30 years of Four paws

A Journey in Time, 1988–2018

The history of FOUR PAWS began on March 4, 1988. How did this Austrian animal welfare organisation become an internationally active foundation running projects and campaigns worldwide? What are the milestones of the last 30 years? How has FOUR PAWS been shaped by these projects and animal disaster relief missions?

Take a trip back in time through our past 30 years of action for animal welfare.  



Heli Dungler founds FOUR PAWS together with friends on March 4, 1988, in Vienna.

The first protests draw attention to the suffering of fur animals. In the autumn, Austrian media report on domestic fur farms for the first time.  


>> First occupation of fur farms in Austria. Charges are brought against a number of fur farms for cruelty to animals and endangering the environment. 

>> Action against the trade in captured exotic birds. Airlines AUA and Lauda-Air withdraw from the transport business.


Fur farm occupation

The fur farm in Unterpetersdorf in the province of Burgenland is finally forced to close. 


Action on battery cages

Protest in Vienna in front of the Ministry of Agriculture: FOUR PAWS demands the compulsory labelling of eggs as well as a complete ban on battery cages for laying hens. 


Blockade of the Latschenberger battery farm, one of Austria's largest egg producers.  


Stray Animal Care

Stray Animal Care is launched in Bucharest, Romania.


Horse racing

Protests in Pardubice (Czech Republic) against this tough steeplechase: the course is altered and stricter registration criteria are introduced. 



Closure of the last fox farm in Austria.


The first bears

FOUR PAWS assumes the care of privately owned bears Brumca, Liese and Vinzenz with the aim of providing them with a bear-friendly home.



'Ground-breaking' ceremony for BEAR SANCTUARY Arbesbach. In September, Brumca, Liese and Vinzenz move in.


A successful outcome after years of campaigning against fur farms: fur farms are banned in six Austrian provinces.  



Protests and negotiations force the closure of the company 'Gnaser Frischei', Austria's largest battery farm.



Opening of the DANCING BEARS PARK Belitsa in Bulgaria. The first three former dancing bears move in. 



The German Bundestag includes animal welfare in Germany's Constitution. At a plenary session, Minister Renate Künast thanks FOUR PAWS by name.



The Austrian Animal Welfare Act comes into force. It prohibits fur farming and bans wild animals from circuses. 



Opening of BEAR SANCTUARY Müritz in Germany.


Lion rescue

FOUR PAWS assumes the care of 10 lions from the bankrupt safari park in Gänserndorf. The animals are transferred to LIONSROCK Big Cat Sanctuary in South Africa (newly acquired by FOUR PAWS), where they find a home suited to their species.  


The transfer of Bulgaria's last dancing bears to Belitsa ends this dark chapter of bear-keeping in the EU. FOUR PAWS played a decisive role in this development.


Sanctuary for big cats

The LIONSROCK Big Cat Sanctuary in South Africa is officially opened.



Heli Dungler is awarded the Silver Decoration of Honour for Services to the Republic of Austria.



End to the keeping of dancing bears in Serbia. FOUR PAWS frees the last three Serbian dancing bears and transfers them to DANCING BEARS PARK Belitsa.


Princess Alia Foundation

Cooperation with the Princess Alia Foundation: six Jordanian lions are transferred to LIONSROCK, while FOUR PAWS Stray Animal Care operates in Jordan for the first time and trains local vets.


Stray Animal Care

Help for strays in Ukraine: in just six months, our teams neuter and treat more than 6,000 stray dogs and are able to rescue five bears from appalling conditions in private captivity.   

>> Stray Animal Care in Ukraine


Six orangutan orphans are released into the wild on Borneo – the first orangutans to be returned to the jungle in the framework of our project.

Livestock farming

Ja! Natürlich and FOUR PAWS join efforts to improve standards in organic livestock farming. A pilot project is dedicated to the issue of the killing of male chicks in egg production. The project 'Homely Hen & Rooster' ensures that not only hens but also cocks can lead an animal-friendly life on free-range farms.  

>> Pioneering project 'Homely Hen & Rooster'


Restaurant bears

FOUR PAWS rescues 13 'restaurant bears' in Kosovo from poor conditions in captivity and transfers them to the new BEAR SANCTUARY Prishtina.

Fighting bears

FOUR PAWS uncovers illegal bear-baiting in Ukraine and rescues female fighting bear Masha.

Help for horses in Romania

Start of a birth control programme for some of the last horses living wild in Europe in the Danube Delta.

>> Help for horses in Romania



FOUR PAWS officially opens BEAR SANCTUARY Prishtina in Kosovo.

>> Video: Five Years BEAR SANCTUARY Prishtina

Flood disaster relief

Disaster relief in the Balkans: for three weeks, a FOUR PAWS team is on the ground in Bosnia and Serbia where it provides domestic animals with feed and medicine.

Rescue in Gaza

FOUR PAWS frees two lions and a lioness from the remains of the Al-Bisan Zoo in the northern Gaza Strip, totally destroyed by rocket fire. 


Bear rescue in Austria

FOUR PAWS brings three bears housed in poor conditions in the Enghagen animal park to BEAR SANCTUARY Arbesbach.



Under pressure from FOUR PAWS, among others, Austrian organic farms collectively announce the end of the senseless killing of chicks.

Emergency in India

FOUR PAWS provides supplies for over 600 animals after flooding in Chennai.


Help for working horses in Jordan

Jointly with the Princess Alia Foundation, FOUR PAWS launches a project in the antique city of Petra to help working horses and donkeys.
>> Help for working horses


Closure of Vienna's pony carousel

Vienna's traditional merry-go-round in the Prater park is closed down at last after intensive negotiations with FOUR PAWS.

>> Protest: Flower storm for carousel ponies

Rescue in Gaza

FOUR PAWS rescues 15 animals from the 'world's worst zoo' in Gaza. 

>> Rescue in Gaza


Rescue from the turmoil of war in Mosul

A FOUR PAWS team rescues bear Lula and lion Simba from a desolate zoo in northern Iraq.

>> Rescue from Mosul

Rescue mission to Aleppo

FOUR PAWS operates a successful rescue mission to Syria, saving the 13 remaining animals in a pleasure park from certain death.  

>> Rescue from Aleppo
>> The history of lions Simba and Saeed

Hurricane in Puerto Rico

The FOUR PAWS disaster relief team distributes around two tons of dry food for dogs and cats and treats over 580 animals.

>> Hurricane in Puerto Rico

First bear rescue in Vietnam

FOUR PAWS rescues the first three former bile bears and transfers them to the newly built BEAR SANCTUARY Ninh Binh.

>> Bile bears in Vietnam
>> May & Binh Yen's journey to happiness 


Launch of the International Animal Welfare Summit 

FOUR PAWS organises the first International Animal Welfare Summit in Vienna. The event explores the topic: 'Animal welfare – a critical issue for the future or a luxury problem?'  

Over 300 guests attend the lectures and discussions by experts from the fields of science, nutrition, agriculture, economy and art. The appearance of Chinese conceptual artist and human rights activist, Ai Weiwei, forms the highlight of the summit. 

>> IAWS pictures and videos


Elephant sanctuary

The construction of ELEPHANTS LAKE in Myanmar begins. It will be one of the biggest elephant sanctuaries in Southeast Asia.


Orangutan Forest School in Borneo

The FOUR PAWS Orangutan Forest School opens in East Kalimantan.

>> Orangutan Forest School

50,000 dogs and cats vaccinated

In the framework of the 'Don't Wait, Vaccinate' campaign, over 50,000 dogs and cats are vaccinated in Myanmar.

>> Don't Wait, Vaccinate

Bear rescue in Ukraine

FOUR PAWS rescues female fighting bear Kvitka from a Ukrainian hunting station and transfers her to BEAR SANCTUARY Domazhyr.

>> A future without fighting for Kvitka

First resident in the Arosa Bear Sanctuary

FOUR PAWS brings Serbia's last circus bear to his new Swiss home.

>> First resident in the Arosa Bear Sanctuary
>> Arosa Bear Sanctuary

FOUR PAWS and Ai Weiwei visit working elephants in Myanmar

Artist expresses concern about the future of these animals.

>> Visit to the working elephants

Opening of Arosa Bear Sanctuary

New bear sanctuary in Switzerland.

>> Opening of the Arosa Bear Sanctuary

Disaster relief on Lombok

A FOUR PAWS team provides horses and cats with feed and medical aid.

>> Disaster relief after earthquake in Indonesia


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