Why mass killing will not solve Romania’s street dog problem

David Newall of Romanian Animal Welfare Coalition (RAWC) puts forward the case for neutering, education and … street cleaning

You may assume that, speaking on behalf of an animal welfare organisation, I’m bound to take the ‘softy’ route and condemn legislation permitting municipalities to kill street dogs en masse. And you’d be right. Because the ‘softy’ route is not only the most humane but also the most effective approach to controlling and reducing a street dog population. Here’s why:

Mass killing

We’re not denying there’s a problem. There are thousands of dogs on the streets of Bucharest and Dogs Trust research conducted last year showed that 65% of Romanians consider street dogs to be the number one problem in their local area. The dogs have short, difficult lives and are prone to injury and disease. We don’t want to see them on the streets any more than the local community do.

But rounding them up and killing them en masse isn’t a magic wand to make the dogs disappear. When an area is cleared of dogs, others from surrounding neighbourhoods will simply move in, use the newly available resources and continue to breed.

One female street dog can produce up to eight puppies a year. So if she is lucky enough to live for five years, she could have produced around 40 more street dogs. If you have 500 female dogs on the street, in five years they could produce 20,000 puppies. And then they will start having puppies!

Mass killing is a fruitless, inhumane, ineffective task and certainly didn’t work in the seven years that Bucharest permitted it – street dog numbers did not decline.

If I can’t appeal to your heart strings, how about your purse strings? Aside from the fact that mass killing does not work, it’s also incredibly expensive. According to the ASPA euthanasia costs €60/dog (that includes catching the dog, accommodation for seven days and cremation). The estimated street dog population for Bucharest is 50,000 dogs, so mass killing would cost authorities €3 million (and still the street dog problem wouldn’t be solved).

The better way

It took a long time for the dog population of Romania to reach this stage, so a solution cannot be found overnight. But there is hope. Dog Population Management (DPM) programmes take a long-term approach but are proven to be effective. There are countless examples across the world where situations far bleaker than in Bucharest have been enormously improved after DPM activity: a reduction in the number of dogs and biting incidents.

DPM involves taking an organised, methodical approach. Firstly you need to understand where all the dogs are coming from. In one country it might be ‘latch key’ dogs left to roam and breed in the streets while their owners are at work. In other countries it might be a case of unwanted dogs being abandoned in the streets, others being genuinely lost or being born and bred on the street.

The charity GIA’s figures show that in 2010 approximately 250 dogs (puppies and adults) were abandoned at 10 vet practices (out of a total of 250) in Bucharest. This is a much lower number compared to the number of total dogs abandoned in parks, markets, subway and RATB stations, fields, woods, etc.

There are eight steps to a successful DPM and all need to be employed for the programme to work:

Legislation - a framework so everyone is following the same course. If one sector neuters its dogs and the neighbouring sector does not, the programme will not work.

Census - Nobody knows how many pet dogs or street dogs there are in Romania. In order to resources to best use we need to have a full picture of the scale of the problem.

Registration and identification – We need to know if the dogs on the street are owned and left to wander, have been abandoned or have never had owners. By making microchipping mandatory we can link dogs to owners and hold them accountable in cases of neglect or abandonment.

Neutering - This is the part where some readers may wince. But neutering not only prevents unwanted puppies, it can prevent some cancers and even improve your dog’s behaviour by making him less territorial or aggressive. By incentivising owners to have their dogs neutered and by conducting a methodical approach to neutering the dogs living on the streets it won’t take long for the burgeoning dog population to stop growing. The average street dog lives only three and a half years. The cost for neutering Bucharest’s street dogs would come to around €942,000, compared to the killing programme’s €3 million.

Education – This is actually the most important part. Authorities should educate both children and adults about the benefits of neutering their pet, understanding its behaviour and making them aware that there simply is no short term solution to the problem.

Adoption – There are far more street dogs than people looking to own a dog. But by encouraging potential new owners to consider rehoming a rescue dog or puppy before approaching a breeder or puppy farm even more dogs will be taken from the streets.

Cleaner streets – Dogs will stay in an area as long as there are resources to sustain them and will travel up to 7km in a day in search of food. Resources should be limited by increasing rubbish collection frequency, discouraging citizens from littering and improving catering waste management.

Euthanasia – You may be surprised to see euthanasia of dogs being suggested by an animal welfare organisation. Very importantly, euthanasia is not the same as mass killing. Far from it. The word comes from the Greek word meaning ‘good death’. This is not the mass shooting or poisoning or clubbing with shovels that we often hear about as a means to control street dogs. The fact of life is that in some cases where facilities for rehabilitation do not exist and street dogs are not healthy and happy, but affected by disease, aggression or serious behavioural problems, euthanasia is a sad but realistic part of a responsible dog population management programme.

This programme has already worked in Romania. In 2003 there were an estimated 4800 street dogs in the Oradea and Bihor area. After just seven years and 18,000 dogs neutered the street dog population dropped by 90 per cent to just 512. An incredible number of approximately 216,000 unwanted puppies have been prevented.

I know the topic of street dogs is very hot at the moment and I appreciate the opportunity of putting forward the case for a positive alternative to mass killing. If you are interested in finding out more or show your support for DPM contact the Romanian Animal Welfare Coalition: Raluca Simion or David Newall.

More resources:

UK National Stray Dog Survey 2010

UK Dogs Trust Stray Dog Survey Figures 1997 – 2010

52 comments

  1. hwan says:

    They need more Chinese restaurants.

  2. Maria maraki says:

    This is mass extinction. It’s an immoral and inhuman way to address the problem of strays, a problem which WE, humans, created because of our unacceptable incompetence to shelter and protect them, just to say the least. Moreover, it’s a deep strike to our human selves and dignity, highlighting world’s inability to live peacefully with animals and recognize them as an integral and indispensable part of our living, surroundings and planet.
    All these instant and with no further discussion “solutions’ are only the beginning of the deterioration of the way people treat animals and strays. Economic crisis, sadly, offers a great excuse for the degradation of environment and the relaxation of our tolerance towards practices with unprecedented cruelty. First it’s the animals. Αre we next?

    • Dermitius says:

      Dogs are hardly in danger of extinction, unfortunately. If we are entitled to kill people in defence of ourselves and our societies then, a fortiori, we are entitled to kill wild dogs for the same reason. Just as a minimum of force should be employed in self defence and just as there are rules of war, so also wild dogs should be dispatched with a minimum of suffering and with no indulgence of cruelty. In general, however, it is not self-evident that we should live peacefully with other animals. Animals, including dogs, do not live peacefully with each other. Nature is red in tooth and claw. If we are just animals why should we have to behave differently from the others? And if we are not just animals why should we think that we should treat them in the same way we ought to treat each other?

  3. Holly says:

    I realize this article was published 2 years ago but I only just came across it. This is the voice of reason here (as well as compassion). I hope with all of my heart that something like this will be done. These poor dogs are living in hell and yes, it’s a terrible problem for the human population, as well. But doing the right thing—the most effective and compassionate—is the only way to go. I am so thankful that someone is speaking of a common-sense, long-term, effective AND compassionate way to deal with this terrible problem. After driving to Romania in hopes of camping and enjoying the local culture, we were forced to turn around by the many roaming wild dogs—emaciated and seemingly aggressive (who wouldn’t be if they were starving?)—and many, many dead dogs on the roads. It was horrifying and saddened me to the bone! Three cheers for David Newall!

    • Craig Turp says:

      Actually, the new law which was passed yesterday is more or less as suggested here. Dogs, once captured, will be held for 14 days, and during those 14 days people will be able to adopt them. After the 14 days have expired local councils can then decide what course of action to take: to hold the dogs in pounds until they die a natural death or to humanely destroy them. The law does not state that all strays must be killed, nor does it legalise cruelty to animals. What the law strictly forbids, however, is the return of stray dogs to the streets.

  4. Gianna says:

    @Tiffany: Yeah, typical silly, American answer. You know what? This makes you worse than a stray dog. You know why? Because they kill for food and territory, you wanna kill out of pleasure.

  5. Gianna says:

    Mr Rearguard: You and all your fellow Americans/British have no right to comment on this topic. This is a Romanian internal matter, and you obviously have no idea about it, nor is it your business. Leave your sarcasm and arrogance to your own fellows, please. Thank you and bug off, por favor.

    • Craig Turp says:

      If this really is a ‘Romanian internal matter’, perhaps you can persuade the dogs to attack only Romanians? In our experience they are not quite so discerning, unfortunately.

    • Mr Rearguard says:

      @Gianna. As I type I’ve got the jaws of a stray dog clamped hard on me hairy balls. Be a sweet Gianna get over here help me unclamp this mutt. Bring some ointment to rub on me balls please!

    • Mr Rearguard says:

      @Gianna. Me arrogant? I’m not one of those types who parks his x5 on the sidewalk forcing mothers with young children and old ladies to step onto the busy street. Think you’re barking (no pun intended) up the wrong tree calling me arrogant.
      I have no right to comment about the stray dogs? Britain, Romania is all part of the EU, you’re no longer a commie. Besides, the UK is pullulating as I type with Roms just like I’m now over here. I pay my taxes ‘indirectly’ of course to your goverment so I think I have the right to speak my mind in my new adopted country just like Roms have the right to piss and moan (if they do) about the UK. ps. It’s bog off not bug off!

  6. [...] We did touch on a few political hot potatoes though, from Hala Matache and Rosia Montana to smoking in public places and – of course – our old staple, stray dogs, which we wrote about here, here and here. We offered the opinion that the current stray dog issue had nothing to do with Nicolae Ceausescu, and in the spirit of right to reply we published this article which argued that mass killing would not solve Romania’s stray dog problem. [...]

  7. Ruxandra says:

    @ anon,

    Thank you for a well written and informed answer. I agree with everything that you have said. I believe that the government should apply fines for all dog owners who are not neutering their dogs and fines should also be applied by the local police when citizens are feeding stray dogs without reporting them to the health authorities.

    Additionally, I have to tell you that I myself was a victim of stray dogs attacks. I did not cause any harm, I was just walking on a street trying to get around a puppy. The whole pack appeared out of nowhere and I was saved by running and macing one dog. I hid on the bushes surrounding the Law Faculty and screamed for help. One gentleman stopped, but when I told him what had happened he declared that he was also afraid. Eventually we made it to the door of the university together, but even now I am more than afraid when passing by parked cars or parks.
    My uncle was bitten 4 times. Luckily without any harm to his life.

    Nobody says that we should not be merciful towards the animals. Nobody argues that education is part of the problem. However, I believe that animal rights organizations should cooperate with the authorities. That is the true role of civil society. Opposing projects and actions just for the sake of opposing them doesn’t work.
    Local authorities have a lot of things on their minds and civil society is there to complement in taking action and bring to light issues which they might not have thought of before.

    Having said this I would like to underline the fact that this is a general problem. This is not an issue found only in Romania.

    I would also like to ask whether European Union money can be used to create a network between the various animal rights organizations in Europe. Why not create a common database with statistics regarding the issue and put there dogs for adoption? You could also help, at reduced costs these within the European Union adoptions.
    Additionally, you could create a European wide campaign aimed at introducing animal rights and other educational topics in schools. This might not be compulsory, but even as an extra curricular activity it helps children understand and become more responsible!

    Happy Holidays everyone!

    • anon says:

      Well the EU are just about to adopt a new framework for their strategy on animal welfare sometime this month
      http://ec.europa.eu/food/animal/welfare/actionplan/actionplan_en.htm
      There are several problems with transporting dogs out of the country though. For starters there are enough unwanted dogs in home countries as it is without having to look overseas, then there’s the medical bills, and finally transport costs/pet passport costs.

      Of course it will take time to implement; the EU is a slow moving creature at best…and it doesn’t help that at this moment in time, there are bigger problems to deal with (i.e. the Euro-crisis).

      As for education, I fully agree. I know that schools in the UK talk about animal rights, I’m not sure about other countries, although I would not like to put an animal rights group in front of children so they can spout “GENOCIDE”, I’d rather it be done more objectively.

    • Mr Rearguard says:

      “Having said this I would like to underline the fact that this is a general problem. This is not an issue found only in Romania.”

      I think you watch too much Dallas and Seinfeld. Apart from Romania, nearly all other decent European countries have no stray dog problem, fact! ps. Which episode are you watching tonight, 126?

  8. Maria says:

    I totally agree with the person who wrote the article because I too think that poisoning the stray dogs or any other form of mass killing won’t solve this problem.As there are many unwanted dogs that are abandoned in the street and they are not neutered they will breed and the stray dog population will grow really fast.Mass killing is also very expensive and it might not work.
    I think that people should be told not to litter because this makes the dogs live longer.They should also neuter their pets and if their dogs have puppies,they should go to animal shelters and put them up for adoption.
    Yet the stray dogs are aggressive and they can transmit a lot of dangerous diseases and nobody seems to care about this.I think such dogs should be euthanised because that’s the most realistic thing that could be done about their problem.Their lives are short anyway and euthanasia is not the same thing as mass killing.

  9. topman says:

    With all the sorry I think that somehow most be end to the story of the street dogs in Romania.
    As a dog owner I love dogs and fill sorry to see how these dogs get bitten or get hurt by cars or people these dogs have very hard and miserable life.
    Every time I am in Romania I get to be very sad looking on these dogs knowing that I can’t help them.

    The animal rights groups and very good in making a big scandal about it but they never come with a solution to fix the problem and fined a better life for this dogs.

    We just can’t leave them in the street its wrong for them and wrong for the people in Romania.

  10. Ken says:

    Well, here’s a solution nobody else thought of. Local woman I know who fancies herself a business/society “power player” wants us all to adopt a dog. Every single one of us. Has taken up the cause with more fervor than Apple selling iPhones. Incessant posts on Facebook, expat forums, and similar venues have gone from “adopt a dog” to “why haven’t you adopted a dog yet?” More insistent and obnoxious with each passing month. Reportedly now physically incapable of speaking a sentence without “adopt a dog” in it. Zealotry has reached the point that if you haven’t adopted a dog, you are the enemy. This week she notified all of her Facebook friends (all 750 of them) that if they didn’t adopt a dog, she would unfriend them. The first dozen responses were what you’d expect, and I joined the ranks soon after. As a result I don’t know how this is playing out, but has anyone here adopted a dog this week because an extraordinarily casual Facebook friend threatened to unfriend you if you didn’t? Maybe the government is on entirely the wrong track!

  11. tiffany says:

    sick just sick i would like to kill the romanians who kill those poor creatures

    • Mr Rearguard says:

      Shut up stupid woman, go stick your head down the toilet!

    • Adina says:

      Kill the Romanians? How on Earth would you feel if on your way back home from work you must we scared of dogs chasing you and trying to attack you because they are hungry and wild? How about they attacke you and your child on the way to kindergarden? How about they attacke you when you are old and go to the market? How about if you cannot sleep because a flock of 10-12 dogs bark all night near your window? How about you want to take a walk and you must avoid a lot of dog shit? How about you have a crazy neighbour who decides to keep in the hall of the block 1-2 street dogs and all the crazy old ladies decide to feed them? How about that? How about you get killed because of dog bites in the uptown like a Japanese bussiness man was? How about you call the authorithies to get the dogs from the street and you get a “no” answer? How about that?

  12. jhuitz says:

    David Newall summarizes the issue and solution quite nicely. My wife and I are hardcore dog lovers. But we don’t want to see them on street, at all. It isn’t good for the dogs, even less so than it is for the community. A solution has to be well thought out, planned and effectively implemented (true, these are not common qualities in Romania).

    I read up on this issue one night, and found that certain countries eventually achieved a solution. In each case, it was applied methodically, mass neutering, and then a bit more. My wife collects puppies and has them treated and sent Westward for adoption. Along the way we learned that locales are adverse to neutering their dogs, even when free. And when they have puppies, in the woods they go. We need a cultural change, education. Kill a lot, and they’ll simply be replaced.

    Final note, for those of you fantasizing themselves here or others as Rambo walking around armed to the teeth and blasting away, you are sick individuals.

    • anon says:

      Natoli, E., L. Maragliano, G. Cariola, A. Faini, R. Bonanni, S. Cafazzo,
      and C. Fantini. 2006. Management of feral domestic cats in the
      urban environment of Rome (Italy). Preventive Veterinary Medicine
      77:180–185

      Ironically enough TNR programs have been shown to increase the population in some cases, as people are more likely to abandon their animals, knowing that they will not be euthanised.

      There is extensive scientific literature evaluating the effectiveness of TNR programs (a review http://cwhrbird.org/documents/Longcore2009.pdf), and the result is that THEY DO NOT WORK!

      You’re hearts in the right place, wanting to rehome and save the dogs and credit to actually trying to find them a home, but without accepting the need for controlled euthanasia, you’re only adding to the problem.

    • John says:

      @JHuitz

      Yeah, right. Your solution works. NOT!

      We actually need someone to stand up, send in the bloody army and shoot all those lovely little doggies and then send them in a f*cking container to China where they can put them on a bloody gratar.

      At least by sending them to China for 1 EURO each, the bullet that was used to kill it , earns itself back!!!

      • John's mirror says:

        I am “glad” you found yet another solution to make money by killing dogs. Wh don’t you get a real job? Or better yet, go to China yourself, Chinese also like eating human abortion..

        • Dan says:

          Hey John’s mirror, how about this: http://www.hotnews.ro/stiri-esential-8430078-femeie-murit-dupa-fost-atacata-haita-caini.htm.

          What’s your take on this? Woman killed, guilty of being born in the same country with some crazy dog-lovers…

          I wonder what David Newall has to say about it. “How unfortunate, we should register and identify them all, then neuter them and politely ask them not to bite anymore. All this – hopefully – on taxpayer’s money.”

          Romanian Animals Welfare Coalition – that’s exactly what we need. ‘Cause nobody gives a s*it about welfare of humans anyways.

  13. Mr Rearguard says:

    Without reading the story or reading any of the comments I suggest this. Get one Ex Special Forces soldier. Give him a M16 assault rifle and all the ammo he needs. My calculation is this. 100,000 Dogs need one bullet each. A standard 5.56 round is valued at 1Euro. The Soldier needs a salary of say 26K Sterling for one years work and that gives you a total of 126,000Euro to rid the dogs. I bet this prat from save the fluffy dogs is quoting 3million Euro or something stupid just to slightly reduce levels of fucking dogs!

  14. Mary says:

    I’m no really sure where you got your figures from but mass killing never was an option for the legislation that is being discussed anyway, but rather euthanasia was the word/concept used. At least as far as I understood from the news.

  15. anti-dog says:

    The solution is simple, first gather&kill the 50.000 dogs on the streets and then apply the 7 point programme…from there on. EUR 3 million is nothing for a city of 2 million people. A castrated dog in the street will continue to shit and pee for 3 to 7 years, – think of all diseases it spreads- not to mention that it might bite anyway.

    • John says:

      Well said!

    • Adina says:

      The problem is also with the dog owner who must be educated. You cannot get your dog out for a walk and pretend that it is ok to leave the shit in the street. A tiny bag must be always carried with you in order to clean. Most of the cars parked in Romania have are market by dogs with pee and i don’t consider it a normal way. A colegue of mine told me one day that she has a neighbour with 2 big dogs, he used the elevator of the block to go out. She needed the the elevator to go up to her 8th floor with her child. She was horrified when she opened the elevator’s door and there was a lot of dog pee inside. She had to climb all the stairs. As long as there is no educational program and no penalties for the dog owners, the massive source of the streets dog, we will always have this problem. And one more thing: Romanian justice is one sick joke along its laws.

  16. John says:

    A solution indeed CAN be found but it has to be done in a short timespan.
    Just send out the bloody army for a period of 4-5 days, including snipers, and just shoot all dogs until there is not a single one left. Fact is that sterilising dogs does not help, catching a few dogs here-and-there and put them in a shelter doesnt help either, but total extermination with help of the Romanian army would lower the dog populuation within a matter of days to a minimum. After these 4-5 days, you send some more army patrols into several areas and kill the last few that are left. This is the cheapest way of solving this 20-year problem in Romania.

  17. Craig Turp says:

    Personal opinion:

    These proposals are well thought out but do not solve the problem quickly enough. We want dogs off the streets now, not in seven years. Having said that, given that nothing has been done in 21 years, I think that if there were a guarantee that in seven years the city would be dog free then most people would sign up to it.

    Another point is that even these proposals would not appease the vocal minority who simply think that the place of these dogs is where they are today: on the streets, behind blocks, in courtyards etc.

    • anon says:

      Population Biologist here.

      David, your entire article is slimy as hell. You put across what on the surface is a reasonable argument, but the number of falsehoods and your cherry picking of data destroys your credibility.

      First of all the strawman argument. We are not talking about “Mass Killing” to solve the dog problem. We are looking at euthanasia for unwanted/unclaimed dogs.
      “euthanasia. The vets will first consult the dogs. Those incurable, with serious affections or aggressive will be euthanized immediately. The rest of them will be kept between seven to 14 days to be adopted or rededicated, before being eliminated.”
      Each dog would have the chance to have a happy life in a caring home if people wanted to make that commitment. Don’t want a dog to be euthanised? then take it home.
      As Atanasoaei said:
      “If all dogs without an owner from a town will be adopted by NGOs and individuals, there will be no more dogs left to euthanasia. We leave the communities to decide alone the fate of stray dogs.”

      Size of the population: you claim that a) the size of the stray population is unknown and b) that euthanasia has not reduced the stray dog population. Setting aside the fact that you cannot claim b, if you don’t know a, you have added 50,000 as the estimated dog population in Bucharest, yet in 2000 the estimated dog population in Bucharest was 200,000.

      Neutering: Neutering is a necessary part of pet ownership, and population control, but you go off into lala world by spouting out the myth that neutering a dog reduces the risk of cancers. In fact the opposite is true in veterinary literature
      http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/pros.20590/abstract
      If you’re going to sell the idea of neutering, don’t make shit up, let it stand on it’s own merits.

      Adoption, microchipping etc… I agree with you here as this is something with a proven track record as opposed to your fairytale BS. I would go as far as making it a legal requirement to neuter pets unless a breeders license is obtained. Enforcement and funding for a microchip database and cost of the chips/installation is an issue though.

      Cleaner street: yes this is a must as well. But I’m confused that you would advocate dogs starving to death on the streets instead of being humanely put down. Feeding strays should be make prosecutable too.

      The lie that Euthanasia costs more than neutering: The only source of this information is from animal rights groups such as yourself. repeating a lie over and over doesn’t make it true.
      First of all not all methods of Euthanasia are equal. The cost of a bullet or bolt (similar to those used in Abattoirs) is going to be less than that of lethal injection. Secondly, if you’re going to include the cost of housing, catching, etc… for euthanising dogs, then why are you not doing the same for neutering? or do the dogs just walk themselves into the clinic and leave as soon as the op is done? Why don’t you include the costs related to dog attacks and stray dog maintenance in your calculation for neutered dogs?

      Euthanasia doesn’t work, neutering does: another myth with no data to back it up. Italy abandoned the ‘catch and kill’ method of population control in 1979 and have seen an increase in their stray population of between 4-5% per year.
      http://tinyurl.com/4twxdbj
      whereas Cyprus, in a bid to control disease spread by stray dog populations, started a neutering, adoption and euthanasia program ended up eradicating much of the stray population, and the dog-livestock and dog-human diseases.
      http://www.springerlink.com/content/l121618810gt211t/

      http://www.publish.csiro.au/paper/WR08018
      This study evaluates trap, neuter, release programs and euthanasia based programs on stray cat populations and finds that where you have immigration, euthanasia based programs are more effective on reducing the population.

      Finally answer me one question.
      What is more important? saving stray dogs and having incidences such as these (http://www.realitatea.net/foto_1103638__729223.html) happening on a daily basis, or removing the source of the problem?
      People like you have human blood on your hands. Had you not pressured the Romanian Govt to abandon their euthanasia program in 2001, then these people may still be alive today
      http://tinyurl.com/696gfox
      http://tinyurl.com/63usk7e
      And remember for every high profile death, there are thousands of people bitten by strays who don’t make the papers. Their scars will last forever (I know of 4 people at my place of work carrying physical and psychological scars caused by stray dogs).
      The ‘Blame the victim’ mentality of the ‘save the dogs crowd’ also makes me sick.

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