Stray Dogs population management in Romania
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Due to recent events in Romania, the first “special focus” will be Strays dogs in Romania.Under this section, you may find the factual, legal and political information related to this topic.
Stray Dogs population management in Romania
On 9 September 2013, the Romanian Parliament has passed a critical Law which allows the mass killing of stray dogs. This law has been validated by the Romanian Constitutional Court on 25th September and signed by President Traian Basescu. On 1 October 2013, EU Commission has written a letter to Romania to remind Romania to its international obligations, and in particular the OIE guidelines on stray dogs population management which states that killing should only be a last resort solution.
In Romania, there are estimated 60,000 stray animals living in the streets of Bucarest, and as much living in all the Country. These dogs are abandoned dogs and offspring of them.
Due to their uncontrolled reproduction and missing of common programs and standards for dog population management in the EU, the number of Stray Dogs is still increasing.
Stray Dogs are most of the time living in very bad conditions and are suffering from climate threats and starvation. Most of them are sick or injured.
Often, they suffer human cruelty, they are poisoned or beaten to death, and in some countries or regions children are using dogs as toys allowed to torture. In short: An ethically unacceptable situation in Europe.
In several Eastern and Southern European countries, where the Stray Dog problem is particularly severe, the increase of the number of Stray Dogs affects citizens’ standard of living, and leads to security problems.
As explained by the European Food Safety Authority regarding stray animals, “: Oriol Ribo, The Role of EFSA in the Assessment of Animal Health and Welfare Risks from Canine Overpopulation, Conference responsible Ownership, 2010). (…)” (
In view of the major public safety issue generated by Stray Dogs, citizens complain to national authorities, thus the Stray Dog issue has become a political issue.
Most governments initially decided to catch and kill the Stray Dogs to “solve” the problem. On the short time, the problem seems to be solved because Stray Dogs are not visible anymore in the street. But, on the long run, the Stray Dog problem actually increases when being killed to reduce numbers.
In 1987, a convention of the Council of Europe on the protection of pet animals was established. There is no legislation on companion animals of the EU, except of a few EU rules on health and trade, also referring to dogs and cats. The legal competence is on the national, regional and even local level.
On the political European level, the first signal came from the European Council, representing the 27 Member States, that the Commission has to make some research on companion animals.
A next step was the Written Declaration n°26 of the European Parliament of 2011.
On 19 January 2012, the new Animal Welfare Strategy of the EU, where companion animals are at least mentioned, was presented.
In January 2012 the EU Commission started a science based project called CALLISTO to create a future next political and eventually legal steps. First result are expected for 2015.
The common project “CAROdog” of FOUR PAWS, Istituto G. Capporale Teramo, FVE and the EU Commission, which was launched in 2010, was however the first attempt to provide, generate and disseminate information and to share knowledge and experience about dog population and dog management and solution strategies.
Currently, some political signals are coming up on the EU institutional level and at the Member States level
On 13 October 2011, the European Parliament adopted a Written Declaration n°26 on dog population management, initiated in June 2011 by Daciana Sârbu (Romania/S&D), Adina Valean (Romania/ALDE), Elisabeth Jeggle (Germany/EPP), Raül Romeva i Rueda (Spain/Greens), and Janusz Wojciechowski (Poland/ECR). This declaration, strongly supported by FOUR PAWS, was signed by more than 400 Members of the EP. It provides the possibility for the European Parliament to call on the European Commission to assess the situation of dogs in Europe, to promote identification and registration of all dogs, and require the Member States to adopt sterilisation programs for stray animals.
Even if this Written Declaration is a political declaration and has no legal character, by adopting it the representatives of the European citizens officially recognised the harm caused by the growing number of unwanted animals in Europe, have asked for solution strategies, and want the European Commission to become active in this area.
This Written Declaration has already visibly influenced national politics: on 4 January 2012, the municipality of Sofia (Bulgaria) officially announced that microchips would be implanted in all neutered Stray Dogs in the city in order to control their numbers more effectively.
Moreover, in 2012, and in 2013, the Intergroup for Animal Welfare of the EU Parliament has made to appeals threw a formal letter to the Romanian’s government not to kill stray dogs.
EU Commissioner Tonio Borg has sent on 1st October a letter to Mr NICOLĂESCU GHEORGHE-EUGEN, the Romanian Minister for Health who is responsible for controlling stray dogs in Romania.
The letter aims to remind Romania to its international obligations, and in particular the OIE guidelines on stray dogs population management which states that killing should only be a last resort solution. The letter also refers to Article 13 TFEU considering all animals as sentient beings.The letter is published on DG SANCO’s webpage, here :
On 26 July 2011, in the case “Georgel and Georgeta Stoicescu vs. Romania” the European Court of Human rights (ECHR) ordered Romania to pay a large amount of compensation to the widower of a Romanian woman who was attacked by seven Stray Dogs in front of her house in Bucharest in October 2000.
This ECHR judgement stated that Governments are responsible for Stray Dog population management and have to take effective measures to avoid overpopulation.
The court decision was based on the violation of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (respect of private life) and Article 6(1) (access to court).
The European Court of Human Rights has estimated that the Stray Dog problem in Romania is still not resolved, even if since the attack of Ms Stoicescu, Romanian authorities have adapted national legislation accordingly in order to prevent such incidents, hoping that this would solve the problems associated with Stray Dogs.
Even if decisions of the European Court of Human Rights cannot be enforced in the same way as decisions of the European Court of Justice, this case law has a moral and political impact. For the first time a State was convicted of violation of Human Rights due to a problem with Stray Dogs. And it underlines the inefficiency of the “kill strategy” adopted by Romania and several other States, municipalities more precisely.
This ECHR judgement had such an impact that recently, in Bulgaria, the Administrative Court in Sofia decided to condemn mayors to pay fines to citizens injured by Stray Dogs.
On 22 November 2011, the Romanian parliament voted on an amendment (no. 912) to the Stray Dog population bill (no. 155/2007) giving every mayor the possibility to kill Stray Dogs 30 days after catching them, or on the day of the catch if the dog appears to be ill or aggressive. Furthermore, this law obstructed and discouraged dog adoption as it required citizens willing to adopt a dog to prove that they have sufficient money and space, and to provide a letter of agreement from their neighbours.
This law was infringing the general principle of Animal Welfare as enshrined in Article 13 of the TFEU.
On 25 November 2011, FOUR PAWS represented by its Romanian office, and two Romanian Animal Welfare organisations, as well as politicians across party lines, questioned the planned change in the legislation at the Constitutional Court.
On 11 January 2012, the Constitutional Court ruled that two sections of the amendment contradicted the Romanian Constitution and consequently were unconstitutional (Section 6, allowing persons to have Stray Dogs killed if they are not adopted; and section 8, which regulates the adoption process).
In a next step the Romanian Senate will have to modify the planned amendment. After that, the Parliament will vote on it again.
This is the first time that a national constitutional court has recognised that the killing of Stray Dogs is not an acceptable solution for decreasing the number of Stray Dogs.
Some Member States, facing the problem of overpopulation have decided to kill Stray Dogs like Romania,. These programmes are often called “euthanasia” programmes. But, as the former President of the Federation of Veterinarians of Europe (FVE) has clarified several times in public: “”.
It has been proved that killing healthy animals is not effective and leads to an increasing number of Stray Dogs. The World Health Organization (WHO) stated in its Expert Committee on Rabies in 1992, “There is no evidence that removal of dogs has ever had a significant impact on dog population densities or the spread of rabies. The population turnover of dogs may be so high that even the highest recorded removal rates are easily compensated for by increased survival rates…”
As Stray Dogs are not dependent on other animals of the same species to survive, any reduction in the population density through additional mortality is rapidly compensated for by better reproduction and survival.
This means that particularly in Europe, responsible ownership and the no-kill strategy provides the only sustainable solution to control and manage Stray Dog population.
As underlined by the Court of Human Rights, governments have to adopt national actions plans for reducing the number of stray animals in a sustainable way.
These action plans should consider a combination of measures such as :
*Veterinarian prevention including vaccination,
*Mandatory Identification and registration,
*Educational measures for citizens,
This package should be fixed in an agreement between NGOs and municipalities (as Public/private partnership).