Prime Minister Harper’s security detail has a different breed of assailant to guard against while he attends the meeting of NATO leaders in Bucharest this week: the city’s infamous stray dogs.
The New York Times published the following article on the subject, which is very similar to one published by Italian Corriere della Sera and by the International Herald Tribune. It is suspected that Romanian authorities sent a press release in order to create panic around the non-killing law, which could be approved next week by the Parliament. Romanian animal protection organizations are extremely concerned about the campaign started by Romanian newspaper Evenimentul Zilei, which is likely to jeopardize their efforts to have a non-killing law based on the “neuter and release” strategy.
Here is an excerpt from the New York Times article:
Special squads of dogcatchers are already stationed along the road from the airport to the Palace of the Parliament, where the meeting will be held this week, to prevent the beasts from harassing delegates on foot or nipping at the wheels of their motorcades.
Meanwhile, the rest of the city remains under a worsening canine occupation.
The city government reports that 9,000 people are bitten each year here by dogs, though those numbers include bites by strays and pets. Officials will not venture a guess at the number of strays, and estimates of the semi-feral population in the local news media range from 30,000 to 200,000 dogs.
But everyone agrees that the problem has been growing recently, thanks to a January law that prohibits the city from euthanizing the dogs. Also unable to spay or neuter the dogs and return them to the street, city officials are facing severe overcrowding at the pound and a paralysis of policing.
“Because the shelters are full, we cannot capture the dogs,” Simona Panaitescu, director of the city’s administration for animal supervision, said of the canine Catch-22. “We are stuck in the middle.” The city used to nab 1,500 dogs each month, according to Ms. Panaitescu, of which 80 percent were put down and 20 percent adopted.
Apparently, the impounded dogs are to be released on the streets again, once the NATO Summit has concluded.
The local debate flared up earlier this year when two women were mauled by stray dogs in separate attacks. A Japanese businessman was killed in January 2006 when he was bitten in the femoral artery.
The stray dogs of Romania are one of the longest running stories in Eastern Europe. Their population first exploded when the Communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu demolished thousands of houses to make way for an ill-considered reconstruction plan. Residents forced to move into tiny apartments had no room for their dogs, which they then put out on the street.
Throughout Romania, dogs can be seen trotting along the sides of roads and peering from perches on trash bins. At night, their baying and barking provides a constant backdrop, like the honking of car horns in big cities.
Ioana Pirvulescu, a representative of the animal-welfare group Four Paws in Bucharest, said she hoped that a new law permitting authorities to parole spayed and neutered dogs could pass as soon as next week, after the NATO meeting ends.
“Most of the dogs are peaceful and quiet dogs,” she said. “Living on the street is not easy. In a few years, they will disappear.”
She’s right; with an effective TNR (trap-neuter-return) policy, that might just happen.
Another side to the story
Visit Save the Dogs to read what the mainstream media are not telling you.
There are persistent rumours of silent night-time massacres around Bucharest Airport to rid the area of stray dogs and cats before the Nato Summit. Save The Dogs is unable to verify the rumours, even if in the past the authorities have used drastic methods to make a city seem more western when big international events were scheduled. What they can confirm is the intense activity of the dog-catchers observed by the President Sara Turetta in the area of the main road that leads to the airport recently. The association has frequently picked up stray dogs and cats from the airport, an area chosen by many Romanians to abandon their puppies and kittens.