Letters to the Editor | October 16, 2009, Friday
On September 26, 2009, media in Plovdiv reported about a signed agreement between the Municipality of Plovdiv and the Four Paws Bulgaria Foundation. The subject is implementation of good practice for controlling local dog and cat population size. The aim is to be achieved a lasting reduction of stray animals - "it will be clearly visible after 2-3 years".
In October 2009, Four Paws will begin implementing the agreement with a census of stray animal populations. In the spring of 2010, foundation will undertake Catch-Neuter-Release by using their mobile clinics.
According to the publication, this approach has already produced positive results in Greece and was recommended by the World Health Organization. The project duration will depend on census results. And free neutering for animals owned by low-income people will be provided.
The project will be funded by Four Paws. The only commitment of the municipality is to comply with the Animal Protection Act.
Despite the declared intention, announcement shown a presence of fatal deficiencies in the approach of municipality to deal with the real problem, i. e. total pet population dynamics. Obviously, the good practice for a comprehensive population control recommended by reputable organizations with international activity was not taken into account (*1).
A major omission is the absence of most important stakeholders involved in the legal population management. As official authority, Plovdiv Municipality is exempt from participation in the project. Strikingly, Four Paws accepted this arrangement as appropriate.
Indeed, limited project resources will most likely appear as problematic. Thus, proportion of treated animals and/or pace of their treatment will remain unsatisfactory. Local veterinary community is another neglected stakeholder.
The second project vice is the campaign approach. The human population number and dynamics in the city of Plovdiv make impossible a sustainable improvement of the situation by "definitive" treatment of pet populations in mobile clinics.
Similar campaigns have been effective in small and remote settlements, if they are conducted periodically (e. g. at six-month intervals accepted in Slovenia). In addition, the lack of low-cost neutering scheme involving private veterinary clinics means a constant lack of infrastructure established to encourage and assist mass pet sterilization.
The third project shortcoming is the focus on subpopulations that are not most productive. Census and sterilization of several thousand strays seems inappropriate priority, while bigger population of owned dogs and cats remain neglected. Even free veterinary service provided for animal owners with low incomes will only slightly affect the main population similarly to the already existing practice in Sofia.
Dr. Marina Ivanova, project manager, argues that "namely these people discard unwanted generation in the street". In fact, "latch-key dogs" must be considered as most productive subpopulation. Representatives of the bussiness often bear responsibility for them. Unplanned cat breeding also must be associated more with the middle class, because the mass reared cats are actually unaltered "yard" cats.
If legal pet population control is the serious intention of Municipality, it requires priority tasks to be clarified and adequate solutions to be found. By dragging the "new wave", Plovdiv will not provide significant and sustainable progress in this area. The only result of currently accepted approach may be a repetition of the failure in Sofia, where "street" control obviously did not affect the reproducibility of total dog population.
WSPA: "Unclear reasons"
Data provided by Ekoravnovesie indicate that between September 2006 (beginning of CNR) and August 2009 nearly 12000 altered dogs were placed on in Sofia. To these must be added approximately 3000 animals processed by Tierhilfe Sueden Bulgaria. Thus, the total number of animals released put up 15000.
In fact, there is scandalous discrepancy in the number of animals reported as released and available neutered dogs. In May 2009 Miroslav Naydenov, then Director of Ekoravnovesie, reported 8538 counted dogs living outside, including a considerable part of entire ones.
The whole hypocritical scheme includes high shift local dog population and its size control run by illegal animal dealers.
Recently, WSPA and the RSPCA have issued a document entitled "Practices for Stray Animal Control (Europe)". Louisa Tasker, author of this report, indicated that "one country exclusively practiced catch, neuter, release of dogs (Greece). This approach was reported to be problematic because it appeared to result in owners "dumping" their dogs in areas "where they knew they would be looked after".
A further six countries (Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Italy, Malta, Serbia and Spain) operated catch, neuter, release in a limited number of locations, although the reasons for this were unclear, as were the problems encountered when adopting this approach."
Concerning all countries above mentioned: "The over production of dogs has not been addressed. Poor enforcement by the authorities does not encourage owners to follow regulatory requirements relating to licensing or registration of their dogs. Owners are not discouraged from letting their dogs roam or encouraged to neuter their pets, Tasker summarized."
Nevertheless, Four Paws and practically all animal welfare organizations in Bulgaria continue to present "the Greek" model as "the only humane and effective method for population control". Arbitrary interpretation of the WHO statements on stray control, without citing legal documents, like seems to conceal a full negligence toward pet population over-reproductivity and illegal exploitation of generations of unwanted animals.
Emil Kuzmanov, Animal Programs Foundation
Emil D. Kuzmanov