Angry residents of Bucharest, Romania, are demanding that authorities begin a mass culling of the city’s stray dogs following the death of a small child who was mauled by a canine last week. Fed up with an estimated 65,000 feral dogs roaming around Bucharest, the president of the country also endorses an euthanization program. "Humans are above dogs," President Traian Basescu said in a televised speech.
Indeed, 1,100 people have been bitten by stray dogs in the city in just the first four months of the year, Associated Press noted. Over the past five years, at least two other people, including a Japanese tourist, have been killed by stray dogs. The mayor of Bucharest Sorin Oprescu said the city council will hold a referendum on October 6 in which residents will be asked if they want the mass culling of stray canines. Currently, Bucharest’s municipal laws only permit the killing of stray dogs that are ill.
On Sunday, hundreds of people, including the grandmother of the boy who died, rallied in Bucharest to call for a euthanization program for the dogs. "I hope for a change for the better -- I don't want to see dogs on the street anymore," said Aurica Anghel, the grieving grandmother, according to BBC.
However, an animal rights organization called 4Pfoten (“Four Paws”) is recommending that dogs are sterilized, not outright killed. Gabriel Paun, the head of 4Pfoten, told BBC that his campaign group has begun to castrate stray dogs in Bucharest. "In the last few years we've castrated 100,000 dogs in Romania altogether, 10,600 of them in Bucharest,” he said. “But it's not enough, this is a voluntary private project - we need them [the government] to do the same thing at national level.” Paun also noted that stray dogs are a national problem, not confined to Bucharest. “Even if Bucharest is free of strays, the dogs don't have administrative borders -- they will come back," he warned.
The Balkan Insight newspaper reported that under existing laws, stray dogs must be take to shelters, from which attempts are made to have them adopted. But such shelters are now severely overcrowded. In November 2011, Bucharest officials passed a law permitting the local authorities to kill packs of stray dogs, but the Constitutional Court annulled the measure two months later.
A group called Occupy for Animals has now started a petition asking the Romanian government to stop the killing of dogs. “The only proven and humane method of stray animal’s population control is the sterilization and return of the gentle and healthy stray dogs, compulsorily accompanied by the sterilization of dogs with owners that are the main source of street dogs by mass abandoning,” the group stated.
Occupy noted that about 5 million puppies are born in rural Romania every year, some of whom are killed by their owners, while others abandoned in the streets and the woods. “As long as the dogs with owners will not be sterilized, through coherent programs, Romania's streets will never be free of dogs,” Occupy declared.
A Romanian writer named Mariana Galea penned an editorial for Romanian-Insider.com in which she criticized any planned mass killing of dogs. “The administrative measure of euthanizing the stray dogs is almost unfeasible,” she said. “If one takes into account the number of dogs and the fact that it’s unknown where many are, you’re left with a very time consuming and very expensive activity.” Galea also noted that the problem of stray dogs had been festering for decades and it is ultimately the government’s fault for their proliferation, while also blaming irresponsible dog owners. “Where is the responsibility of the administrative authorities for the growing of number of stray dogs?,” she asked. “What about dog lovers – why don’t they assume the risk of taking in their houses these poor animals?”