Serbia (Backa Topola): Rescue / Stray Dog and Cat Shelter Owner Killed by Fire Because She Could Not Pay for Electricity – and Most Probably Non-Implementation of Existing (Animal Welfare) Laws by Regional Authorities Which Should Have Given Financial Help.

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In the city of Backa Topola, Mrs. Etela Merk, who runs a no kill shelter for around 350 dogs, WAS KILLED IN A FIRE at her home (the shelter) on the night of 7th March 2011.

From the information which we currently have, Etela Merk was operating the shelter without any electricity – she was having to use candles instead !.

Etela ran the shelter of 350 dogs and many cats, some of whom lived in the house with her and who were consumed by the fire which ravaged the facility.  We understand that many of the animals survived, but that some animals were killed in the fire.

In our opinion, IT IS IMPOSSIBLE to have large fire like that which occurred at the house,and with all the dogs barking, for anyone not to hear anything.

We are all very suspicious of the all circumstances that led to the death of Etela on the night of 7th March.

Etela Merk was an academic artist, a painter who held the position of Professor at Belgrade Academy for Arts. Ten years ago she purchased a ranch and turned it in to shelter for unwanted pets.

Etela had four year old son (some reports say 4 some 5).

The local authorities are not directly in charge of the electricity supply to the house / shelter facility, but despite this, they should have been giving Etela financial aid so that she has enough money to pay for the electricity she requires for the shelter.

The authorities failed to ACT, that is what they are guilty off – a failure to act.

And so, with the death of an innocent victim of the system which fails to implement the law for the protection of stray animals, things have to now go further.  Someone has to be held accountable for the death of Etela Merk because she was not given the support by the authorities which she was entitled to.

We understand that on 9th March, the authorities of Backa Topola sent  workers employed by JKP`Komgrad`  to the shelter, and that they have ‘cleaned and given food to the animals’.

It is a legal obligation of local authorities throughout Serbia to finance the care of stray animals .

Today, 10th March, and using a lawyers advice, a formal Criminal Charge has been made against  those in authority who are guilty of the non-implementation of existing Serbian law.  In the opinion of many, it is because of the non-implementation of the law, that Etela Merk is now dead.  We can confirm that Etela’s young son survived the fire and that hopefully he is going to be adopted by those involved with animal welfare campaigning.

On 9th March, Serbian campaigners spoke with the Mayor of Backa Topola, asking what is being done with the shelter animals now that their carer (Etela) has died in the fire.  The Mayor, Mr. Babi Atila is alleged to have said that the animals will be cared for a certain time but then the animals will be euthanised.

The Mayor was immediately informed that he has a legal obligation to provide care for all the shelter animals; not to kill them; by using money from the city (Backa Topola) budget.  He was verbally informed that if any of the shelter animals are taken and killed, rather than be cared for, he, the Mayor will be held guilty for undertaking illegal acts.

The Mayor was allegedly very angry with what he was told, but we have the law on our side and now that illegalities by the authorities have resulted in the death of a person who cares for animals at a shelter, everything will be done to ensure that those responsible for non-implementation of existing laws are now shamed.

It was the result of this campaigner / Mayor telephone conversation that has now resulted in the implementation of a formal Criminal Charge.

Copies of the Criminal Charges against the Backa Topola authorities can be seen via the following links:

ETELA MERK,Prijava,9.3

ETELA MERK,Prijava,9.3.2011-bilingual 

SAV are currently legally investigating to ascertain if they (as non Serbian citizens) have the right to also make a Criminal Charge under Serbian legislation regarding the death of Etela Merk.  This shelter which was run for stray animals by Etela should have, under existing Serbian legislation, been provided with care to help the strays.

As Etela died in a fire caused by candles due to the fact that she could not pay for the electricity at the shelter; which should have been partly financed by the Backa Topola authorities under existing Serbian law; somebody now has to be made responsible for her untimely death.

Some past SAV links to existing Serbian legislation for stray animals and shelters;

The most important one directly below – the Serbian Constitutional Court Says the Killing of Dogs and Cats is Forbidden from 02/10/2005:

Other links and issues:

 Unfortunately, it may now be the resutling death of a dedicated animal person who should have been getting help in a legitimate way (from the authorities) to provide basics for their shelter, which will be a major issue relating to legal challenges in the coming months.

This case will be forwarded to the EU also.

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