A change to the law on animal welfare in BiH draws criticism from citizens and international officials and could jeopardise EU funding.
By Drazen Remikovic for Southeast European Times in Sarajevo -- 04/02/14
There are more than 10,000 stray dogs in Sarajevo, officials said. [Nikola Barbutov/SETimes]
An effort in Sarajevo that would allow officials to euthanise thousands of homeless dogs is the latest attempt in the Balkans to solve the problem of wild animal packs that roam city streets, although the solution may cost Bosnia and Herzegovina 100 million euros of EU funding.
A member of the European Parliament is asking the European Commission to withdraw 100 million euros in Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance funds for BiH because the state parliament amended the law on animal protection to allow authorities to euthanise stray dogs.
"The fact that BiH receives EU funds should make us reflect on the fact that not all the rules to be a part of the European Union are being applied. And in this case, regulations on animal welfare are going in a totally contrary direction to the EU policy. Animal welfare is an issue that should characterise the states deserving the privileges that EU membership would offer. It is a cultural matter, not just an economic one," MEP Cristiana Muscardini told SETimes.
Wild dog packs are a problem in many Southeast European countries and initiatives to reduce the population typically draw protests, though EU funding rarely becomes an issue.
Romanian politicians were strongly criticised last year when the parliament passed a law allowing authorities to euthanise stray dogs after a 4-year-old boy was fatally mauled by a dog.
A Bulgarian law allows homeless dogs to return to the street if a person or organisation submits a written statement promising to supervise the animal, but critics say such promises are rarely fulfilled and serve only to increase the population.
The BiH law, adopted in December, says that stray dogs can be euthanised if no one adopts them within 15 days. Estimates suggest that there are between 10,000 and 13,000 stray dogs in the Sarajevo area.
"This law will solve the problem of stray dogs, that is, those dogs that roam the streets and who have no owner. It will also encourage citizens to adopt dogs more often. Sarajevo has more than 10,000 stray dogs, and this number increases to tens of thousands when it comes to the entire country. Hundreds of attacks have occurred in the past few years, and I believe that this law will solve a major problem," Nermina Zaimovic Uzunovic, the MP who proposed the law, told SETimes.
Hundreds of animal activists have protested the law, calling it inhumane.
"I am for an urgent solution to the obvious problem of stray dogs, but I am not for their slaughter. Besides, the law proposed that this should be financed by municipalities. I do not believe that our municipalities have the additional money for this purpose," Stefan Pejovic, 29, a dog owner from Sarajevo who participated in the protests, told SETimes.
Bogdana Mijic, director of the Association for the Protection of Animals in Banja Luka, also opposes the amended law.
"Euthanasia requires a lot of money. Stronger countries than ours do not have the money to support an idea like this. Moreover, we do not have any mechanisms to control what happens to these dogs when the authorities bring them to the shelter. Sterilisation is more humane and less expensive. This law is unacceptable," Mijic told SETimes.
Others say the law will make it safer to walk the streets.
"This law should be brought a long time ago. Packs of 10 or more dogs can sometimes be seen roaming the streets. Who would not be afraid of that? Of course, irresponsible owners should be punished as well for leaving their dogs on the street," Maja Dimboric, a Banja Luka resident, told SETimes.
How will the EU respond to the request to withhold funding from BiH? Share your opinion in the comments.