The problems started in the 80’s when dictator Nicolae Ceausescu aimed to industrialize Romania; people were forced to leave the countryside and move into cities. As there was a huge demand for more apartments, Ceausescu decided to demolish all small houses and build vast apartment blocks instead. The number of people in the cities exploded and families had no option but to share an apartment with many other families. At that point animals were abandoned on the streets due to lack of space. The dogs obviously reproduced rapidly and soon the streets were filled with homeless dogs and their puppies.
The mayor of the country’s capital Bucharest stated that the quickest way of getting rid of the strays was mass slaughter, and soon enough other cities followed in suit.
For over 20 years the dogs have been chased, captured and killed in numerous cruel and painful ways. They have been shot, poisoned, hung, burnt to death or crammed into small kennels to die of hunger and thirst. The most common way of putting dogs to sleep in municipal dog pounds has been to inject lethal fluid straight into the dog’s heart without any anaesthesia or pain relief. Because the dogs are killed at a great pace, the injections may stray into the dog’s lung, for example, which obviously causes the dog to die a delayed and very agonizing death.
Today, after more than 20 years of systematic dog slaughter, we can conclude that there are still as many stray dogs in Romania, if not more.
A new animal protection law was launched in Romania in 2008, according to which no healthy animals should be put to sleep. The law supports spaying and neutering the dogs in order to control the stray dog population. This however has led to a situation where there are heaps of dogs in dog pounds that won’t be put down. Instead they die of diseases, injuries, starvation and thirst, and injuries from fighting. Despite the new law,unofficially the dogs are still being killed, and one of the most common ways is poisoning. Furthermore, thousands of dogs disappear from municipal pounds and are never seen or heard of again. The police are completely powerless in reinforcing the new law and in various parts of the country the officials are still unaware of the application of the new animal protection law.
The situation worsened in the autumn of 2013, when stray dogs were accused of killing a boy in Bukarest. The Romanian president and the press stirred up the hatred towards the animals, and succeeded in pushing through a law allowing the killing of all dogs after 14 days of their capture, unless the local mayor has the funds to allow the dogs a longer stay at the communal shelter. The dogs are killed with unhumane and cruel methods. The new law has also encouraged the mass catchings and killings of dogs at shelters, because the shelters get money for all killed dogs. The president was supported in his campaign by uneducated people, who blindly believe his promises of cleaning the streets through the killings. A well known fact is that the stray dog problem can not be solved by killing the dogs, but only with a sterilizations programme and by educating people. The killing continue to be allowed, despite all facts, because the dog killing business fattens the wallets of the corrupt Romanian politicians.
There were protest all through Europe and also within the EU, through petitions, appeals and demonstraations, but the law was accepted none the less. Romania took a giant step back in time, and the new law created an athmosphere where the dogs are free game for cruel and evil individuals. With the law, the amount of cruelty also raised to new highs, and local animal protectors also get targeted..
The mayor of Cernavoda and Medgidia, the two towns that have worked together with Save the Dogs, promised to continue the collaboration as before. Save the Dogs is therefore allowed to continue its work managing the stray dog problem throug ethical and effective methods (sterilization and education).
It remains too see if Romania will be forced to give up the killing law when the EU wellfare law for animals becomes reality.