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New Romanian Law Takes Aim at Bucharest's 65,000 Stray Dogs

A deadly dog attack on a four-year-old boy last month has brought new attention to an old problem in the Bucharest area in Romania. A pack of dogs attacked the boy near a park and the boy passed away from the injuries.

The city reportedly has about 65,000 stray dogs, and animal welfare officials say about 1,100 people were bitten by stray dogs in Bucharest in the first four months of 2013. Romanian law was changed on September 9, 2013, legalizing euthanasia after stray animals spend 14 days in public shelter. The Romanian Parliament has ruled that all stray dogs will be killed if, after these 14 days, they remain unadopted.

As Romanian Insider reported:

The Chamber of Deputies approved the law which sets a two week day deadline for stray dogs in shelters to be adopted, following which they will be put down. City Hall, however, retains the power to delay the lethal injection.

The law passed by a majority of votes, with MPs from the Democrat Liberal Party (PDL), the Social Democrat party (PSD) and the National Liberal Party (PNL) all in favour of euthanizing stray dogs.[...]

During the debates, the President of the Chamber of Deputies, Valeriu Zgonea, said none of the NGOs protecting stray dogs had filed a request to attend the vote.

On that day, hundreds of Romanians rallied in support of a plan to kill stray dogs in the capital after a tragic accident.

Aurica Anghel, the grandmother of the little boy who was mauled to death, also attended Sunday's demonstrations. Ms. Anghel told the BBC:

I hope for a change for the better – I don't want to see dogs on the street anymore.

Another citizen present at the rally said that in her neighborhood packs of dogs roamed the streets after dark, adding:

I'm afraid to go out.

The mayor of Bucharest, Sorin Oprescu, first announced a referendum would be held on the matter sometime in October. The actual question that would have been asked through the local referendum would have been: “Do you agree with euthanasia for stray dogs captured on Bucharest’s public domain, who will not be adopted within the legal deadline?” In the meantime, Romanian Parliament passed the law and President Traian Basescu said he would issue a Presidential decree backing the law already passed by Parliament, which would be the last step in the bureaucratic process of making the new legislature final.

The case has fired up a fresh debate about the packs of stray dogs, a problem that has plagued Romania for years, some calling it the biggest stray dog problem any country in Europe has had since World War II. Romanians seem divided over the two main options available: euthanasia or sterilization. While many people say the authorities should be able to take radical measures, including putting down dogs, animal rights groups advocate neutering and spaying the dogs.

However, efforts in recent years to sterilize the dogs and return them to the streets have proven inefficient. More than 6,500 stray dogs were sterilized in Bucharest last year, at the cost of some 200,000 euros (about 270,000 US dollars). Meanwhile, local authorities face severe overcrowding at city dog pounds and lack the funding needed to build and run more shelters.

The blog Romanian Journalist reported that new polls show that Romanian citizens would also most likely back the new euthanasia law:

New poll shows over one third of the Romanians (34,7%) believe stray dogs have to be sterilized and placed in shelters, 31,8% say they should be adopted or euthanized, while 25% say the solution for stray dogs is euthanasia.

But social networks are covered with thousands of messages describing peoples’ distress at the Romanian government's decision. In protest, thousands have changed their Facebook profile page to show a bright red dog paw under the name “Red Card For Romania”.

In protest, thousands netizens have changed their Facebook profile page to show the bright red dog paw

In protest of Romania's plan to euthanize stray dogs, thousands of netizens have changed their Facebook profile page to show this bright red dog paw.

Founder and President of Save the Dogs and Other Animals, Sara Turetta, tweeted:

A personal trainer from Italy, Angel Fernandez, reported a cruel incident on Twitter:

#ROMANIA #DOGS DECAPITATED, MASSACRED…stop the genocide of stray dogs in Romania #romaniastopanimalabuse

Twitter user and journalist Isabella P.P, along with many others, shared a link to a petition to stop the new law and what many are calling an open “massacre” of stray animals:

Mina*Bad Yoga Kitty* reported about the involvement of celebrities regarding this case:

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