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Neglect of Stray Dogs - MEPs Deliver Damning Indictment of Romania's Mismanagement

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Highlights From the Vice-Chairman of the AGRI Committee and Vice-Chairman of the Animal Welfare Intergroup, MEP Janusz WOJCIECHOWSKI (ECR). Press Conference. European Parliament.12th of February, 2014

"This visit proved that signals regarding violent treatment of dogs in these places are true"

"I did not question the necessity of reduction of stray dogs in Romania but I believe that Romanian authorities have decided to conduct this reduction in an inhumane and ineffective way"

"It has become a business for private companies that receive a lot of money to catch and put down these animals, or run these shelters - well... shelters is hardly the right word - given what is going on in them. This program costs a lot of money and it means a lot of profit for the companies involved. And so it's not in their interest to solve the problem. They want the problem, the issue to continue for as long as possible so that can earn as much money as possible out of it".

"The new legislation doesn't solve the problem, it's exacerbating it"

The plight of Romanian dogs and the subsequent 14 day cull law has caused uproar. . Mass protests were held all over Europe and the US. Social networks were buzzing with criticism of the Romanian authorities. Hundreds of petitions backed by famous animal rights activists circulated. Last year, all of these concerns fell upon deaf ears, leading us to question whether anyone was awake in officialdom. As a tsunami of concerns reached the Eurogroup, they wrote:-

"We are aware that a lot of unsubstantiated 'evidence' of perpetrated cruelties has been circulating during the last weeks and that it is sometimes difficult to distinguish between reliable information and invented horrors".

We suggested that the intergroup mount an investigation. Indeed, this is what they kindly did. Two visits to Romania [December 4, 2013 & 28th January 2014] were made by a delegation of the European Parliament. Their mission was to establish the truth and determine whether the contents of correspondence received from Romanian citizens was evidence-based. Correspondence alleged that dogs were being killed in front of children and this concerned the team.

Brief conclusions of their visits were as follows :-

1. Romanian authorities had assured the delegates that canine population control was conducted according to European Standards. The delegation found that there was a major discrepancy between what the authorities had told them during their first visit and what they found on site during their second visit.
2. Adoption from shelters was impossible due to an enormous amount of red tape/obstacles.
3. Dogs were left without food and water at some of the shelters visited.
4. There was a serious failure in the monitoring of shelter conditions.
5. The whole procedure of catching, keeping and anesthetizing one dog is rewarded with €250. It would be much cheaper and efficient to use these resources for sterilization of these animals. Therefore, the number of animals would be reduced.
6. Romania would benefit from further transparency in dog shelters to ensure a higher level of compliance with European standards.

This has been the first ray of light from officialdom at the European Parliament.

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Commenting on their visit, Dr. Aurelian Stefan D.V.M (who is the Veterinary Director [Romania Animal Rescue (RAR) /Animal Spay and Neuter International] based in Romania) stated :-

"In my opinion, the EU should push Romania to develop a Master Plan to improve the animal welfare in Romania. Visiting shelters might help but that can be achieved by watching the footage on the web. Romania does not have a strategy and does not have cases of concrete measures such as fines or even jail time for animal abusers. In this respect, there is total silence and total neglect.

Shelters are the most horrible places that will never be visitor-friendly and when you are allowed in, there is no difference between a Nazi extermination camp and a shelter like the Craiova shelter. Most of the dogs spayed in this town (over 7000) were spayed with help from RAR, and RAR also enabled local charities to get donations from our friends in the USA and Europe.

National strategy should include spay and neuter education, veterinary training and law enforcement. Of course, any other ideas are welcome. It is a simple strategy but such complex implementation that needs European help and pressure".

Occupy For Animal has started to ask whether Europe's Sleeping Beauty was finally opening her eyes.

In its excellent summary, the animal rights campaign group also refers to a vital letter that was sent to the European Commission [EC] dated 23/1/2014 and supported by 211 organizations. The letter demonstrates clearly that the EC has the legal competence - and a legal duty - to intervene. The European Communications Team claims that the

"Romanian stray animal eradication program falls under EU-competence, but that it cannot be that the millions of EU-funds that Romania receives each year to eradicate rabies, would be used to fund such an inhumane and ineffective stray animal population strategy".

This claim has been supported by Luxembourgian MEP Claude Turmes (Dèi Grèng) who has written to the Romanian ambassador in Luxembourg and formulated a parliamentary question. Similar questions have been asked by Finnish MEP Sirpa Pietikäinen (PPE). The EC has remained silent. Clearly putting pen to paper is proving extremely challenging. We ask whether the EC is able to determine the meaning of the word "action" in a period when the lights' and cameras' focus is on them. The world is waiting in anticipation to determine whether the Commission has any bite in the land Count Vlad Dracula .