmark successes in Austria, as FOUR PAWS paved the way for the Federal Animal Welfare Act in 2005. An even greater prize was the abolition of battery cages for hens in 2007. Since then within the EU Austria has been a pioneer as regards the keeping of chickens. The year 2000 saw one of FOUR PAWS’ international achievements with the passing of a law in Bulgaria banning the keeping of dancing bears, a long and gruesome tradition and practice in that country.


FOUR PAWS’ largest projects are the LIONSROCK big cat sanctuary in South Africa, which offers a new and species-appropriate life to lions and tigers from poor conditions in private hands, and also the bear parks in Arbesbach (Austria) and Müritz (Germany), and the dancing bears park in Belitsa (Bulgaria). FOUR PAWS is also proud to support the orangutan orphan project of the Orangutan Survival Foundation (BOS) in Samboja in Borneo. In 2013, the anniversary year, the focus will be the bear projects. For example a new park is now under construction in Kosovo which will provide a species-appropriate habitat to bears from miserable conditions under private ownership. The park is planned to open in autumn. On the campaigns side the emphasis will be on the illegal puppy trade.

New “Give me Four” campaign helping stray dogs in Sofia

To mark the anniversary FOUR PAWS is also launching a new online campaign based on the slogan “Give me Four”. As part of their social media activity, Austrians will be called on to “put their paws up in the air” and give each other virtual “high fours” for more humanity for animals. Every “Give me Four” will generate a donation of €1 from FOUR PAWS’ sponsors for the clinic for stray dogs in Sofia, Bulgaria.

Hier geht es zur „Give me Four“-Kampagne auf Facebook.

With this initiative we want to inspire a younger target group to get into our projects”, explains Heli Dungler. “As we learned from the “Animal welfare 2020” study, animal welfare represents a special cause for young people, and we want to take even more account of this in the future.”

© FOUR PAWS | Gabriela Koch