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Chain reaction

Emil Kuzmanov | 26.09.2009 18:17 | Analysis | Animal Liberation | Other Press

An article on Sofia dog population problem. It was written by Nick Iliev from The Sofia Echo,
"Six countries (Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Italy, Malta, Serbia and Spain) operated catch, neuter, release in a limited number of locations, although the reasons for this were unclear, as were the problems encountered when adopting this approach." (Stray Animal Control Practices - Europe, WSPA/RSPCA)

Resentment, anger and impatience is growing, some of it bordering on a desire for an en masse culling. Yet others seem to completely disregard the problem, feeding animals straight from their balconies, oblivious of the chain reaction they create on the street. Meanwhile, more children, elderly women and cyclists complain of attacks - of the interminable howling in the evenings, sleepless nights, excrement on the streets, filthy green belts, ticks and parasites galore.

Ekoravnovesie, a municipal-support organisation, works to deal with the problem against the odds. While too slow for some, too insignificant for others and too late for most, the organisation battles the status quo with its meagre resources. Kenneling programmes are well underway while a new facility was opened on June 30 in Gorni Bogrov, with capacity for 400 canines, mostly ones snatched near hospitals, kindergartens and schools.

Yet experts in the field, such as Emil Kouzmanov, from Animal Program, for example, are unconvinced that the scheme goes far enough. "What is the purpose of this municipal ‘kenneling’ while the total dog population increases or remains unchanged? And what is the annual data for shelter dogs being furnished to lab animal suppliers?" he said to The Sofia Echo.

Ekoravnovesie collect dogs and treat them in their Seslavtsi base while local municipalities ponder the creation of two new kennels by the end of 2009, in Mladost and Nadezhda. Sofia municipality’s "Castrate and Return" programme, aimed at tackling the city’s interminable problem of stray dogs, has now been operating for several months, the method itself being proposed by the World Health Organisation, whereby strays are collected and inoculated against rabies. Their ears are marked with a V-sign; they are tattooed, disinfected, castrated and returned to their "manor". Aggressive, or terminally ill animals, are killed.

The operation is conducted by a task-force set up by the municipality, working with the public. But Kouzmanov is unconvinced that the WHO programme will be effective either. "The method was suggested by the WHO...Sofia accepted a method, but not a strategy. It means to reduce population reproduction by increasing the percentage of the sterilised pet population. There are more than 200 000 owned dogs, according to Ekoravnovesie’s chief Miroslav Naidenov. While that remains the case, Sofia will remain without an efficient and permanent solution to the problem," he told The Sofia Echo.

Meanwhile, Ekoravnovesie reported that in 2008 more than 5000 dogs were seized, of which 200 were adopted and 600 killed. The others were castrated, sanitised and returned to the street. For the period May to August 2009, 1604 dogs were caught, of which 810 were treated, sanitised, castrated and returned, 141 were adopted, and 573 put down.

The latest figures from the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences (BAS) indicate that in Sofia today there are actually more than 8500 stray dogs, an insignificant improvement from June 2009, when their number was pegged at 8538, but a substantial 23 per cent drop from 2008.

According to a BAS survey from 2007, their population stood at 11 136 stray dogs and more than 20 000 in 2005.

One main reason why the canine population remains stable, apart from the public’s lack of proper understanding and knowledge on the matter, is the "enclosed construction sites" where strays thrive and congregate, and where Ekoravnovesie cannot operate due to legal restrictions. The worst affected areas in Sofia are clustered in Ovcha Koupel, Krasno Selo, Krasna Polyana, Manastirski Livadi, Lyulin, Filipovtsi, and to an extent, Studenstki Grad. The plights are many but the stray dogs aren’t the only piece in the puzzle. It is the thousands of people feeding them daily, and the more than 200 000 private pets who contribute to the rising population. The lack of proper Government support, a coherent strategy and sufficient resources, are only some of the many problems needing to be tackled.


Emil Kuzmanov
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  1. No one is illegal — Antispe