Culturally and anthropologically speaking, Romanians in general, have an affinity for dogs.
The wolf is the totemic animal of the Dacian and tolerance for the “community“ animals, especially in the rural zones where people let their dogs out of their yards most of the times, feeding animals belonging to the community is still common and trivial practice. In general Romanians are also tolerant towards stray dogs; hence most community dogs are deliberately fed by compassionate people or kept as guard dogs for businesses. However, most people lack the money and education to care for dogs responsibly as it’s normal in Western Europe.
Most dogs are yard dogs, not 'pets', they are never kept indoors; they are kept outside to protect property and reduce vermin. Dogs are often kept on chains, others are left to roam freely. The vast majority of these dogs are not neutered.
The concept of 'pet animals' in western cultures is very different from those in Eastern and indeed parts of Southern Europe. In Romania, where public abuse of animals is significant (86.3% identified having witnessed this), with millions of animals (with and without owner) living on the street, they are being regarded as verminous which seem to justify their abuse. Some are considered 'community dogs' and are fed and cared for by local residents who regard them as their own responsibility, although only to a certain point given that these dogs are rarely being vaccinated and most certainly not sterilized. Domestically, animals are commonly kept on short chains or allowed to roam unrestricted. The definition of 'pets' therefore varies between cultures. The European Council's Convention for the Protection of Pet Animals clearly defines a "pet animal" as "any animal kept or intended to be kept by man in his household for private enjoyment and companionship", but in reality the western perspective of an animal being regarded as a member of the family, loved and living in domestic contentment is rather a rarity in Romania.
There is general ignorance on the benefits of neutering; some vets still tell owners that it is healthy for their bitches to have at least one litter during her life time – puppies that most often end up on street.
Based on a sociological study done by the Association 'Pro-Democratia', it appears that the majority of residents of Bucharest did not have anything against the dogs living in their residential area.
The aversion for the dogs that a part of the population feels, has been generated by some regrettable incidents, and by a propagandist, sensational media.
The stray dogs have divided the Romanian society, igniting a real conflict between those who want a humane management of stray dogs, and those in support of the mass killing of dogs, without any distinction. This conflict has been exploited in the media, unscrupulously by all major TV stations, instead of being silenced, and only for ratings.
The impact of this “euthanasia“ law has been a very negative one, generating protests in Bucharest, in other big cities in Romania and has traumatized very many people. AMay 2014 survey revealed that:
62% of Romanians are against the killing of stray dogs.
A large part of Romania’s population would instead prefer an alternative resolution for this issue:
84% prefer the option of keeping dogs in shelters,
and 72% believe that gentle animals can be returned to the street if they are neutered”
The current situation
Romania's stray animal population consists mostly of dogs and cats, but sporadically, working animals, such as horses and donkeys are abandoned, too. Regarding the dogs, the problem is not just stray dogs. The problem is loose dogs. Even today a very high percentage of owned dogs are not sterilized but allowed to roam freely and to mate as they wish. Approximately 5 million puppies are born in rural areas in Romania each years. Some are then killed by their owners, the others are simply abandoned on the streets or in the woods.
In cities, and before the introduction of the current law 258/2013, when the residents left for work in the morning, they simply let their dogs out on the street. If they were caught by dog catchers, the owners picked them up from the shelter and paid a fine. These dogs breed with other loose or abandoned dogs and they create new puppies.
The only humane and proven effective method to reduce and stabilize stray animal populations, C-N-R (catch-neuter-return) as recommended by WHO, OIE and FVE, has been completely dismissed in Romania's current stray management program, according to Law 258/2013. Ignoring all recommendations on what is considered "international best practice', as well as the experiences from the years 2001-2008 in their own country, Romania opted for a stray animal policy that has failed anywhere in the world.
The authorities claim that Law 258/2013 is an "adoption law", but whereas financing, facilities and new homes are not, in practice, available to accommodate the high number of dogs, the essential content of the policy is indeed “Catch & Kill”
The number of stray dogs and feral cats is not known officially, because, despite the provisions of Law 60/2004 for the ratification of the European Convention for the Protection of Companion Animals (which we will name “Convention“ in this presentation), which obliges the Romanian government to identify and register all animals with owners (all dogs and cats with owners) the authorities did not manifest any interest for periodical evaluations/counting or identification/registration of dogs and cats.
Because of the lack of a data base for identification/registration, sanctions for the abandonment of dogs could not be applied, although it is obvious that this is a constant phenomenon.
According to the current Law 258/2013, the identification and registration of all animals is mandatory since 1st of January, 2015, but the process is very slow due to the high fees to be paid by the dog owners, the general lack of information and because the central data base is not managed by ANSVSA (a public institution) or an operator/company with experience in this field, but by the CMVR (College of Veterinarians). Even though the law compels pet owners to microchip dogs by January 2015, under penalty of a RON 3,000 fine, data provided by the College of Veterinarians and published in the report released by Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, shows that only 300,126 dogs were recorded in the RECS database at that time (January 2015).
There is no data base for the registration of the cats, either.
The official or unofficial assumptions have a large margin of error, and where the authorities pretend to have done this, there are in fact no documents or any material evidence to prove that these censuses have indeed been done in reality. Actually, there is no official number not even for dogs with owners because no censuses have ever been done and, until Sept. 2013 the government did not have any program for the registration and identification of dogs and cats in place. There is no reliable data base for the so-called “dangerous and aggressive dogs" as required by the Law from 2002 obliging owners of so-called “dangerous and aggressive dogs" to have these dogs registered with the Police, either.
The vast majority of dogs (with and without owners) are not neutered/spayed and until September 2013, the authorities have constantly ignored the recommendations on the necessary measures to take in order to stop the reproduction of stray dogs and to encourage their sterilization as stipulated in the Convention.
With the current Law 258/2013 from September 2013, the Romanian authorities introduced the discriminatory mandatory obligation to neuter/spay only dogs of common breeds. Given that the costs for sterilization are very high, and especially in rural zones, where the technical/medical capacities to perform these surgeries are also missing (meaning that rural zones lack the capacity to have these surgeries performed on animals), and that there is no financial support for those who cannot afford these fees, the prognosis is sadly very pessimistic: owned animals have already multiplied, and will continue to multiply and their offspring will simply be abandoned.
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 , currently, the cheapest veterinary neutering in Bucharest is RON 50 (approximately EUR 11) for a stray male and RON 60 (EUR 13) for a stray female. However, the average prices are much higher, most vets charge around RON 200 (EUR 45); such amounts are mostly unaffordable, considering that the gross minimum salary in Romania is RON 900 (EUR 204) and the average gross salary in April 2014 was RON 1735 (EUR 394).
According to the same report  again, 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. 
International NGOs and volunteers such Dr Aurelian Stefan tour Romania to provide free neutering, but the progress is understandably rather slow due to lack of both funds and staff. 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.
Pictures taken during the spayathon in Tantava, Romania, on 29th of August, 2015. 64 dogs and cats have been sterilized in one day by Dr Aurelian Stefan and his team. The event was organised and by Taija Jolanki, Founder of AlmaHelp Association Finland, and Carmen Dodi, rescuer from Tantava.
Romania has had a very torrid summer with no rain or temperatures under 35 degrees Celcius (95F). Animals suffered of thirst and heat on the streets and in the so called city shelters. In such conditions, homeless pups stand no chance to survive and die in agony. Therefore RAR vet team increased the spay and neuter efforts so that less and less pups will be born on the streets and have a tragic fate.
Another part of the pups will end up in shelters that are far from any decent standards you imagine. Let me give you a short insight of those horrible places:
overcrowded, with no access to food (that is thrown on the floor) and is restricted to the alpha animals in the pen.
The small, weak animals have no food in days.
Water is licked from the floor when the pen is cleaned so there is never clean water to drink.
The dogs become living ghosts and sometimes there are not able to stand .
There is a total lack of basic medical care and distemper and other fatal diseases are an every day reality.
Workers there treat the animals with no compassion and as if they were objects.
The word LOVE seems forgotten there. There is no respect and no hope for the animals locked up here. They are kicked, beaten, and sometimes tortured by the sub-humans that should take care of those animals that are HOPELESS.
This image haunts me and the best thing I can think of is never stop spaying and neutering and be faster than those beasts - the dog catchers! An unborn soul can never be abused, tortured, frightened, hungry, thirsty and most importantly HOPELESS.
Every surgery we do is a step forward in a won battle against pain and death. Our spay Mobil was named "Hope" and we took her to villages and places no vet has ever reached and people start to understand the importance of spaying and neutering as the most efficient way to create welfare for the animals.
Back at the Homeless Animal Hospital hundreds of homeless animals were helped and I am happy to say that we also treat animals that need our help to live when no one gave them a chance of survival. We treated them and they returned to their loving family. Those moments when people smile taking their animals home after they thought everything was lost, are the fuel that keeps us going to help more and more animals in need.
It's not easy and we need your help to help animals in need. Thank you for standing by us in our mission to create a better world for the animals in need. God bless you and your families!"
The role of a propagandist and sensational media
Some of the animal attacks most publicized in the Romanian media are those by dogs without an owner. The entire issue is covered extensively by the domestic media, with over 12 thousand articles containing the words “dogs without an owner” and almost 25 thousand articles containing the words “street dog.” The situation of street dogs has generated heated debates between animal lovers and those who will see the streets clear of the quadrupeds at any price. The debates are most often restricted to the lawfulness and morality of the act of ending the life of unclaimed or unadopted dogs, a method which is preferred by authorities and receives generous budgets but has proven ineffective in the medium and long run. 
The inability of the audience to analyze ideas or facts, the fact that populations act and react under the majority’s pressure and are very susceptible to persuasion (especially when it appeals to emotions) are traits that are strongly exploited by the Romanian journalists and politicians. Recently, the Romanian mass-media used the case of little Ionut's death to deliberately appeal to the emotions of people to get them to believe that the mass extermination of the stray dogs is justifiable. This is based on the myth that no one is safe from attacks by stray dogs, especially the children. This represents a skillful psychological manipulation by the politically influenced mass media to get people to come to a conclusion that matches the violent intention of those associated with these killings.
As discussed by many specialists, the media ethics are a very complex topic and the reporters have to face a wide range of ethical issues on an everyday basis while dealing with the way they gather, organize and present their news. Truthfulness, sensationalism, authenticity, accuracy, factual reporting, and even discrimination based on different reasons etc. represent challenging ethical issues for mass-media.
It is also known that there is a strong, direct link between mass-media ethical performance on the public scene and the societal reaction, as a response to the mass communication. Through less truthful and less ethical statements, and one-sided presentation of the facts, the audience will be misled and confused. The audience (the citizenry) is not given an opportunity to hear and consider all alternatives so they can make an informed decision. If the deontology, the “code of ethics”, is not respected the mass communication becomes a tool of manipulation of the masses.
The most common reasons for disregarding the journalistic professional and ethical norms that lead to mass-media loss of freedom, as demonstrated by 60% of Romanian journalists, are the political pressures followed by the insufficient professional training. Additionally, Klyueva and Tsetsura (2010) stated that: “Due to its historical heritage, Romanian journalism has always been characterized by weak professional culture and ambiguous identity”. According to their quantitative study the main influences on the media as perceived by Romanian media professionals are the corporate owners closely followed by the political affiliations of the Romanian media. The major players on the market have owners who are directly involved in politics, some of them actually being members of the Parliament. Sorin Roșca Stănescu (PNL senator, former manager and shareholder of the Ziua daily and other publications), Gabriela Vrânceanu Firea (PC senator, former TVR news anchor and moderator at Antena1 and Antena3), Tudor Barbu (PP-DD deputy, former OTV journalist), Sebastian Ghiță (PSD deputy, owner of România TV and other local publications), Dan Voiculescu (PC senator, owner of the Intact trust, through his family) are only few examples.
The decreasing credibility of the Romanian press is a consequence of excessive political involvement in the media, the merging of the television stations to form the main information source for the 94% of Romanians and the inclusion of the media owner’s preferences in the content of the media.
According to Ionut Codreanu, who has been monitoring previous sensational coverage for ActiveWatch, a media-monitoring agency in Romania: “This is just another chapter in the decay of the Romanian media landscape”. He emphasized that:
*Over the last years we gathered irrefutable evidence that proved that, in order to survive through the economic storm, Romanian media and journalists took the easy way. Our yearly research on ethical standards in media discourse clearly states the lack of manner and rules in dealing with sensitive issues. Journalists pay no respect to privacy or human dignity and take every opportunity to exploit vulnerable individuals or tragic events.” 
The Legacy of Communism
Inside the simplistic lies the complex. When all of society's historic lines are brought together, they create the NOW, the present.
In Romania this has resulted in a sociological debacle. A society where abuse crosses all boundaries. Where the children, infirm, and elderly are cast aside and subjected to neglect and aggression. Where the number of yearly abandoned domestic animals can be counted by the millions, and those abused and exterminated, by the HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS..
Romania has a unique history of negligence and mismanagement, where all are connected in producing a society which was plummeting ever deeper into social malaise, governed by the blind, enacted by the corrupt, and populated by those who were trained to follow.
This was Romania until Sunday 16th of November, 2014 when the Romanian world spun on its axis and the voice of the people was heard 'loud and clear'... when a new President was elected and a new Romania born.
The LINK between animal abuse and inter-human abuse
World-leading experts in the LINK between animal abuse and inter-human anti-social aggression patterns, in collaboration with the University of Teesside (UK) and the University of Denver (USA), conducted a study in Bistrita and Nasaud (Romania) with a control group in Berlin (Germany). It was deemed that Romania offered a unique animal abuse environment with stray animal abuse being reported extensively throughout the country. Particular focus was placed on the effects of children witnessing and perpetrating animal abuse. This study is commonly known as the 'Making the Link' Study .
It was found that in Bistrita, 86,3% of the children had witnessed animal abuse in public. 65% claimed to have been emotionally affected by the experience. Such abuse has been identified as poisoning, hanging and mutilation of homeless animals. This provides a direct contrast to western societies where almost 50% of dog owners considered their pets to be ‘members of the family’. A survey of psychologists who practice as therapists in the USA, indicated that the overwhelming majority (87%) considered animal abuse to be a mental health issue.
Children (10%) who admitted to abusing animals also correlated with aggression against people and property. They identified a predilection for committing theft but also displayed reduced empathy and suicidal tendencies.
Animal abuser profiles typically show violence towards people and property, arson, theft and self-harming. Animal abuse was found to be NINE times more prevalent in a Romanian urban environment (Bistrita) than in a German urban environment (Berlin) and SIXTEEN times more prevalent in a Romanian rural environment than urban. A second study also revealed strong correlations with children who abused animals and who also contemplated suicide.
The experts warn that:
Domestic Violence can create a need for ‘displaced aggression’ which, because of the availability of many street dogs, provides a facility which can cause an increase in aggression levels of the abuser. (Ascione and Arkow 1998)
A cycle of abuse is identified with domestic violence and sexual abuse being significant. Anger generated by such abuse is then enacted upon the readily available street animals. This is encouraged by the cultural status diminishment of the animals. (Goffman, E. 1963). Unchallenged practice of such violence and aggression provides a social acceptance and encourages the need to increase aggression, against people and property. The individual child may continue with such aggression levels into adulthood and enact this within his own new family and/or within society. This completes the cycle.
Whereas domestic violence is less easy to identify, by removing the more visible animal abuse by humane, non aggressive means, this cycle of abuse can be broken thereby resulting in reduced aggression levels throughout society. The diminishment of the status of street animals by applying Law 258/2013 encourages aggression against animals which in turn increases the possibility of abuse of people and property.
The need for a humane education program in all Romanian schools
If we were to extrapolate the findings of the 'Making the Link' Study, we would have identified at least 2 million Romanians (*) and potentially around 5 million Romanians presenting empathy-diminished, socio-aggressive patterns!This may range from simple bullying, through arson, theft, and aggression against property, severe violence against people and potentially murder. The primary indicator is abuse against animals - the current Romanian Government policy encourages such abuse.
If the Study were to be considered a novel and isolated event with no history, suffice to say that from the volume of previous research, the factors deployed in Romania are precisely the same as those enacted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Federal Government of the United States of America.
If such extrapolated figures fail to produce a shocked response, note that the figure of ‘at least’ 2 million was obtained in urban environments whereas rural communities produced an anti-social aberrant personality in almost 50% of the research cohort. This suggests a potential that around 5 million Romanians present empathy diminished, socio-aggressive patterns. From a population of 20 million, this is one quarter of the population of the country.
Masserman's monkeys often prolonged their hunger rather than administer a painful stimulus. One monkey refrained from taking food for twelve days. Responses showed several patterns. Self-starvation was more likely in monkeys that had themselves experienced electroshock as a subject. Sacrificial behavior was not biased towards members of higher dominance rank, but was slightly stronger for cage mates (although not statistically significant). Visual contact, even without auditory cues, seemed sufficient to induce the response.
What conclusions about sympathy in non-human primates would you draw from this study? For example, did the monkeys' behavior seem to reflect an understanding of and concern for another's pain?
Mice also seem to show signs of proto-empathy in expressing feelings modified by the feelings of others. Experimentally, they exhibit increased sensitivity to mild pain when cage mates (but not unfamiliar mice) also experienced noxious stimuli at the same time. Again, visual contact seems important in communicating an emotional state and triggering a corresponding, even if not directly empathetic, response (Langford et al 2006).
But 25% of the people in Romania, a European country, (and crucially: decision makers, judges, prosecutors, public servants, shelter workers, members of the police to whom reports of spousal, child and indeed animal abuse are made) cannot even display the 'humanity' shown by monkeys and mice...
(*) The 10% figure of 2,000,000 is ALL the population and includes small children, too, so the actual figure will be somewhat lower and depends on how many live in rural and how many live in urban Romanian society.
HAPPY & PROUD: a young boy carrying his dog after being neutered by Dr Aurelian Stefan and his team. Picture: Doina Vella, taken June 6, 2015 in Glina village, near Buckarest.
The following presentation by Professor Philip Tedeschi, Clinical Director at the Institute for Human-Animal Connection, exemplifies how in western societies, the relationship with companion animals has evolved to them being regarded as integral members of a western family with equal consideration being given to that of human members of the same family. Contrast if you will with the regard given in southern and eastern regions of Europe where such animals are cast as verminous outcasts.
In one culture... harmonious inclusion. In another... divisive exclusion introducing significant societal disharmony, violence and death.
Exposure to Animal Abuse is a Form of Psychological Violence
A most interesting piece of research brought to light in a book, titled The Link between Animal Abuse and Human Violence, comprising cutting-edge research by 36 international academics in fields as varied as the Social Sciences, Criminology, Developmental Psychology, Human Rights, Applied Childhood Studies, Behavioural Science, and Child Welfare. The volume is edited by Professor Andrew Linzey, Director of the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics and a member of the university’s Faculty of Theology, is the domino effect of animal abuse and cruelty.
It starts when we, as adults, disrespect, neglect, abuse or harm an animal. By doing so, we are unknowingly guiding children onto a slippery slope that can ultimately affect their mental health. The process begins with desensitisation or loss of feeling, whereby children become able to witness the neglect, hurting, harming or killing of an animal and yet remain indifferent.
The second step is when children become accustomed to the pain and suffering they witness, and become habituated. Habituation to neglect and cruelty means that it has become a routine part of their lives.
Importantly, desensitisation directly opposes the crucial development in early childhood of empathy. Empathy is believed to be the vital ‘ingredient’ upon which socially competent, cohesive, integrated, cooperative, sustainable and peaceful communities are built.
In contrast, lack of empathy leads to dehumanisation because it stunts children’s emotional development so that their potential as emotionally mature adults is not unrealised. The natural development of empathy is thwarted by the process of desensitization.
What becomes clear from The Link Between Animal Abuse and Human Violence is that scientists now suggest that animal abuse, because of its potential to damage emotional development, is a form of child abuse that can lead to life-long disability including:
Impaired ability to learn;
Inability to build or maintain satisfactory social relationships, inappropriate behavior and/or feelings;
Furthermore, it does not take much imagination to realise that adults who are under-developed emotionally, will more readily resort to violence to resolve problems.
In an article published in 'The Invisible Rape of Europe', Professor Philip Tedeschi, Clinical Professor and Executive Director of the Institute for Human-Animal Connection at the University of Denver, USA, writes: “One of the current agendas in responding to trends of human generated violence, is to define the origins and the development trajectory of Psychopathy. In work done in both the US and elsewhere there is incontrovertible evidence that early exposure to animal abuse has the outcome of establishing the psychological environment for the early on set of what is often referenced as “Callous and Unemotional Traits”. For youth who in early developmental terms get exposed to substantial suffering, cruelty and violence are at increased risk of developing a mental status that makes them less sensitive to other's feelings and function in a less empathic manner. It also appears to contribute to impulsive, aggressive and antisocial patterns, with increased risk for the development of, and eventual diagnosis of conduct disorder.
Youths who present with both lower impulse control and also minimal empathic regard for others are at greater risk of the development of adult antisocial functioning and adult psychopathic personality traits. In studies that have examined this developmental trajectory it appears that the development of callous aggression are at significantly increased risk of engaging in cruel behaviors. In 1987, researchers, Felthous and Kellert concluded that exposure to animal abuse in children posed a substantial risk factor for the development of disruptive behavior disorders, the childhood diagnostic precursor, to anti-social characteristics in adults. At that time they defined this exposure to animal abuse as “A pattern of deliberately, repeatedly and unnecessarily hurting vertebrate animals in a manner likely to cause serious injury". Of significance in this early definition was that the cruelty was inflicted on animals in “deliberate” ways and “knowingly”. These definitions should alert us to the significant mental health implications of the institutionalized extermination laws and even social normative activity of animal cruelty. This should particularly be of concern when youth are repeatedly exposed to cruelty. This type of cruelty has been found to be distinct from a psychological standpoint from accidental and emphasize the deliberate nature of the cruel action.
As we further explore this issue and attempt to establish prevention models that would ensure that youths are not developing under circumstances shaping them with a low empathy, callousness and unemotional traits, we consistently find that these behaviors are generally learned. The learning can be within a family context, situational and broader social exposure. From this empirical conclusion it is clear that we must be vigilant to the experience and exposure to cruelty that occur, especially while children are in formative developmental stages. There are many other dimensions related to how animal cruelty can contribute to increased risk factors in children. This idea has very important implication for public health mandates, community intervention policies to support the health and well-being of children and the treatment and response to animals we all live among.”