Sofia Animal Control Data - Vain Confidence in No-Kill Leg

Letters to the Editor | December 4, 2013, Wednesday // 10:58

The Sofia Animal Control Director, Manol Nejkov, recently announced findings of new census - 6635 stray dogs currently living outside. Nejkov and representatives of Vier Pfoten Bulgaria and Animal Rescue Sofia - both publicly funded NGOs - claimed these numbers to prove some sustainable progress in reducing local dog overpopulation. Previous survey of February 2011 shown 9241 street dogs.

The street dog population shrink recorded in Sofia may eventually be, to some extent, a result of opening extra premises. After new municipal animal shelter opened in November 2012, its capacity of 1000 dogs was quickly filled.

Unfortunately, pet population dynamics in Sofia remains an underrated animal welfare issue. Estimated local owned dog population is around 150,000 and no solid evidence such as straight records on animal shelter intake to suggest a significant decrease in its dynamics.

The data of intake from January to October 2013 claimed by Manol Nejkov - 5014 strays impounded - seem untrustworthy. Much higher intake numbers shall be considered, because Sofia Animal Control utilizes eight dog catcher teams equipped with large caravans (e.g. Ford Transit 1994 edition). It is unlikely that a team may be able to deliver just three dogs per a working day on average. Moreover, similar intake was reported from 2007 to 2010 when three to four teams were employed.

The Sofia animal control's doubtful policy for dog population reduction should be considered by the stakeholders as the second most tremendous problem with the animal welfare. Unreported killing of shelter animals likely plays a key role in maintaining or reducing the street dog number.

The Animal Protection Act of 2008 banned euthanizing healthy pet animals and provided the catch-neuter-release as major approach in dealing with both unwanted pet population and pet over-reproduction. And participants in the informal municipal alliance for animal control explain the street population reduction primarily with the CNR approach accepted in Sofia since 2006.

Officials claimed a total of 26,118 dogs sterilized and released outside between September 2006 and July 2013. "There are some 1500 strays dying [every year] due to accidents, age, diseases, poisoning, etc.," Javor Gechev of Vier Pfoten Bulgaria commented the annual street population loss.

Shelter euthanasia numbers claimed by Sofia officials just via news media are very low and misleading the general public about high death rates and animal welfare problems among unwanted dogs. A total of 3962 dogs were reportedly euthanized from 1st September 2007 to the end of the 2010.

Since 2011, Sofia virtually ceased to report shelter killing. Just 20 dogs were reportedly euthanized from January 2011 to March 2012, as cited in Dnevnik Daily. Another four dogs stated as involved in the March 2012 fatal attack on Professor Botjo Tachkov were put to slip early May 2012.

New euthanasia data are not yet available through the media. In addition, release numbers also became missing. Last known release figures were for July 2013, while the August-October 2013 intake was announced.

The desultory manner of reporting shelter operations across Bulgaria is just allowed by current animal welfare legislation. It indicates a lack of progress in dealing with pet population dynamics along with the uncertain status of any animal entering the shelter system. Shelter dogs in the second most corrupt EU member country may be easily supplied to shady dealers for various purposes including, for instance, uninspected animal testing.

"Animals such as dogs, rats or guinea pigs, are used in military experiments, particularly in the testing of chemical warfare agents", former Sofia Military Medical Academy chief, General Stojan Tonev, told media early 2013.

Unlike legislative amendments already proposed by Animal Programs Foundation (e.g. appointing animal control officers and submitting comprehensible reports on animal control operations on a regular basis), ensuring that companion animal management works in an effective and humane manner is a challenge on which Bulgarian government remains silent.

Emil D. Kuzmanov
Animal Programs Foundation

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