Street Dogs in Sofia

Letters to the Editor | May 16, 2008, Friday // 00:00

Sofia, EU: In Terms of 2M Lv. Budget Provided, the Municipal Animal Control Does Not Face a Legal Policy on Low-Cost Neutering and Pet Recovering

Dear Editor,

On April 24 2008 The Municipal Council of Sofia adopted a "2008-2011 Stray Dog Population Control Programme". Since 1990 thousands of roaming dogs of unknown origin living outside became a routine problem around Bulgaria. The Ecoravnovesie Sofia Municipal Animal Control Director Miroslav Naydenov admitted in the media that the overpopulation has direct relationship to the abandoning of dogs by their owners. Naydenov also said that there are about 100,000 owned dogs in Sofia; and that the successful sheltering of all strays in a three year term is possible only if pet breeding is restricted.

In fact the project does not include adequate solutions for the problem. The situation was already complicated by the prohibition of the euthanasia as a measure for population control, stated in the above mentioned Act. At the same time practically all kept animals stay unsterilized. But the only measures included in the Municipal Programme was enforcing regime of dog registration & taxation; and increasing registration fee in cases of unaltered dogs. 2M leva tax income per year is expected, Naydenov added.

By careless substituting terms like "registration fee" and "licensing breeders" so-called specialists around Mayor Boyko Borisov have not real intentions in restricting massive pet breeding. For what the Municipality of Sofia is going to use the income from the new tax? In 2007 the main activity declared by Ecoravnovesie was the sterilization of almost 4,000 dogs. Most of them were returned in the streets and only few hundreds were adopted. The budget of Ecoravnovesie was 920,000 leva. So the average budget per animal was about 250 lv. But that is quite unrealistic expense. It is more likely that every newly arrived animal will turn into a "money-box on four paws". Taking into account the proposals made by Miroslav Naydenov to the Municipal Council on February 12 2008 we could expect that the existing practice will be expanded over the unowned cats.

In 1994 the State of New Hampshire introduced a special legislation for subsidizing a permanent low-cost pet sterilization program. The budged of this program was raised from the registration fee. The low-cost sterilization policy was accepted by San Mateo County, California in 1970. Between 1970 and 1980 the number of unwanted dogs euthanized at the shelter has dropped more than four times - from 15,884 to 3,648. This rapid progress was achieved thanks to two key factors: establishing low-cost pet sterilization service, and creating education programme.

Because of the rejection of the proven practice of low-cost sterilization of pets, Sofia resembles another classical example from the USA - Hidalgo County, Texas. In 1999 the shelter killing rate per capita there was almost equal to the rate in San Mateo in 1970. The Animal People editor Merritt Klifton explains that lack of progress only with the fact that in this region there is "one of the most militant and organized veterinary oppositions against the low-cost sterilization in the USA".

Undoubtedly, the whole inadequate policy of the Municipality concerning stray animals is motivated by private interests, even bigger than the interest around the budget of Ecoravnovesie. Obviously the unregistered and unsupervised animals - neutered or not - remain an easy prey for the mafia. So, every year Ecoravnovesie, Tierhilfe Sueden Bulgaria and other similar organizations declare that they neuter and return in the streets thousands of newly appeared dogs. If these animals really survive in the streets, the number of the stray population will increase significantly. But the number of the overpopulations remains the usual.

To their number we must add the hundreds of cases of domestic dogs lost every year by the owners. Unlclearaly why, their rescue stayed out of the priorities of the present Mayor Borissov and the former Mayor Sofianski. The usual practice is unsuccessfully search for these animals and their absence in the shelters. They remain disappearing forever. Generally, thousands of animals are legally left to roam in the streets of Sofia, only to be illegally collected and taken away in unknown direction. In last decade this is an unannounced concession.

In Sofia the trend for reproduction of thousands of redundant animals remains unchanged. At the same time the acting Law does not provide reasonable solution for the future of the unwanted dogs. In this situation their final removal since 2011 will be achieved only by using the already established "method" but "at higher motion".

Emil Kuzmanov, founder
The Animal Programs Bulgaria Foundation
18 Yanko Sofiiski Voivoda Str
1164 Sofia, Bulgaria

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