THE DIPLOMAT > Reports > Scale of stray dog problem unknown
Vol. 2 No.2  

Scale of capital’s stray dog problem unknown

     Following the savage death of a Japanese businessman by a stray dog in Bucharest’s most exclusive retail avenue, city authorities are making steps to solve the problem of strays in the capital, but the scale of the problem remains unknown.
     Hajime Hori, the 68-year-old former head of a local unit of a ball-bearing manufacturer, was attacked by a dog last month outside his apartment on Calea Victoriei, near the seat of the Government.
     Bucharest deputy mayor Razvan Murgeanu promised to take “radical measures” after the event.
     The City Hall dog catchers rounded up around 40 canine suspects from the area.
     Many were claimed by their owners and the Police have narrowed their investigations down to one prime suspect. DNA tests and dental research are now ongoing to determine the dog’s guilt.
     But radical measures to combat the problem which is a huge public relations disaster for the country, as well as a danger to public health, have not yet happened.
     The number of dog catchers in Bucharest is 16, divided into six crews.
The city authorities want to employ only 20 more dog-catchers.
     Dr Magda Popescu, PR Director of Autoritatea pentru Supravegherea Animalelor (The Authority for Animals Supervision – ASA) says for the latest dog-catcher interviews only 15 came for 20 vacancies.
     The wild dogs originated in the 1980s, when Ceausescu tore down sections of the city for building projects, prompting dog owners to put their pets on the street. Then the dogs bred and kept on breeding.
     Now there is no official figure for the number of strays in Bucharest.
     “There are many numbers mentioned,” says Veronica Tulpan, project coordinator of the animal protection foundation Vier Pfoten. “But the difference between them is huge.”
     Dr Popescu says there are around 200,000. But this figure is gathered from the media.
     In 2004, Vier Pfoten estimated there were 40,000 dogs in Bucharest. As a comparison, the Bulgarian authorities, as cited by the foundation, claim Sofia has 60,000 strays.
     When it catches a stray dog, ASA impounds the dogs in a shelter for two weeks. During this time the dog has three options: to be adopted, claimed or killed. 40 per cent are claimed and adopted, while 60 per cent are put down.
     The ASA is trying to change the legislation to reduce the accommodation period to three days.
     To kill a dog by lethal injection costs 1.5 Euro while to castrate one prior to adoption costs 30 Euro. All dogs adopted or claimed are marked on their skin with ASA’s sign.
     “If we see on the street a dog marked this way, we don’t catch it again,” Popescu says. Today ASA’s shelter houses around 1,000 dogs.
     Meanwhile Vier Pfoten, financed by donations from western Europe, has its own project.
     The foundation catches dogs, sterilises them and returns them to the street. It averages 40 dogs per day and the sterilisation cost for one dog is ten Euro.

Ana-Maria Smadeanu