Later this month, the Romanian parliament is expected to decide the fate of thousands of stray dogs in the Balkan nation.
If the proposed re-working of the nation’s animal welfare law is passed, the decision about whether to euthanize healthy dogs will be left to local authorities, reversing a nearly decade-long nationwide ban on the practice.
Currently, Romanian law dictates that only dogs with health or behavioral problems may be euthanized.
While the proposed changes to the animal welfare laws are aimed at controlling the population of stray dogs, animal rights activists are concerned that the vague language in the legislation could open the door for the legal mass killing of all of Romania’s dogs.
In Bucharest, Romania’s capital city and population center, thousands of stray dogs have been roaming the street since the mid-1980′s, when then-dictator Nicolae Ceausescu demolished a large section of residential neighborhoods, leaving residents to abandon their pets.
The proposed change in stray management echoes a policy that, in 2001, “failed after killing hundreds of thousands of animals and wasting millions of Euros.” In the end, Bucharest’s stray population did not decline.
Animal rights organizations both in Romania and abroad are calling on the parliament to keep the law as it is. In a letter addressed to the parliament, the London-based World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) stresses that not only is the euthanasia of all stray dogs an inhumane method of stray population control, it is ineffective as well.
Romanian Animal Welfare Coalition (RAWC) representative David Newall advocates for a program that, rather than euthanize healthy dogs to control stray population, neuters dogs, educates the public, encourages adoption and keeps the streets clean of garbage.
Newall states that this type of model has already been proven effective in Romania, albeit on a smaller scale:
“In 2003 there were an estimated 4800 street dogs in the Oradea and Bihor area. After just seven years and 18,000 dogs neutered the street dog population dropped by 90 per cent to just 512. An incredible number of approximately 216,000 unwanted puppies have been prevented.”
According to MSNBC, local media reports that 60% of Bucharest’s estimated 50,000 stray dogs are currently sterilized.
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Photo from phossil via flickr