A law for the management of stray dogs was first passed in 2001. The Government decided that a law obliging the municipalities to create a special service for stray dogs would solve this problem. Government Ordinance no 155/2001 was issued and converted into Law no 227/2002, mainly stipulating:
- each municipality should have a dog shelter (with European conditions as specified in the annexes)
- all dogs should be caught humanely and transported in specified humane conditions to shelters where, if not adopted, they would be humanely euthanased within 14 days, later reduced to 7 days
- animal protection organizations were allowed to be present during and to assist with this programme.
In reality only some municipalities started such a service. Where municipalities did act, their shelters became extermination camps where none or few of the conditions specified in the law were respected. Most municipalities worked secretly and prevented animal welfare NGOs from supervising or assisting. Because of the sporadic, inefficient and inhumane activities of municipal dog catchers the number of dogs in the streets remained at or just below the carrying capacity of each conurbation and the number of complaints increased.
Although many animal protection organizations united to lobby the authorities to change the law from “Catch & Kill” to “Neuter & Return”, most authorities and politicians closed their eyes and ears to the evidence that “Neuter and Return” is cheaper and more effective than “Catch & Kill”.
In 2005 the Bucharest’s mayor Adriean Videanu received fully costed and detailed written proposals from NGOs explaining how the dog problem could and should be solved through a co-ordinated, integrated Neuter and Return programme run by experienced organizations like FPCC, Vier Pfoten and Aulim.
Mr Videanu did not acknowledge or comment on our proposals. Nothing changed; municipalities continued to waste public money for catching and either killing or dumping dogs. The dog population remained stable. Nothing was achieved, other than boosting the profits of a few fortunate “dog management” companies.
At the beginning of 2008 NGO representatives supported by senator Marinescu and other enlightened politicians persuaded the Senate to adopt Law 205/2004 for animal protection (forbidding the euthanasia of healthy dogs and making the mistreatment of companion animals a crime). Law 227/2002 for the management of stray dogs was improved by the introduction of Neuter and Return. The change to Law 205 was adopted through Law no 9/2008 but Project no. 912 improving Law 227 remained blocked in the Public Administration Committee of the Chamber of Deputies, chaired by Mrs Sulfina Barbu, even though it had been passed unanimously by the Senate.
As the situation drifted with the streets continuing to be filled with the offspring of owned and community dogs, NGOs lobbied the Deputies’ Chamber to unblock Project 912. In autumn 2010 NGOs including FPCC and FNPA, participated in a meeting of Sulfina Barbu’s committee at Sfantu Gheorghe*. During this meeting we thought that the committee members understood our arguments, especially the success of FPCC’s project in Bihor for neuter and return of dogs and for the education of the population in Responsible Pet Ownership which has reduced the unsupervised dog population in Oradea significantly (to approx. 10% of the starting level).
We were shocked that in March 2011 the Committee made totally different proposals from Project no. 912 to be voted on in the Deputies’ Chamber. Instead of putting the proposals adopted unanimously by the Senate to the vote, the Committee reverted to the failed “Catch & Kill after 14 days” formula, furthermore limiting the freedom of NGOs to supervise and assist with the extermination of the dogs.
In practice this retrograde step will continue the waste of public money by repeating a programme which has failed time and again in Romania and everywhere else in the world.
Thanks to the lobbying of NGOs supported by celebrities from Romania and abroad ( Carmen Arsene – vice president of FNPA, Monica Davidescu – actress, Maricica Puica – olympic athlete, Dieter Ernst, President of ETN Germany, Princess Maja v. Hohenzollern, Paula Iacob – a famous lawyer, Marius Marinescu, the initiator of Project 912, Remus Cernea from the Ecological Party and others ) the Committee’s report was rejected and sent to be reconsidered.
* see below