Heading to Romania as a Peace Corps volunteer I read about and was warned several times about the packs of stray street dogs, known in Romania as câine vagabond. At least one Peace Corps volunteer was bitten each year and had to make several trips to Bucharest from their home site to receive rabies vaccinations. The dogs are a remnant of the Communist regime when residents were moved into large apartment buildings, known as blocs. Animal activist, Livia Compoeru, explained that “[w]hen the great demolitions came, many houses were knocked down and owners moved to apartments and could not take dogs with them.”
In September of this year, a four year old boy was mauled by stray dogs while playing with his brother in a park in Bucharest, the capital of Romania. Bucharest has a population of approximately 2 million people and 60,000 stray dogs. One hospital in Bucharest has treated 9,760 people for dog bites during the first eight months of 2013. This was not the first death caused by stray dogs. In the past few years, another Bucharest woman was killed by a pack and a Japanese tourist died after a stray severed an artery in his leg. After the mauling of the young child, animals have been hacked, kicked, and torched to death in revenge. The picture below shows a street dog whose jaw was hacked off.
A day after the attack, Romania’s President, Traian Basescu called for Prime Minister Victor Ponta to pass a law to euthanize the dogs. Ponta stated that “humans are above dogs.” Now, the Romanian government has passed a law to allow the state to put down Burcharest’s stray dogs in a parliamentary vote of 266 to 23. Although animal rights groups have tried to sterilize the animals, since 2001, they have only been successful in sterilizing 10,400 dogs in Bucharest. President Basescu recently stated, “sterilization is no longer a solution” as it “does not remove dogs’ fangs.”
Although the situation for these strays seems dire, recently the actor Steven Seagal made news when he adopted a 7 month old puppy through a long distance adoption program. He will pay $18 a month and the dog will remain in the shelter in Romania. There are several different organizations based in the United States that are set up to help these animals, including the Romania Animal Rescue. For more information, visit the website here.