I have written about the plight of stray dogs in Romania several times recently, in an attempt to turn the spotlight of publicity onto the darkest shadows of human cruelty towards our fellow creatures.
As regular readers will know, a new law means that, in Romania, stray dogs that cannot be re-homed within 14 days are automatically scheduled for extermination, often in the most brutal and inhumane manner. Packs of dog catchers roam the streets, little caring whether their next target is a legitimately owned pet or a homeless dog.
Once captured, the animals are kept in appalling conditions, rife with disease, and sometimes even denied food and water, until their inevitable, gruesome end, some 14 days later.
Even amongst this seemingly endless vista of depravity, however, some cases stand out as shocking examples of the depths of obscenity to which some people - vicious, despicable people - can sink.
On the 2nd October 2013, dcnews.ro reported on an image posted by Anca Tomescu, project coordinator at FOUR PAWS Foundation for stray animals. The sickening image depicts a stray dog, still very much alive and suffering after being horrendously mutilated.
Someone, or, more likely, several people, had hacked away the animal's upper jaw and nose, leaving it a drooling, agony-ridden cripple, unable to eat, drink, defend itself or even breath properly. The "surgery" has the look of ham-fisted butchery that you might associate with a hacksaw, and I very much doubt that any anaesthetic was involved. And then, no doubt satisfied with their work, the so-called people who perpetrated this horrific act turned their victim loose to "fend" for itself.
The pain and terror that this unfortunate creature must have experienced at the hands of the dregs of humanity is almost beyond imagining. Would you feel able to eat, or even walk, if you had just been captured, held down and viciously parted from your jaw by means of a saw? Probably not.
Fortunately, having encountered some of the worst possible examples of humans and human nature, the victim went on to encounter some of the best. FOUR PAWS Foundation, responding to a report of a stray dog on Route Grivitei, Bucharest, were initially horrified at the animal's condition.
Overcoming their revulsion, they quickly took steps to secure the victim, rushing it to emergency veterinary care. Ironically, despite all the fear, pain and abuse that it had suffered, FOUR PAWS reported that the dog was gentle, and responded well to comfort - perhaps this inherent good nature is what made it so easy for the spineless bullies who abused it to do so.
The situation was touch and go for some time, and for a while it looked as though there was no hope of saving the animal. But, late on Wednesday evening, the decision was taken not to euthanize the dog, which has been named Grivita, after the street where he was found. Instead, he underwent surgery at the Hope Foundation, where vets cleaned the wound and attempted to repair some of the damage he had suffered. They found that his upper jaw had been completely severed, and that the mandible, or lower jaw, was fractured.
Working with experts from Ortovet and the Laboratory of Radiology 4 Vet, vets from FOUR PAWS were able to set the fractured bones, cleaned and closed some open wounds and started Grivita on the road to recovery. It will be a long journey, and he's not out of the woods yet; more surgery and a great deal of after care will be needed, but, thanks to the caring people at FOUR PAWS and other organisations, he has a chance.
It's great to hear that Grivita will probably be OK despite the awful things that have happened to him - although, of course, he will need lifelong care, even when his treatment is completed. But what could possibly have motivated the perpetrators of this cruelty to act in this way?
The answer may lie in the pontifications of some Romanian local leaders. No doubt speaking without thinking, as is common for their kind the world over, some have suggested that, in order to prevent dogs from biting, their teeth should be removed.
Naturally, no thought appears to have been given to how this might be accomplished. Dogs are unlikely to simply surrender their teeth, and removing them from an unwilling and fully conscious dog is likely to result in more bites than recovered teeth, effectively precipitating the very situation that the mayors allegedly wish to avoid.
The safe and sane approach (if such words could be said to apply to such a ridiculous policy) would be to anaesthetise the dogs and have their teeth removed by qualified veterinary personnel. However, that would no doubt cost money, and, in any event, it is unlikely that any reputable veterinary professional would participate in such a cruel and foolish scheme.
Which is not to say that other, less savoury individuals might not be tempted to take matters into their own hands. There will always be some people who are vicious and stupid enough to follow any suggestion, no matter how poorly (if at all) thought out it may be, particularly if there is any prospect of pecuniary gain.
It seems disturbingly likely that the individuals responsible for Grivita's terrible injuries might fall into this category - vigilantes with a mind and conscience on the microscopic scale, eager to wield their sword. While the people who mutilated Grivita are, of course, entirely responsible for his condition in a purely practical sense, however, some additional responsibility must fall upon the shoulders of those who first propagated the idea of removing a dog's teeth. It would be inhumane to suggest that their jaws should be wired shut, but, perhaps, they might take a voluntary vow of silence until they can demonstrate - in writing, of course - that they have learned to think before speaking. It might make the world a quieter and more sensible place!