Dear Bosnia-Herzegovina, Euthanasia Will Not Fix Your Stray Dog Problem
Romania is not the only country in which homeless dogs face a death sentence. The government of Bosnia-Herzegovina is seeking to change its existing Animal and Protection Law (pdf) to allow for the “euthanasia” of dogs who have been in shelters for more than fourteen days and have not yet been adopted.
Under the law, euthanizing homeless dogs is illegal unless “the animal cannot be cured and keeping it alive would only cause unnecessary pain and further suffering”; the animal’s vital bodily functions are “terminating” as a result of age; the animal is suffering from “an incurable and/or infectious disease” or a disease that can represent a threat to humans; the animal is “dangerous” or the animal is “in agony.”
In addition, under the current animal welfare law, every city and town in Bosnia-Herzegovina is supposed to build a shelter for homeless animals that has a “no kill” policy and that provides adequate care, including medical care from veterinarians.
Nermina Zaimović Uzunović of Bosnia-Herzegovina’s Social Democratic Party, had called for amendments to the animal welfare law at a July 6 convening of the assembly. At an October 3 debate in the country’s Parliament about changing the law so that it would place what amounts to a death sentence on stray dogs, many including local representatives from Dogs Trust, a number of NGOs concerned about animal welfare, veterinary experts from the Veterinary Faculty, professors, lawyers and ordinary people all “spoke out strongly to oppose the changes,” as the website In Memory of Vucko says.
Vucko was a German shepherd who was seriously injured by an explosive set by two teenagers on November 11, 2011. The details about what happened to Vucko offer ample evidence for why it is necessary to fight the changes proposed by Uzunović:
… two drunken teenagers in Ilidža, Bosnia-Herzegovina, put a rocket explosive firework into a young German Shepherd’s mouth and duct-taped his jaws shut, setting the rocket alight. The firework caused horrific injuries to the dog’s face, but did not kill him. He wandered about for five days before being finally rescued by animal welfare volunteers who took him to a veterinarian’s office. The firework shell was still embedded in the dog’s head, and maggots had started to eat his ruined flesh. The vets determined his injuries could not be helped and he was euthanized.
Clearly, even after the passage of the 2009 animal welfare law in Bosnia-Herzegovina, cruelty against animals continues and without the perpetrators facing prosecution.
As In Memory of Vucko states, he was just one of too many dogs and cats who have suffered, or are suffering, terrible abuse in Bosnia-Herzegovina, a country that is still struggling to recover after the 1992 civil war. Hundreds of dogs freeze to death in the winters, and “reports of animal cruelty, dog hunts, poisonings, dumping of animals, are still commonplace,” according to In Memory of Vucko.
No animal protection laws existed in Bosnia-Herzegovina until the Animal Welfare and Protection Law was passed four years ago. As animal welfare advocates made very clear on October 3, the government has yet to take sufficient measures to enforce the law. As Bosnia-Herzegovina has no organization like the U.S.’s ASPCA, laws to protect animals are all the more necessary.
Euthanization will not solve the problem of stray dogs in Bosnia-Herzegovina, as those who spoke against changing the law underscored at the October 3 debate. Real solutions instead involve requiring owners to register dogs, sterilization and improved methods of population control, better training of veterinarians and increasing and improving shelters.
Stray dogs are “always a consequence, not a cause of the problem,” as Professor Selma Filipovic, Head of the Department of Surgery, School of Veterinary Medicine in Sarajevo, pointed out during the October 3 debate.
Bosnia-Herzegovina’s Parliament will soon be voting on whether or not to change the animal welfare law. Animal advocates are asking for your urgent help to lobby MEPS and local politicians; to write letters to international welfare organizations (details can be found here); and to donate desperately needed funds for advocates to continue their work of investigating the ”shelters” and compiling evidence of abuses to bring to Parliament.
It is crucial that the Bosnia-Herzegovina’s Animal Welfare and Protection Law remain a no-kill law. Sign the petition to stop Bosnia-Herzegovina from implementing a kill law!
Photo from In Memory of Vucko