THE CURRENT LEGISLATION Deficiencies, lacuna and failures of the current legislation
Besides the fact that OUG 155/2001, modified by Law 258/2013, completely ignores the recommendations by WHO, OIE, and FVE, it also suffers some other, obvious deficiencies (structure, coherence and style) as explained below:
1) The current Law 258/2013 for the management of stray dogs which provides - as main solution - the capture and the mass euthanasia of all stray dogs after 14 working days following incarceration, is a totally inefficient, immoral, and traumatizing policy for both animals and people. This fundamentally wrong solution is repudiated not only by 8 years of practicing it in Romania (2001-2008) but also by the studies and the recommendations of WHO, OIE, and FVE.
2) Law 258/2013 breaks a number of conventions including:
Article 13 of the Lisbon Treaty acknowledging animals as sentient beings.
The European Convention for the Protection of Pet Animals
The Written Declaration 26/2011 by the European Parliament on dog population management in the EU - which clearly states that euthanasia is not effective way of solving the problem
3) The current law is inefficient.
Taking all dogs from the streets is utopic, based on the perspectives of capture, sheltering and finally the euthanasia. Progressively taking dogs from the streets stimulates the proliferation of those who remained, which will lead to the re-make of the initial population and the perpetuation of the problem (fact proved by WHO and the experience of the years 2001/2008)
Dog catchers capture only the gentle and friendly dogs because the non-socialized and aggressive ones are difficult to catch. The non-selective mass capture will make the capture of aggressive dogs even more difficult
The chaotic and non-selective mass capturing facilitates the migration of dogs in the spree places, migration which also disturbs the management process
The mass capturing (for incarceration and killing) will be constantly sabotaged by the population who protects the dogs
4) The utmost cruelty practiced on a daily basis in various parts of Romania in the name of “euthanasia” of dogs is in flagrant breach of European values and of a number of international obligations binding on Romania.
5)“Catch & Kill” can under no circumstances be regarded a cost-effective measure, as it is much more expensive than “Neuter, Vaccinate & Return”. It does not address the root of the problem or bring permanent results. The dog management business is a lucrative way for private businessmen in a number of Romanian cities to avail themselves of public funds indefinitely. Typically, these private companies are on good personal terms with local politicians and may sponsor political parties or individual mayors. Due to the multi-million euro nature of the dog management business in Romania and their vested interests therein, these private businessmen have no incentive whatsoever to support a permanent reduction of the unsupervised dog population. A “Neuter, Vaccinate & Return” policy would render their business model obsolete in just a few years, whereas a continuation of the “Catch & Kill” policy will safeguard a constant supply of “raw material” and business income for the years to come. Unfortunately, dog population mismanagement perfectly illustrates certain well-known weaknesses in current Romanian society and administration.
6) The only solution for the alternative management of stray dogs – the adoption – is being flagrantly obstructed by the mandatory documents requested, like 'proof of the space where the animal will live' (most of the time they request proof of the space of the property - documents which renters do not possess), a document attesting the approval of the neighbors, etc. (a real discrimination against those who want to adopt dogs, compared with those who get animals from other sources than the public shelters), and unsuitable opening hours.
7) The current legislation has very serious deficiencies regarding its clarity and predictability. It does not encourage the implication of the population and NGOs in the program for the management and the monitoring of stray dogs, and contains too soft sanctions.
8) The current legislation contains no provisions regarding informational/educational programs on responsible animal ownership, the encouragement of adoptions, or against the abandon, etc..
9) There is NO program, nor any norms for the management of stray cats
Why 'Catch & Kill' won't work
In the past, the capture and killing of stray dogs has been the dominant strategy to reduce dog populations and dog zoonoses. In the late 1980s, lethal dog-control programs were challenged on both ethical and efficiency grounds. Mass removal strategies have been criticized because they fail to discriminate between owned and stray dogs and use cruel methods of removal. Rather than reducing rabies risk, the culling of dogs in countries increases population turnover and movement, which, in turn, facilitate disease transmission. Following the elimination of dogs, new dogs repopulate the areas through compensatory breeding and migration.
While WHO initially supported the culling of stray dogs, it now concedes that removal of dogs does not stop the problem and only offers a temporary “solution”, nor does it reduce the spread of rabies (WHO, Geneva, 1990).
Statistical studies indicate that in order to fully control a stray population, you need to achieve a 70 percent sterilization rate of the animals within a particular community. Once you reach the 70 percent threshold, the probability that an unsterilized female comes into contact with an unsterilized male is sufficiently small, and the population stops growing. Killing stray animals, however, does not stop the problem”. The World Health Organization’s “Guidelines for Dog Population Management” (Geneva 1990) and various other academic studies show that killing dogs is ineffective.
A “Catch & Kill" policy, as currently in practice in Romania, will not work because it is aimed at the wrong target. Stray, feral dogs are not the source of the problem. The dog flourishes only in the company of human beings; accordingly, feral dogs are the least reproductively successful. In contrast, the offspring of kept or owned dogs (whether family dogs or neighbourhood dogs) often survive. The latter are the source of the next generation of unsupervised “street” dogs. This is why a “Neuter, Vaccinate & Return” policy works, whereas Catch & Kill does not.
A very important component of C-N-R is the return of the animals back to their territory and that has its reasons. If the captured, neutered, registered and vaccinated dogs are not being returned back to their territory, the remaining dogs, or the newly abandoned dogs, will breed in larger numbers due to the fact that they will use the whole food resources available, and the empty place after the dogs have been removed, will soon be occupied by other ones in search of food and shelter.
According to the Red Panda Association, a dog can travel up to 7 kilometers in a single day looking for a space with sufficient resources, where he/she can settle and breed, and an area free from competition will be very easy to identify. If, however, that territory is held by neutered dogs these will consume the resources the un-neutered dogs would need. If the neutered dog is being returned to his/her territory, he/she will fight off and keep away newer dogs from entering his/her area, including those that are probably not sterilized and thus stop the reproduction in this area. Their number will stabilize in this manner, and reduce. Neutered dogs would naturally disappear from the streets in a few years, because their average life in the street is 3 to 7 years. 
“Neuter, Vaccinate & Return” addresses the root of the problem, “Catch & Kill” only the symptoms.
In 2001, the stray dog population in Bucharest was estimated at 70,000 dogs.The same year, Traian Basescu - the then-mayor of Bucharest - launched a campaign that led to the extermination of about 144,000 stray dogs in the capital alone, spending almost 9,000,000 Euros (62 Euros per dog killed) during the period from 2001-2007. Four years later, in 2011, when a mass-extermination was considered again for the first time, authorities claimed that 50,000 stray dogs were still/again roaming the streets of the Romanian capital and of which 60 percent were sterilized. In September 2013, at the time the current Law 258/2013 was introduced, the authorities claimed that there were about 65,000 street dogs living in Bucharest.ASPA claimes having removed 55,000 dogs since the introduction of the current legislation (meaning in 2013 and 2014) and ASPA's budget, as allocated by the town hall of Bucharest for this same period being of 11.842.420,39 EURO means that the costs involved in removing ONE dog were of 215,31 EUR. That said: from 2001 till 2014, a total of 199,000 dogs have been killed in the capital alone at a total cost of 20.842.420,39 EURO.
In 2001, Brasov claimed having a stray animal population of 4,000 dogs. However, Brasov' dog catchers "managed" to exterminate about 20,000 dogs during the period of 2003-2008 at a cost of 1,45 million EURO. That is 72 EURO per dog killed.
"Catch & Kill” has not permanently solved the stray dog problem anywhere in the world, and is often carried out inhumanely. In contrast, by means of a “Neuter, Vaccinate & Return” strategy, a reduction of the unsupervised dog population in six years to less than 10 % of its starting level has been evidenced even in pilot cities in Romania.
ORADEA had a stray dog population of 4,000 animals in 2006 which had been reduced to 350 animals until 2011 at a cost of 14 Euros to spay/neuter one dog. The program was run and funded by Robert Smith - FPCC/Dog - Project Oradea, UK, in collaboration with the city hall Oradea
LUGOJ had a stray dog population of 2,500 animals in 2008 which had been reduced to 235 animals until 2011 at a cost of 12 Euros to spay/neuter one dog. The program was run and funded by the city hall Lugoj in collaboration with the local animal welfare organization, Free Amely 2007
A successful stray management policy must include all owned dogs, because the abandoned dogs are the source of the next generation of unsupervised “street” dogs. People living in cities abandon dogs in rural areas, hoping these will become yard dogs in someone’s household, while those living in rural areas abandon them in urban areas hoping that these will find food in landfills or around restaurants or butcheries. This type of abandonment is a constant source of dogs that will breed.
in Cluj-Napoca, where almost 100% of street dogs are neutered, 200-250 new dogs are still abandoned every month, in particular from unwanted mating of dogs that have an owner, according to an interview conducted by Friedrich Eberhardt Stiftung in September 2014 with Alina Banu, founding member of NUCA Animal Welfare Association of Cluj-Napoca, 
Studies regarding the canine population’s dynamic estimate at a statistical level that a female dog that mates twice a year will give birth to 40 – 220 puppies during a lifetime of 5 to 10 years; or that a single female dog and its breeding descendants can produce a number of over 65,000 descendants within 6 years. 
The canine population’s growth rate can be quite high as long as the environment where they live provides sufficient resources. Statistically, 75 per cent of the canine population will always be at the age of reproductive maturity, and a female can have litters of 8 to 12 puppies twice a year. The specialist literature estimates that a female has an average of 20 puppies per year, starting as young as 6 months in case of small size dogs, and up to 18 months, in case of very large dogs. During the mating period a female produces pheromones that trigger an atypical behavior in males, causing them to become more aggressive and try to escape from the yard or from their chain in order to find the female. Many owners erroneously believe that an animal will be healthier after mating, that if neutered it will be less effective in guarding the yard and consequently prefer to leave males temporarily free and they oppose neutering. Euthanasia of all dogs in a particular area or their relocation to shelters is only effective on a very short term (maximum 6 months, between the two mating seasons), and can never permanently resolve the issue of street dogs. 
The benefits of a national spay & neuter program (that must include all owned dogs)
Firstly and most importantly, it would be successful, whereas 'Catch & Kill' would continue indefinitely
A national spay & neuter program would also be more cost-effective. Romania currently wastes millions of taxpayers' money on a stray animal population control strategy that the WHO considers to be ineffective!
In addition, killing of stray dogs negatively affects tourism
Both methods - mass euthanasia and mass sterilization - will keep dogs on the streets. The difference consists in that, that the mass euthanasia will keep aggressive, not-fixed, non-vaccinated dogs on the streets forever, while the mass sterilization method will keep on the streets for a shorter period of time, only the friendly dogs, the sterilized and vaccinated ones. The cohabitation with these, not dangerous animals, is normal - their extermination is not (ethologically, culturally, educationally and emotionally)
The financial costs of an extermination policy that is doomed to failure
According to a statement issued by the Bucharest Town Hall, the budget allocated to ASPA for 2013 was of 18.600.000,00 Romanian LEI , and another 33.600.000,00 for 2014.  That is a total of 52.200.000,00 Romanian LEI, or 11.842.420,39 EURO. Considering that during the same period (2013 and 2014) ASPA claim having removed 55,000 dogs , it appears that the costs involved in removing one dog are of 215,31 EURO
Romanian LEI EUR ASPA Budget for 2013 18.600.000,00 4.219.713,01 ASPA Budget for 2014 33.600.000,00 7.622.707,38 ------------------ TOTAL for 55.000 dogs removed: 11.842.420,39 or 215,31 EURO/dog
If we would assume that 1 million dogs would be rounded up, warehoused and ultimately killed, and taking the costs from the Bucharest Town Hall as a benchmark, it would appear that Romania's current stray animal control strategy - that the WHO considers to be ineffective - would cost the Romanian taxpayers the impressive sum of 215.310.000 EURO!
In comparison, NGOs sterilize, register and vaccinate one dog for about 25 EURO. Thus, it appears that Romania could sterilize, vaccinate and register 8,6 dogs for the price that they are currently spending for the removal, the housing and the killing of ONE dog. Or, to put it differently: for each million dogs killed, Romania could sterilize, vaccinate and register 8,6 million dogs, and so ease the financial burden of their citizens, especially in rural Romania where poverty is endemic and where people can't afford the costs of sterilization and registration, thus making sure that ALL dogs of Romania – with and without owner – would not only be neutered and registered, but also vaccinated against rabies and other zoonoses.
It is an attested and well-known fact that sterilization is both cheaper, and most importantly, more cost-efficient than killing for the simple reason that a kill policy keeps dogs on the streets indefinitely, whereas a "catch-neuter-return"program solves the problem humanely and permanently.
Thus - scandalously - the Romanian Government throws away millions of EURO taxpayers' money on a discredited program that has failed everywhere in the world - a sum which could contribute significantly to a country with many profound needs.
MEP and President of the European Parliament's Intergroup on Animal Welfare, Mr Janusz Wojciechowski, pointed this out already during the press conference from 12th of February, 2014, following his second visit in Romania when - comparing the costs and efficiency of the killing versus the sterilization of dogs - he said:
“Romania could have more for less.” And that: “the new law has not solved the problem, but has exacerbated it.”
Sterilization of all owned dogs and discouragement of abandonment
A “Catch & Kill" strategy would continue indefinitely, in the absence of the sterilization of ALL owned dogs. And this is still not the case to date, although, according to Law 258/2013, it should have been mandatory by 1st of January, 2015.
In this context it is important to remind that the fine for those found with non-sterilized dogs is of up to 10.000 LEI (2.252 EURO) and that Law 258/2013 does not provide for any financial assistance to people who cannot afford the costs for sterilization and registration. This simple information discourages adoption, and leads the poor people to abandon.
According to a study published in September 2014, only 26% of said owners said that they would sterilize their dogs, with most of them being unwilling to pay more than 50 RON for sterilization, while 16% said they were not willing to pay anything for sterilization, registration and vaccination at all.
According to a report on the stray animal situation in Romania, published by the Friedrich Eberhardt Stiftung, a number of 5.2 million dogs that have an owner, meaning 82% of the dogs of Romania, are located in rural areas, where people lack financial resources to neuter their animals. The statistics presented by CoV show that out of the total number of dogs registered with RECS only 57,184 dogs were neutered countrywide. Therefore, in the absence of a program to fund neutering and identification of dogs that have an owner, the current law will be unable to reduce the widespread phenomenon of stray dogs. 
Here, too, Law 258/2013 has failed its claimed objective: although sterilization and registration are mandatory since 1st of January, 2015, in practice only a small percentage of owned animals has indeed been sterilized and registered. Out of fear to be fined an incredible 2.252 EURO for non-compliance, many people have simply abandoned their animals, like they have always done.
Since the introduction of Law 258/2013 in September 2013, hundreds of thousands of owned and recently abandoned animals have already reproduced and will continue to do so.
'Responsible Animal Ownership Education'
As recommended by WHO, ICAM, and the FVE, another important component of a successful animal population policy is a national 'Responsible Ownership Education' which must be encouraged by education, incentives and/or legislation, and implemented in combination with regulating the breeding and (internet-) trade of companion animals. Education of the public - both children and adults - about responsible ownership is the cornerstone.
Responsible animal ownership campaigns should become an integral part of primary education, establishing a long-term solution to the problem, where ideally no shelters are needed and all companion animals are looked after by a caring owner.
To date, there is still no such education in place in Romania – almost two years after the introduction of Law 258/2013.
Although the Methodological Norms for Law 258/2013 are in line with the guidelines and recommendations issued by the FVE, the reality is somewhat different. There is no proper implementation of the Norms, and thus, they appear to be of purely cosmetic nature. Neither are the shelter conditions in accordance with the 'Norms', nor with the FVE guidelines.
In most situations, local authorities apply (respect) only the part of the law that is convenient for them. Meaning from the entire legislation, basically only that part regarding the capture, the incarceration and the killing of the dogs. The norms for the protection and well being of animals are completely being ignored. The overwhelming majority of public shelters for dogs are pestilential spaces lacking the most basic requirements, where dogs are being starved, left to kill one another, to fight with one another, and left without medical care.
All pictures taken in the public shelter in Tg-Jiu, June 2015
Romania's dog shelters are nothing but death camps of the worst kind with no consideration given to the fact that dogs are 'sentient beings' who feel pain, fear and distress. The conditions in Romania's shelters as well as their general treatment of the dogs, are a clear violation of Article 13 TFEU.
A report by investigative journalists from RISE Project, released on 24th of July, 2014 (see next video), confirmed that the reality inside Romanian public shelters is shocking, with more than half the animals dying of 'natural causes'
The report released by Rise Project, followed only days after Vier Pfoten released a shocking video on the horrible shelter conditions in Romania's public shelters which made headlines in the Romanian and international news. Indeed, between March and May 2014, a team of Vier Pfoten investigators visited and assessed 43 public shelters in Romania -- from around 81 currently registered with the Romanian vet authorities. The results of the investigation are shocking: dog cadavers lying among living dogs, a mixture of food and waste, including urine and excrement, on the floor of the dog cages. (see next video)
Monitoring of shelters
There is currently no monitoring of shelter activities, and out of the public eye, dogs are left to the mercy of careless, under-educated shelter workers, and scrupulous shelter managers who value money above the well being of these animals, and a respect for life in general.
All pictures taken in the public shelter in Tg-Jiu, June 2015
Upon the visit of the Members of the European Parliament’s Intergroup on the Welfare of Animals in December 2013 and as a response to multiple criticisms of the indolence towards the CRUELTY against stray dogs, the NSVFSA pompously announced the creation of a new department – “the Animal Police” – whose duty would be – among others – to supervise the dog shelters.
This ‘intention’, far from stimulating the inspections in shelters and compliance with the law, had an exact opposite effect. The inspections were postponed until after the creation of the Animal Police, and in the end, as a maximum irony, the said ‘Police’ has not been yet created for multiple reasons. Moreover, within a recent conference of FVE (June 2015, Iasi), NSVFSA declared to have limited the resources granted for monitoring, which means that there is no kind of control of the activities in shelters at the moment.
Implementation of the Law, economic interests and lack of resources
The dogs are being captured by incompetent staff, using violent and dangerous methods, without any criteria of priorities (example: puppies are being captured before the aggressive dogs, the non-aggressive dogs before the pregnant females). Sometimes they are transported to different towns at tens of kilometers away (because not all towns have shelters as the law requires) before being incarcerated without any sorting based on aggressiveness, size, gender, health, age.
There is no transparency in the management of strays, in fact the public shelter have been transformed in real fortresses in which the public access is very limited, many times banned and most of the times illegally obstructed and where the dog catchers are protected by the Police, and by the sanitary veterinary authorities who most of the time refuse to intervene.
The dog catching services refuse the monitoring by NGOs. They even blackmail them, threatening to completely ban them from accessing the shelters if they reveal the illegalities or if they report to the authorities supposed to control their activities. The authorities which protect the dog catchers consider the NGOs as enemies and do everything in their power to sabotage them. Many times the dog catching services refused any help from associations or private persons, thus letting the animals to suffer unnecessarily.
The authorities in big cities have developed a real industry - worth millions of EURO - around the management of stray dogs, whose number they fictitiously raise, fictitiously capture, fictitiously feed, fictitiously treat, fictitiously euthanize. Given that there are considerable profits to be made, there is no interest to take efficient measures which would really reduce the number of animals.
The authorities in smaller towns lack financial resources and call dog catching services from other towns (who abandon some of the dogs again because they have no interest in spending any money on them) or deal with suspicious associates, or real coteries with other authorities from other towns, producing all the time the same result: the useless killing of dogs for an unlimited period of time without really solving the problem.
In the following TV report, followed by an interview by Daniel Tomescu, four ex ASPA-dogcatchers disclosed the brutal methods used for capturing the stray dogs and accused the Authority for Surveillance and Animal Protection (ASPA) to force them to capture as many dogs as possible, without tranquilisers, without proper instructions and generally regardless of the methods used.
They also said that the dogs were spending even 14 hours inside the vans befor being discharged to the public dog pounds and some of them were already dead because of the violent treatment. No matter the physical condition of the animals, the three private companies hired by ASPA were charging over 50 euros per captured animal.
The ASPA coordinator, Razvan Bancescu, replied that ”the capturing methods are not the most elegant, but they’re according to the law”.
The reporter Daniel Tomescu added the following comment in Romanian to his video (next video) - please click here to read an automatically translated version. "Acesta este motivul pentru care sunt ucisi cainii! Acesta este motivul pentru care un caz clar de neglijenta (si nu este singurul) si patrundere ilegala pe un teren privat s-a transformat intr-o vendeta manipulata de mass-media, politicieni si autoritati.
Aici sunt banii dumneavoastra! Aici sunt hotii dvs! Aici sunt cruzimile ucigasilor de caini. O sa va dumiriti usor de ce au aparut extremisti care sustin uciderea cainilor. E vorba de bani foarte multi in joc. Unde ajung banii? Ce ar fi sa-i intrebam pe Bancescu, pe Oprescu, pe cei care au adoptat legea masacrului, pe detinatorii firmelor private care captureaza cainii. Firme care isi au "sediul" in spatele blocurilor sau in parcuri.
Cruzimi de neimaginat tolerate si incurajate de conducatorii ASPA. Si in Bucuresti este doar epicentrul cruzimilor. In toata tara au loc astfel de acte.
Speram ca DNA-ul sa-si faca treaba si sa mearga cu acuzarea vinovatilor pana SUS. Nu la Dumnezeu, ci la cei care au votat o lege aberanta pentru a umple buzunarele cu banii scosi din sangele cainilor si oamenilor nevinovati. Poate ar fi interesant de aflat cine sunt detinatorii firmelor de hingherie. Poate aflam rudele cui sunt. Poate... Caini morti pe post de maidanezi, caini cu stapan pe post de maidanezi. Cei 65.000 de caini din Bucuresti sunt, dar nu pe strazi... Ei sunt in buzunarele celor care au cerut/adoptat aceasta lege. Si zornaie...
O ultima stire anunta ca uciderile cainilor vor fi secretizate. Era clar ca cei 65.000 de caini inexistenti, deja morti sau cu stapan trebuie sa fie ucisi pe bani multi fara ca oamenii sa afle adevarul. Domnule Oprescu nici nu stiu daca sunteti la fel de odios ca Basescu sau mai odios. Minciuna are picioare scurte, dar buzunare adanci.
Hotii, infractorii si criminalii fac legea in Romania! Pana cand?"
Article 1 of the Methodological Norms for Law 258/2013 clarifies as follows:
“The purpose of the present norms is to reduce the number of stray dogs,…, to reduce the occurrence of rabies and other zoonoses, to reduce the risk to human health”.
Here, too, the reality looks not only somewhat different, but indeed gives reason for serious concerns.
According to an article published by AGERPRESS on 25th of May, 2015, the Director General of Directorate General Sanitary Veterinary and Food Safety Authority (DGSVSA), Dana Tanase, announced, at the request of Agerpres that during the national anti-rabies vaccination campaign held from 11.01.2014 - 28.02.2015, 1,028.035 dogs had been vaccinated from a population of 3,490,695 - that is only 29,45%.
This is the lowest vaccination rate in 41 years and is due to the fact that currently only micro-chipped animals are being vaccinated. Romanian veterinarians confirmed that people in poor villages were not able to pay between 30 and 50 Romanian LEI for a chip and that the situation can become serious since more than 50% of the canine population has become potentially responsible for transmitting rabies to humans after contacts with wildlife. Not only does this carry implications for human health INSIDE Romania but also has cross border implications, including Ukraine and EU Member State Hungary. The sheer fact that currently a growing number of owned dogs are not being vaccinated against rabies in the absence of registration, clearly shows that Law 258/2013 does – in practice – not work given that it fails one of its claimed, very important, objectives (to reduce the occurrence of rabies and other zoonoses).
Despite a number of “Catch & Kill” campaigns in Romania over the years, the occurrence of rabies in domestic animals in Romania has not decreased, but, instead, increased. This is because Romania has, to date, never implemented at the national level any long-term dog population management programme in accordance with international best practice.  And even worse: currently not even owned dogs are being vaccinated against rabies in the absence of registration, endangering not only the animal population, but the human population, too.
In its report, Technical Report Series 931, WHO’s Expert Consultation on Rabies, which met in Geneva from 5 to 8 October 2004, states:
“Since the 1960s, ABC programs coupled with rabies vaccination have been advocated as a method to control urban street male and female dog populations and ultimately human rabies in Asia. The rationale is to reduce the dog population turnover as well as the number of dogs susceptible to rabies and limit aspects of male dog behavior (such as dispersal and fighting) that facilitate the spread of rabies. The culling of dogs during these programs may be counterproductive as sterilized, vaccinated dogs may be destroyed”.
Reported dog bites
In 2014, for the first time in more than ten years, the number of individuals bitten by dogs that have an owner exceeded that of individuals bitten by stray dogs, according to National Institute of Infectious Diseases Matei Bals. Of course, authorities are using this argument to demonstrate that their extermination policy works, but things are, however, not as simple as that.
The next document issued by National Institute of Infectious Diseases Matei Bals covers the period from 01.01.2013 till 30.06.2015 and what is interesting at this document is that not only did the number of bites caused by dogs without owner (fara stapan) decrease, but so did also the number of bites caused by dogs with owner (cu stapan), by cats (pisica) and even those caused by other animals such as rats (altre animale), meaning a downward trend of all carnivore bites . Evidently, the removal from the streets of the stray dogs could NOT have influenced the number or behaviour of the other animals reflected in the statistics, what means that there is no certain correlation between the temporary decrease of the number of stray dogs and the diminished number of bites.
According to the data provided by the National Institute for Infectious Diseases “Prof. Dr. Matei Balș” of Bucharest the total number of stray dog bites in 2013 was of merely 6,886 in the entire country. Assuming that in Bucharest, where the aggressivity rate is higher than in the rest of the towns a number of 5,000 persons were bitten and considering that the stray dog population is estimated relatively at 40,000 – 50,000 dogs, it follows that ONLY one dog of 10 bites, and this only once a year. (Realistically it is more likely to assume that one dog out of 20 has bitten twice a year or one dog out of 30 has bitten thrice a year)!
The aggressivity indicators of the stray dogs are artificially amplified also by the false declarations of some owners such as to avoid paying for rabies vaccination from their own pocket.
In the United States 4.5 – 4.7 million people are bitten each year by owned dogs (that is 650 times more bites than in Romania occurred within a human population only about 15 times greater than that of Romania), a fact that did neither cause general hysteria, nor has determined the authorities and media to cover up these statistics, as is the case in Romania.
If you take a look at the figures on dog bites registered between January 2004 and September 2014, shared also by Institute Matei Bals (see 1. picture below), as well as the graphical interpretation below (picture 2), you will see that the number of bites registered as having been caused by "dogs without owner", had already started to decrease after May 2013 (marked by a red arrow) while stray dog capturing and killing has started only in 2014.
If we were to take into consideration the numbers put forward by ASPA Bucharest (the Authority for Animal Monitoring and Protection) concerning the capturing of 55,000 of 65,000 dogs by the end of 2014 and correlate these with the number of bites recorded in 2014 and the diminishing rate of the number of bites already existing between 2012 and 2013, an interesting result is obtained. Thus, if we disregard the significant decreasing trend of 2013 (which can be reasonably assumed to have continued also in the absence of the slaughtering initiated by the dog-catchers of Bucharest), we can notice that although the number of dogs has allegedly decreased 6.5 times, the number of bites has decreased only 2.38 times, that is three times less than the decrease of the dog population.
More so, if we consider also the decreasing trend started in 2013 (probably generated by the reduction of the stray dog population by castration) we would arrive at the conclusion that the SLAUGHTERING OF MORE THAN 70% of the dogs has led merely to an ANAEMIC DECREASE OF THE NUMBER OF BITES, namely 1.2 times, and WHICH IS ABSURD.
In reality, the results from the report issued by the National Institute for Infectious Diseases “Prof. Dr. Matei Balș” of Bucharest for the period from 01.01.2013 to 30.06.2014 (a report in that the number of stray dog bites is established only based on the statements of the bitten persons, within the context of many preferring to declare to have been bitten by a stray dog, such as to not have to pay for rabies vaccination).
Over the last years, many, including Romanian NGOs, have expressed doubts about these statistics, because the people are advised by the medical staff / friends/ other patients or on their own initiative, to declare that they were bitten by unknown stray dogs in order to avoid paying for the related 8/11 treatment costs nor for the rabies vaccination. Care provided to bitten individuals costs between RON 130 and RON 400 per patient, and in case of assault by street dogs, all costs are covered by the medical unit, which probably influences the number of bites declared as being caused by stray dogs.
But even the complains point to aggressive dogs, fact is that aggressive stray dogs (who attack without being provoked) are very rare. The most serious cases of aggression have always been caused by dogs with owners, and even dogs kept on a leash.
In reality there are also cats that attack people. Starting from the argument which led to the decision to exterminate all stray dogs, one should also exterminate all feral cats, to eliminate the risk of one aggressive cat. Fortunately this will not happen because it is absurd and impossible to implement. Absurd and impossible to transpose in reality is also the decision to exterminate all stray dogs, in order to eliminate the risk posed by the maybe 10% of those that might attack people.
Canine ethology is being ignored: canine behaviour is as varied as the human one. There are dogs lacking aggressive potential, and dogs that turn aggressive only when provoked. Individual, solitary dogs are almost never dangerous, unlike dogs forming packs. A dog’s aggressivity, if existing, is damped by life on the streets as the dog adapts in order to survive and be tolerated by humans.
The risks of dog attacks (which are invoked as first argument for the necessity of the extermination) are NOT eliminated if all stray dogs are being killed. The aggression of dogs with owners is still there (more dangerous and more numerous than stray dogs) which can not be completely avoided even if the most draconian security measures would be taken during their walk on the streets, even if they would be banned from walking in public places (a dog can accidentally escape from an enclosure, a car, etc.) In conclusion, dog aggression can be, mathematically speaking, eliminated ONLY by banning the ownership of dogs (like in Iran) and the extermination of all dogs. Fortunately this will not happen because it is absurd and impossible to achieve.
Following a study done by “Pro-Democratia“ in 2011, Crsitian Parvulescu declared that the majority of Bucharest residents, even those who do not love animals, “protected” somehow the dogs near their apartment buildings, sustaining that they are ”friendly and not dangerous”. We can demonstrate with statistics that even from those who have been affected by stray dogs, there are some who met at least one friendly dog, small dog, for which to guaranty that he/she poses no danger.
Any dog can bite. From the smallest to the largest, even the most friendly, cute and easygoing dogs might bite if provoked. To reduce the number of injuries from dog bites, adults and children should be educated about bite prevention, and dog owners should practice responsible dog ownership. The ASPCA has issued the following recommendations and which should be mandatory education in all Romanian primary schools:
Children should not approach, touch or play with any dog who’s sleeping, eating, chewing on a toy or bone, or caring for puppies. Animals are more likely to bite if they’re startled, frightened or caring for young.
Children should never approach a barking, growling or scared dog.
Children should not pet unfamiliar dogs without asking permission from the dog’s guardian first. If the guardian says it’s okay, the child should first let the dog sniff his closed hand. Then taking care to avoid petting the dog on the top of the head, he can pet the dog’s shoulders or chest.
Children should not try to pet dogs who are behind a fence or in a car. Dogs often protect their home or space.
If a child sees a dog off-leash outside, she should not approach the dog and should tell an adult immediately.
If a loose dog comes near a child, he should not run or scream. Instead, he should avoid eye contact with the dog and stand very still, like a tree, until the animal moves away. Once the dog loses interest, the child can slowly back away until he’s out of sight.
If a child falls down or is knocked to the ground by a dog, she should curl up in a ball with her knees tucked into her stomach and her fingers interlocked behind her neck to protect her neck and ears. If a child stays still and quiet like this, the dog will most likely just sniff her and then go away.
Children should never try to outrun a dog. If a dog does attack a child, the child should “feed” the dog his jacket, bag, bicycle—or anything that he has for the dog to grab onto or anything he can put between himself and the dog.
"The most effective means of reducing prevalence of dog bites are education and placing responsibility on the owner. Dog owners should be educated in principles of responsible dog ownership as described in point 1 of Article 7.7.6. Legal mechanisms that enable the Competent Authorities to impose penalties or otherwise deal with irresponsible owners are necessary. Mandatory registration and identification schemes will facilitate the effective application of such mechanisms. Young children are the group at highest risk for dog bites. Public education programmes focussed on appropriate dog-directed behaviour have been demonstrated to be effective in reducing dog bite prevalence and these programmes should be encouraged. Authorities should seek advice from dog behaviour experts in developing dog safety education programmes."
A girl plays with a stray pup in a poor suburb of Bucharest1
Regrettable incidents, and false accusations
In a fatal incident end of January 2006, a Japanese tourist died of the consequences of a dog bite in downtown Bucharest. Hajime Hori, 68, was bitten in the left leg, and very unfortunately, the bite damaged an artery in his thigh and he bled to death several minutes later.
In March 2014, the lifeless body of a drunken woman was found at the market in Odor, Bucharest, with several dog bites on her body. The media were quick in blaming the "stray dogs" for her death and reports of a "woman mauled to death in Obor" made the headlines. The autopsy report later showed that the woman choke on her own vomit and that the bites were caused post-mortem.
Since September 2013 and for months on end, the tragic death of the young child, Ionut Anghel - also known as the child killed by stray dogs - was mentioned in the Romanian newspapers and televisions. They did shows, told stories, interviewed people who felt disturbed by dogs, they showed false statistics, they distorted the reality, and they inflamed the entire population.
But too little was being mentioned that little Ionut and his older brother were left too long unsupervised by their grand mother; that they had left the park; wandered very far away; and entered a private, fenced property where dogs were at almost one kilometer from the park where their grandmother was quietly sitting on a bench, drinking beer and smoking cigarettes. No-one seemed to be interested in the fact that these "dogs" on this private land could as well have been guard-dogs, perhaps even deliberately encouraged to be aggressive towards intruders. No one waited until that the final investigations were over to determine how the death of the young boy was caused; "the strays" were blamed for the death of the child, and all of Romania's homeless dogs were quickly sentenced to death. The boys's death was later found to have indeed been caused by seven guard dogs owned by a private company. The court ordered that a € 2.4 million compensation was to be paid to Ionut’s family. Despite this, supporters of the draconian law have continued to justify the killings, often using the tragic case of the boy to bolster their argument.
The drama of the child getting killed could NOT have been avoided even if all stray dogs would have been removed from the public domain, because the animals responsible were cared for and assumed by an owner (the guard) on a property. In the street, a public place, a tragedy of such proportion never happened and could never happen, because on one hand the animals do not display any significant amount of territorial aggressivity on intensively circulated territories like parks, streets, etc., and on the other hand such a tragedy could have occurred only on a property, in woods, in a not frequented and inaccessible area where animals become more aggressive and no one can intervene.
Dogs bite everywhere on the planet, and fatal incidents happen in all countries. Yet no country has ever blamed the entire dog population for an accident caused by one or a few dogs. The inhumane culling of dogs is unacceptable under any circumstance and an extermination policy, as currently practiced in Romania, is not an appropriate response to the presence of stray dogs, nor to incidents with DOGS anywhere in the world, let alone Europe. And this last statement bears repeating the word "DOGS", because Ionut Anghel's death (which triggered the current policy and events) was NOT caused by "stray dogs", yet more than 350,000 innocent homeless dogs have already paid for it with their lives.
Romania has seen 11 deaths caused by attacks from street dogs since 1990.
17 people have died since 2005 in The United Kingdom as a result of attacks by dogs that do have an owner.
France, recorded 33 fatal incidents with dogs during the last 20 years, yet France does not have a single street dog.
The Centre for Disease Control in Atlanta states that there are about 4.5 to 4.7 million people bitten by owned dogs each year in the United States. It means 1 in 60 people is bitten each year by a dog with owner. Comparing the statistics of USA (where the bites were only received from owned dogs) and Romania that has a homeless dog population we can admit that EVEN THE FALSE statistic from Romania (1 in 151 people are bitten each year in Bucharest) is much lower than in the USA.
In reality the number of stray dog bites and fatal incidents caused by these animals is much smaller in Romania than in other countries, while the psychosis caused by these incidents is significantly greater.
Romanian Kill-Policy versus French and UK Law
Romanian authorities and defenders of Romania's Extermination Policy 258/2013 such as IREC, often use the argument that the Romanian Law was not any different than the French and UK law on stray animal population control. The wording of Romanian legislation is indeed comparable to legislation in a number of other countries, but the implementation is a totally different one. Romania kills dogs, healthy or not, friendly or not. Romania kills puppies, too. This is not a policy anywhere else in Europe. Therefore to say that the Romanian Law was comparable to the law in the UK, or in France, is like comparing eggs to apples.
It starts already with the fact that neither the UK nor France have a stray animal population such as Romania has. A "stray" in the UK or in France, is a dog who has escaped, has got lost, or who went on a touring holiday for a few days. Dogs that are simply being abandoned on the streets or the woods, are the exception. When people, for one reason or another, can no longer keep their companion animal, they bring the animal to a shelter where the dog, or the cat, will be well cared for, will receive water, food and medical attention, if needed. The objective is to find a new family for the dog or the cat. Not to kill him/her like in Romania.
Germany, Italy, Holland, Greece, Switzerland, Bulgaria and Turkey prohibit the euthanasia of animals that are not terminally ill or not aggressive. In France stray dogs can be subjected to euthanasia only if terminally ill or not eligible for adoption (the veterinarian establishes eligibility for adoption of an animal by conducting rigorous behavioural tests) and in Great Britain, while theoretically allowed, euthanasia is actually applied to a very small number of ill or aggressive dogs.
Concerning the situation in the UK: according to Dogs Trust UK, in 2013, 48% of dogs who entered a shelter in the UK were reunited with their owners. 25% of dogs have been been re-homed. 8% have been euthanized because of behavioral problems, ill health, or under the Dangerous Dogs Act.
About the French law: below the text taken from the French law regarding domestic animals, stray animals, and lost/found animals:
"Il est interdit de laisser errer les animaux domestiques et de façon générale tout animal domestique quel qu’il soit, de les abandonner ou d’attirer des animaux errants avec de la nourriture. La divagation des animaux peut occasionner des troubles importants de la tranquillité et de la sécurité publiques.
Refuge - Les maires s’assurent de l’existence d’un service de fourrière, service public destiné à accueillir et à garder les animaux trouvés errants, au niveau communal ou intercommunal.
La fourrière accueille les animaux capturés et les garde pendant un délai franc de 8 jours ouvrés, au terme duquel, si l’animal n’est pas réclamé, il est considéré comme abandonné et devient la propriété de la fourrière. Il peut alors être cédé gratuitement à une association de protection des animaux qui dispose d’un refuge afin de permettre son adoption par un nouveau propriétaire. L’euthanasie ne peut intervenir que si l’animal est considéré par un vétérinaire comme non adoptable, dangereux, ou trop malade.
Un guide a été élaboré à l’attention des maires. Il a pour objectif de proposer une aide à la compréhension de la réglementation relative aux animaux errants ainsi qu’un appui pratique pour la mise en place et la gestion de fourrières destinées à l’accueil des chiens et chats errants sur les territoires communaux."
The French law says that, after 8 days in a public (communal) shelter, and if not claimed, the animal becomes the property of the French state and can be given without fee to a private shelter in order to facilitate his/her adoption.Euthanasia of an animal can only be performed if a veterinarian determines that the animal is NOT adoptable, too sick, or aggressive.