Following the fatal attack of a four-year-old boy in Bucharest last month, the Romanian government was forced to address its large population of homeless dogs. On Wednesday, in a move that sparked international outrage, Romania’s constitutional court ruled in favor of a bill that authorizes the roundup of thousands of strays who will be taken to a shelter where they will be killed if they are not claimed or adopted after 14 days.
Despite an appeal from 30 lawmakers who supported sterilization as an alternative, the Constitutional Court upheld the law, and dogcatchers are reportedly already out on the streets.
While there is a dispute between animal advocacy organizations and city officials about the actual number of strays in the the city, the population is estimated to be between 40,000 and 64,000. By one estimate, there’s a stray for every 31 people.
Now hundreds of dog lovers and animal advocates are protesting the decision and calling the government’s move an ill-conceived and brutal reaction that might placate angry residents, but won’t do anything to solve the problem.
“We don’t believe that anyone wants tens of thousands of innocent dogs killed as a response to the tragic death of this poor little boy. A proper long-term solution urgently needs to be put in place and this requires careful thought and consideration, not a knee-jerk reaction to appease/address the understandable public pressure in Romania,” said WSPA Europe director Ruud Tombrock.
Vier Pfoten, an animal welfare group, criticized the ruling, saying it ignored an appeal by the European Commission to Romania to protect animal rights, reports the AP. There are currently agreements in place that have concluded culling campaigns to control stray dog populations are not an effective solution. This type of strategy for dealing with homeless dogs has also been denounced by the World Health Organization and the World Organization for Animal Health, of which Romania is a member.
Vier Pfoten has reportedly sterilized 10,400 dogs in Bucharest alone, but without the ability to do it on a mass scale and more dogs continuing to be born, their efforts won’t make enough of difference in the long run. In addition to sterilization, others also support changing the culture of pet ownership, requiring microchips and pet passports and instituting harsh punishments for abandoning dogs.
The real question is how the population was allowed to get this out of control in the first place. The problem with strays is believed to have been started in the 1980s when communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu decided to tear down houses and replace them with high-rise apartments as part of an urbanization plan. As a result, people who lost their homes and had to move to places where they couldn’t bring their dogs just abandoned them. Since then, the numbers have just continued to grow.
It’s sad that action wasn’t taken decades ago before the problem escalated. Now dogs have to pay for human irresponsibility with their lives.
The bill still has to be signed by the president before it can officially become a law.
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