We, the undersigned non-profit animal rescue organizations in Georgia, urge the withdrawal of the “Law of Georgia on Transparency of Foreign Influence” (also known as “the Russian law”) and demand transparency from all (local and national) government institutions working in our sector.

For nearly two decades, successive governments have failed to provide humane and effective programs and solutions to address the enormous stray animal problem in the country.

To make up for this permanent government failure, we, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), have been working tirelessly in our communities to reduce the number of animals suffering on the streets.

We do not receive government support and there are only very limited internal funding sources available to finance our work in Georgia. As a result, we rely heavily on the help of civic-minded citizens based abroad as well as the very scarce and small international grants available. Against this background, we find it morally unacceptable to be categorized and stigmatized as “foreign agents.”

Contrary to the government propaganda, there is transparency in the NGO sector. Just like any other type of organization, NGOs are obliged to fill out monthly tax declarations, along with incomes and spending. All such information is publicly available on the relevant Revenue Service sites. In addition, we also pay a large amount of taxes, as is the case for organizations in any other sector.

The impending legislation will not change or improve any of this. However, what it will do is put such a massive additional administrative expense on our organizations, that it will lead to us having to cease our operations.

There is only one genuine transparency problem in our field, and that is related to the government sector. Specifically, we have no clear information on how much is spent and in what way on municipality programs to address the stray animal situation in a humane manner. What is clear is that these programs are failing, despite massive amounts of our tax money being spent on them.

There is no transparency as to who operates several municipality shelters, how they do so, and under what regulations. Here, animals are left without basic necessities, food, and veterinary treatment. These double standards also exist in the case of organizations helping children with cancer or disabilities, supporting victims of domestic violence, helping homeless families and people living in absolute poverty, or performing other valuable work to compensate for the lack of state services.

We are addressing issues symptomatic of permanent government failure. We serve Georgian society. Yet, with this legislation the government is falsely declaring us as “foreign agents.”

We find it appalling that, instead of doing the job it was elected to do by actually addressing major social problems, the government is attacking and stigmatizing organizations that help Georgian communities.

Finally, we stand in solidarity with all other NGOs under relentless attack from the government, and call on every animal lover to raise their voices against this legislation that is morally unacceptable and will make our already difficult work impossible, leaving many street animals to fend for themselves. We call on President Zourabichvili to veto the bill. And we call on the Georgian government not to override the veto- the letter reads.