© FOUR PAWS | Mihai Vasile
International animal welfare organisation Four Paws has worked tirelessly to challenge the much criticised law on the execution of stray dogs in Romania. The law came into effect in October 2013 amid mass protests on and off the internet. The methodology to be applied to ending the lives of stray dogs came to be known in December 2013. Mass executions began nationwide thereafter. The cruelty and wicked treatment of vulnerable dogs in Romania is now infamous. A number of members of the European Parliament offered a scathing indictment of Romania's conduct . It is a well-known fact that the execution law has paved the way for a licence to kill and neglect these animals in the worst ways possible. All animal welfare organisations have unanimously agreed that the mass execution of stray dogs is not an ethical way to achieve population control.
In an interesting poll conducted by Four Paws, even the Romanian people were not in favour of such executions , with 62% of Romanians stating that they are against the killing of stray dogs. A large number of Romanians agree with alternative solutions to the increasing number of stray dogs in Romania: 84% prefer the option of keeping stray dogs in animal shelters and 72% agree with the docile ones being returned to the streets, providing that they are neutered beforehand. A notable finding: 66% would not vote for a political party that supports the euthanasia of stray dogs and 7% would even adopt a stray. In addition, more than 98,000 people supported Four Paw's SOS Romania call to quash the law which allows the killing of stray dogs.
In January 2014, Four Paws challenged the methodological norms, arguing that there are several aspects therein that contradict laws of higher force. "For example, according to this methodology, the local authorities could delegate the management of the stray dogs to any private company. This may open the floodgates to conflict of interests and haemorrhaging public funds", explains Gabriel Paun, Director of Campaigns at Four Paws. "Another example: public access to shelters was restricted, and consequently the adoptions were largely restricted." Firstly, Four Paws called on the Romanian Government to freeze the methodology, but unfortunately the Government dismissed the request. Therefore, in March 2014, FOUR PAWS challenged it at the Court of Appeal in Bucharest.
Last Friday [20th June 2014], the Bucharest Court of Appeal ruled in favour of the international animal welfare organisation Four Paws, and suspended the execution methodology of the stray dogs euthanasia law. According to the official communication of the Court of Appeal, the entire governmental decision is suspended. As a result of this judgment, the suspended methodology no longer holds any applicable norms or legal framework to capture stray dogs, nor to issue a decision to kill them. This came into effect immediately.
"The Court's decision to suspend the killing norms is a clear, independent signal that things do not work so far with the new killing law", says Gabriel Paun. "It brings us confidence in our goal to bring about a change from an emotional to a rational way to manage the stray dogs humanely. With the financial support of our donors we have sterilised over 100,000 strays in Romania. The organisation offers further support in this direction but our efforts will only bring safe streets and welfare for the dogs if we are backed up by a rational law and support from all municipalities", stresses Paun.
It is clear that this victory has not gone down well with the beleaguered and hapless Authority for the Supervision of Protection of Animals [ASPA]. The authority was last involved in a brutal massacre of dogs belonging to Four Paws. . In a blustering reaction, R. Bancescu (the project leader of the authority in Bucharest) said, " City Hall will continue to euthanise stray dogs". He asks the government to challenge the Court of Appeal's decision. The deadline for this is the 1st July 2014, before the court vacation commences.
Of course, any challenge he wishes to support will be against evidence-based dog population management, supported by the European Parliament and every animal welfare organisation in the world. It will also be against the Romanian population's own wishes.
In the meantime, this court victory is a welcome ray of light for Romanian stray dogs. Four Paws should be congratulated for their brave challenge. Their journey has been difficult and fraught with repeated harassment from the authorities. Nevertheless, justice is being served.
The bigger and more important question is this - will the Romanian authorities pay heed to this ruling, or will they merely conduct executions in secret?
1.Governmental Decision no. 1059/2013 for the application of the Killing law 258/2013
2. The official website of the Bucharest Court of Appeal: The Case.