Pashuk, Tomi, and Gjina live at the Pristina Bear Sanctuary in Kosovo. Today you can see them running around, swimming happily in the pool, eating fruit and other treats. But their lives weren’t always like this. Just a few months ago these three behemoths were suffering one of the saddest stories of abuse their rescuers had ever seen. 

These three are among the 50 bears to be rescued by a campaign called "The Saddest Bears in Europe," which is fighting to free bears kept illegally in Albania. Pashuk, Tomi, and Gjina lived in little concrete cages next to a restaurant's outdoor bathroom facility in Ulza.
Around town they were known as the "beer bears" because passersby by gave them beer to drink. For years, that was all the bears received aside from occasional bits of leftover bread. The toxic alcohol, together with malnutrition and confinement, left the bears in atrocious condition.

Pashuk had been tied around the neck with a heavy, short, tight chain since he was a cub. So as he grew, the collar became buried in his flesh and created an ugly wound. 
"Gjina was fed maybe 20 beers per day when she was in the cage next to the restaurant. She was eating some bread, but nothing more," described one of her rescuers. Due to the terrible stress on her body caused by this diet, she can still get anxious and panicked about seemingly nothing. Her current guardians have noticed big improvements though.
Fortunately, the organization Four Paws heard about them, and together with the Albanian Environment Ministry they managed to confiscate the animals. In order to rescue them, they had to sedate the bears, pick them up — with the help of a big group — and finally drive them to their new home in Kosovo. 
"They are real bears now. They're not treated badly anymore. They look perfect now, compared to the time when they were in cages," a rescuer said. At the sanctuary they have lots of space to run around and play, a swimming pool that they enjoy a great deal, and — always — enough food. 
Their transformation is amazing! These bears' suffering is over. They still have a ways to go to recover and fully adapt to their new life, but they're already visibly calmer and healthier. 
Sadly, there are still many bears kept illegally for entertainment in Albania and elsewhere. Four Paws is hard at work tracking them down and trying to free them, and hoping to get government support. They also accept donations to help them with this and lots of other great efforts! 
Luckily for Pashuk, Tomi, and Gjina, someone made a complaint. But there's often no one to tell the authorities and the abuse continues. If you see someone selling or keeping "exotic" wild animals, remember that it's a crime. You can report them to help end these terrible practices!

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