Julie Sanders, FOUR PAWS UK Country Manager visited Romania last week to assess the stray dog situation
I was told about the situation in Romania when I started working for FOUR PAWS eight months ago but it wasn’t until I was actually there that I realised how desperate the situation is for stray dogs in this country. There are thousands of stray dogs on the streets of Romania, most do not have homes or loving families to take care of them. Some are abandoned pets, others have been born on the streets and have lived this way for their entire lives. The ones I met were generally friendly and inquisitive, wagging their tails as we approached, some were shy and kept their distance but none showed any signs of aggression. In October last year the tragic death of a child who was allegedly attacked by stray dogs has lead to the introduction of new legislation which promotes the capture and killing of all stray dogs in Romania.
Private companies are being employed to catch the dogs for up to 50 euros per dog, this has resulted in a big money making business open to fraud and corruption. Once captured the dogs are transferred to municipal dog pounds where public access is severely restricted and conditions said to be appalling. If the dogs are not claimed within 14 days they will be eventually killed. I visited one of the dog pounds where the conditions were said to be better than many in the country, however the dogs were still kept in overcrowded wire cages with little shelter and no bedding just a wet concrete floor. The smell was over powering and the noise deafening. Numerous faces pressed up against cages desperate to be free. Most of the dogs were wet through from the rain and looked cold and miserable. While there are dog pound adoption programmes, few Romanians adopt and these programmes are not widely promoted. There is little hope for these dogs, they remain locked away, leading a miserable existence until the decision is taken to kill them.
I also visited one of the few dog sanctuaries in the area which FOUR PAWS supports and met with the staff who work tirelessly to rescue stray and abused dogs. There were over 400 dogs at the sanctuary, all breeds, all ages and all desperate for a home of their own including disabled dogs many having been involved in road accidents and left injured.
There are so many sad stories. I met Grivita, a stray dog who had been mutilated by humans, her nose and jaw having been cut off. Her pain unimaginable, but still she came to greet me wagging her tail and wanting her tummy rubbed. FOUR PAWS has reported over 70 cruelty cases to the authorities in the past few months since the new legislation was introduced including the shooting, poisoning and torture of stray dogs. So far, the police have been unable to bring any of the criminals to justice.
As well as heart wrenching stories I also saw inspiring ones such as my visit to the pet therapy centre where I witnessed stray dogs helping autistic children as a very special bond was formed between the stray dogs and the children. I was also taken to an orphanage where the children had taken into their care 4 stray dogs to protect them from the dog catchers. Just recently a dog catcher had snatched one of the dogs and taken it to the local dog pound. On hearing this the children rushed down to the dog pound and bought the dog back to safety, officially adopting all of the four stray dogs.
After 3 days in Romania I returned home to my own four rescue dogs knowing that they were the lucky ones, safe, cared for and loved. However my thoughts return to all the dogs I have left behind and their suffering. FOUR PAWS is working tirelessly to help stray dogs in Romania by calling on the Government to stop the killing and to manage the stray dog population in a humane and sustainable way. We will be launching our Romanian stray dog campaign in the coming months and are asking all our supporters world-wide to support us in our work to improve the lives of stray dogs in Romania.