Photo by Vier Pfoten
In early September, stray dogs attacked and killed a four-year-old child near a park in Bucharest, Romania. That incident highlighted one of the biggest problems facing the capital city today, where about 64,000 ownerless canines roam the streets—in the first eight months of the year, 10,000 residents have been treated for bites, Bucharest City Hall told the Associated Press.
In the days following the attack, the debate over these strays polarized Romanians. A law passed in September allowing shelters to kill dogs left unclaimed for two weeks sparked protests around the world. Meanwhile, some of the country’s more passionate stray-haters launched organized campaigns to exterminate the animals while they still roamed the streets. These vigilantes don’t care about putting the dogs to sleep humanely, either—the dog in the photo was found with his stomach cut on the streets of Galat¸i, a southern Romanian city; sadly, a veterinarian was unable to save his life.
For many, the act of killing seems to be more important than solving the issue. On a Romanian Facebook page whose title translates to “Stray Dogs, a Public Menace,” an antistray activist named S¸tefan wrote, “The simplest and most effective way: a spray can and a lighter and you can take out a pack in under 20 minutes.” Jax Quake, another activist and probable sociopath, responded, “I tried a meat tenderizer, a steel chain, a bayonet, some antifreeze. But this idea is brilliant. There are still two dogs left alive on my block.”
Animal rights activists and NGOs are trying to bring the people who act out their morbid fantasies to the authorities, but that’s easier said than done. “Unfortunately, even though killing or maiming animals is a crime, the judges always give people the minimum sentence, which is a fine of 100 euros,” said Livia Cimpoeru from the NGO Vier Pfoten, or “Four Paws.” “I’ve seen dogs get killed with bats in shelters, electrocuted in ponds, left to starve so they would eat each other, fed bait that had needles in it so their stomachs would rupture. One lady actually had her dog shot in front of her in downtown Bucharest with a hunting rifle. The killer told her that she should get a ‘normal’ dog.”
Elena Blaj of Free Amely 2007, an organization that provides shelter for strays and makes puppies available for adoption, believes that “there are mentally deranged people and deviants who are using the whole dog situation as a pretext to be violent and act out.”
Andrei Stanca, the administrator of a Facebook group devoted to eliminating strays, disagrees. “We have a lot of examples from history when certain people use a social crisis to act upon their own sadistic tendencies,” he said, adding that he’s in favor of more humane killing methods: “Personally, I would put some rat poison in some chunks of meat and feed them to the packs who attack me every day when I leave my house.”
More from this issue: