"There is a major destruction to the main hospitals including loss of vital machines. Hospitals are in a very damp state. Dampness breeds infections. Many snakes are roaming live in the hospital"
Without international aid, the humanitarian crisis is worsening. The NY Times reported a deepening healthcare crisis with a lack of basic supplies and threats of disease epidemics. Amongst a myriad of illnesses, increasing numbers of respiratory diseases are being reported. The 70 lakh population is now left one just one hospital and Kashmir faces a healthcare crisis.
The entrenched resentment with administrative mismanagement has erupted into anger and daily protests. Bureaucratic aid blocks has made daily life impossible. While the local media frantically presented the harsh reality, India was accused of a PR stunt.
In the middle of this chaos, doctors in the front-line are bravely trying to manage the fine line between life and death without equipment or international support.
The World Health Organisation [India] [WHO] responded but appeared unconcerned despite being shown the death rate of one hospital. Shocked by this response, the local doctors penned an evidence based rebuttal to WHO's lead, Dr Margaret Chan. The letter outlined the serious obstacles faced by the medical teams there.
"Government of India inputs, are factually incorrect, and a complete misrepresentation of the dire situation on ground," they wrote while detailing the serious threats posed to patient safety.
WHO India stands accused of misleading the public in this letter here .
The WHO said "All medical supplies that have been requested by the state government have been provided". The doctors disagreed with this assessment and wrote
"This contention is refuted by the fact that local voluntary groups such as Athrout, Help Poor Voluntary Trust and others have been requested by government hospitals to arrange medicines as the government is unwilling to assist. Further, disturbing reports suggest that medicine that was provided by the army to SMHS recently was in fact expired. Confirmed reports suggest that as far as medical supplies are concerned, the hospitals are purely managing on voluntary contributions and supplies. These supplies are also in danger of being restricted by the government"
They finally wrote:-
In reality, despite a passage of one month since the floods hit Srinagar city, neither Government of India, nor Government of Jammu and Kashmir, have made any efforts to rebuild the healthcare system"
Kashmir Voluntary Doctors Organisation's Dr O. Akhtar who initially tweeted his utter shock at WHO India's assessment said
"The other day, a patient who had suffered an electrocution came to SMHS hospital. According to my colleagues there, they could not manage her there, and ended up referring her to Skims. She lost her life on the way. I think people in the administration don't understand that a tertiary care hospital, to function as a tertiary care hospital, needs to have an oxygen supply, proper diagnostic facilities, a reliable power back up, a semblance of intensive care". His blistering critique of WHO India response read "Firstly, the maternity hospital is NOT functioning. And is unlikely to be functional for at least ten days from now.Secondly, no mention of the fact that the pediatric hospital is down. Skims single ward neonatal unit is simply not equipped to handle the rush. And patients have been dying"
In the meantime, a fuming press release from Doctors Association Kashmir announced a Public Interest Litigation. They wrote
"DAK will file a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) seeking a probe into hospital deaths during floods. There was no alert to hospitals and the stranded patients were not rescued timely with the result 13 precious lives were lost in SMHS and scores of infants died in GB Pant and LD hospitals. We are moving to court to fix responsibility of deaths and punish people involved in criminal negligence"
With time racing forward to a severe winter of discontent, the doctors of Kashmir have requested international assistance from the World Health Organisation and the United Nations. They state that their own administration are " deep slumber, shying away from their responsibility as if they have nothing to do with the difficulties of people". It is clear that patient safety is in jeopardy in Kashmir and this is an emergency call for assistance before its too...
The Voice of Stray Dogs [VoSD] is a leading animal rescue organisation based in Bangalore, India. Unfortunately, it has recently been subjected to serious online and offline harassment. This is not an unknown phenomena in animal rescue. Some years ago, Romanian Animal Rescue was subjected to similar attacks following its efforts to expose another rescue organisation. Similarly, VoSD investigation reports to expose a rescue outfit appears to have resulted in the the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) canceling the outfit's authorization to operate. In February 2014, an appeal to the Karnataka High Court stayed the move. Co-incidentally, the harassment commenced after this.
VoSD was founded by Mr Rakesh Shukla, affectionately known as the "Dog Father". It was sent up single-handedly after he felt obliged to do something about the plight of stray dogs in India. Well known for keeping dogs in his home [ the VoSD Sanctuary] and in his office, Rakesh has worked tirelessly to raise funds for the care of stray dogs [ with greater than 90% contributed by himself]. One visitor said ""Rakesh's growing family of rescued dogs is a sight to behold. It is amazing how so many dogs together get on so well".
He operates a system that has rescued more than 3000 dogs in 2 years with 400+ permanent dogs under his care. VoSD offers the highest standard of service and is equipped with the latest technology so that stray dogs get the best possible care.
More than 25 million street dogs co-exist with human beings throughout India. They are found almost everywhere - on roadsides, under cars, on benches and sleeping on pavements. Population control is a challenge. The life of a stray dog is not easy. Its struggles with daily traffic, animals and encounters with people makes its existence a difficult one. It is clear that these vulnerable animals need a voice. Odette Thompkins, a relative of a fellow rescuer said " Rakesh started his website VOSD, highlighting terrible animal abuse in India - things that other people were frightened to address. Kerala us a terrible place for animals and terrible things go on".
Anyone who follows VoSD on social networking will understand the love and care given to these vulnerable animals. Without their care, these dogs would perish on the streets.
Voice of strays runs a free trauma and rescue service in Bangalore. Essentially, one call to them will result in an urgent response with relevant medical care. In addition, its website contains the largest original data, analysis and investigative data repository for dogs in India and probably anywhere in the world. Their motto is "We believe we can make a difference to stray dogs in multiple ways. Different interventions can deliver results at different scales." VoS is admired worldwide for their tireless work above and beyond the call of duty. Their campaign and advocacy on population control in dogs and raising awareness in other animal rights issues is legendary.
Despite their hard work and dedication to their cause, this organisation seems to be subjected to harassment of the most horrendous kind. In summary, they have been subjected to online hate speech, cyber-harassment and also revolving door complaints.
Sometime ago, an individual made a number of allegations detailed here. The founder Mr Rakesh Shukla found himself threatened with arrest and was forced to defend himself here. Following bail, he assisted in the police investigation. The facts were produced before the judge and police. Subsequently, the case was closed. By the 10th September 2014, the organisation was subjected to severe cyberharassment leading him to write a personal Facebook comment. The local paper then quoted the post out of context adding their own embellishments to spice up the tale. Following the colourful language used in this article, Mr Shukla was arrested a day after its release. The local paper took no responsibility for their mischief or the impact on the essential rescue of dogs.
Astonishingly, the same complaint that had been cleared initially was filed yet again at a different police station with the local media gleefully printing yet another one sided version resembling idle gossip. While making a number of allegations, the complainant failed to mention that she had never met Mr Shukla.
Mr Shukla was again released by the police and vowed to clear his name. It is astonishing that the Bangalore Police have not taken it upon themselves to investigate the pattern of harassment that VoSD have been subjected to.
Indeed, VoSD supporters have been shocked by this turn of events and have offered their support. Helen Dufton who is based in Italy and knows VoSD wrote
"I was horrified to find out from the investigation carried out by VOSD into the Animal Rights Fund shelter and the way that animals were not treated in their care. Rakesh and the whole team at VOSD are a dedicated committed and totally transparent organisation and team in all aspects of their rescue work. I would trust all of them without exception. Rakesh not only is concerned with dogs in Bangalore but also with Indian dogs throughout India and those that find themselves in difficulty abroad. He is a compassionate, vocal and a person who will not compromise or bow down to others for the sake of "politics" this is a rarity in India".
Dog rescue is not a simple business where politics and corruption is...
In 2010, a little known report predicted the catastrophic 2014 Kashmir floods. Greater Kashmir wrote wrote
"Highly placed sources in the state government revealed that the Jammu and Kashmir Flood Control Ministry has issued a warning that the summer capital of the state is likely to face a major flood catastrophe in next five years and the department has nothing in place to save the human lives and property".
Despite this warning there was no pre and post disaster management planning .This is despite severe weather warnings days in advance.It was therefore no surprise that aid workers described the rescue effort as "chaotic and inadequate" with more than 400 people dead and 1 million people displaced.
Action was significantly delayed with the Indian army attempting a reactive duck-taped emergency response with a donations drive following the collapse of local government infrastructure [Reuters].
A local resident, Mr Mohammad Jahangir said
"The army came to help after 3 days after saving VIPs and tourists, they even had been given lists of people to be saved, exact location (latitude longitude). Until then a lot of people died, 40 babies in a children's hospital. The real heroes are Kashmiri youth who risked their lives" .
"If the army taking centerstage administration weak it signifies that Indian democracy has failed in kashmir as in democratic societies administration takes lead army follows".
Others I spoke to were convinced that there was a political motive to prove the local government incompetent due to the up and coming elections
Indian occupied Kashmir has tolerated decades of conflict sustaining significant losses and human rights abuses resulting in a high incidence of post traumatic stress . This has naturally led to antagonism between them and the Indian army. They now find themselves homeless with no livelihood and no hope that the Indian government will offer rehabilitation once the army leaves. Their anger was described by the Washington Post while the Indian channel NDTV reported on the impending closure of the army canteens that many relied upon.
It is clear that while the army tried their best, it was not enough. Many were left to their own devices in a case of survival of the fittest. The brave local volunteers made makeshift boats with whatever was able to float. Individuals like, Mr Sajad Mohiuddin Sheikh were left to rescue trapped labourers. Due to the extreme shortage of boats he found himself on a single handed journey to buy boats from New Delhi. Journalists were forced to rescue 300 people trapped in Srinagar and some young rescuers lost their lives.
Rameez Makhdoomi confirmed "Relief efforts are scattered and most efforts by government and non government look more of a publicity stunt rather than aiming at reaching sufferers". The Washington Post criticised the army response to the hungry "Instead of moving in to help keep order among the starving crowd, Indian army soldiers watched from a parapet next door, laughing and filming the scene on their smartphones."
More than one week into the disaster, large parts of Kashmir still lies under water, its infrastructure including hospitals have been wiped out. Only two hospitals remain barely operational despite a severe shortage of essential supplies. [ Tribune ]. Due to severe shortages, local doctors have tried to cope. Many complain of a failure of communication between medical staff, patients and the army.
Anger and resentment is growing. Despite the offer of UN assistance , the Indian government remains silent on its acceptance of outside help. This is not the first time this position has been adopted [WMT]. A hospital volunteer told me that aid sent from charities abroad was being blocked at the airport. On the 14th September 2014, Dr Musadir Firdosi, wrote "Shame airlines have been told not to carry relief material for 3 days from Delhi to Srinagar, only carry govt/army supplies". His family had attempted to send aid to Kashmir. It is unclear whether these obstacles are bureaucratic or planned.
Despite the cries for help for UN support from survivors in Kashmir, 2 petitions online [signed by more than 6000 people], local leaders and human rights groups, the Indian government stands firm on its misguided self sufficiency despite its obvious incompetence . With dead bodies and animals rotting in stagnant water, it is a matter of time before waterborne diseases risks the lives of the local population. Long term risks from mental health consequences of this disaster appear to have been overlooked. It is a tragic situation when Indian politics, nationalism and pride appears to come before lives of the people of Kashmir. One hopes India accepts United Nations offer and other international aid before its too late.
Romania's cruel government has been plagued with allegations of corruption and maladministration. It now finds itself accused of enacting a catastrophic killing law based on false information. International welfare organisation, Four Paws has uncovered evidence that reveals that a false claim may have led to the mass killing of innocent stray dogs.
The Killing Law came into force in October 2013 after a four year old boy was injured by dogs in Bucharest. Almost immediately and capitalising on the publicity that accompanied the case, it was announced that the death had been caused by stray dogs. These innocent animals were then demonised internationally as justification to introduce this law. At the time International animal welfare organisations objected to the law. Indeed, mass public protests were held all over the world. Despite this, the Romanian Parliament with persuasion by President Basescu adopted this law. The law was based on a knee jerk reaction without any scientific evidence. Not only did this law and negative publicity of stray dogs increase the level of cruelty but it resulted in needless mass slaughter of thousands of dogs. No one waited until the final investigations were over to determine how the death of the young boy was caused.
Supporters of the draconian law have continued to justify the killings, often using the tragic case of boy to bolster their argument. However, in an explosive turn of events, an official document of The Public Prosecutor's Office has now emerged and shows that the child was not killed by stray dogs, but by seven guard dogs owned by a local company, throwing doubt over the whole basis of the brutal legislation.
"It is outrageous how easily society got cheated and manipulated by emotions," stresses Gabriel Paun, Director of Campaigns at Four Paws. "The poor child was not killed by stray dogs, but tens of thousands of dogs have already paid the price of this misinformation with their lives, a solution which is both inhumane and ineffective and demonstrates the Government's inability to manage the situation properly."
Four Paws continued "The report contains the results of the investigations into the death of Ionut Anghel as a foundation for the official indictment of two entities and one individual: The Administration of Public Domain within the local council in the area in which the incident took place, the company responsible for the guard dogs, and the legal representative of that company. According to the indictment, the prosecutors filed manslaughter charges against these three persons. There is no mention of stray dogs being responsible for the death"In Bucharest alone 16,000 stray dogs have been killed so far by the Bucharest municipality and 2,000 stray dogs are sheltered in public dog pounds. Furthermore, Băncescu acknowledged that half of these 16,000 dogs were killed illegally after the suspension of the framework for implementing the killing law.
Gabriel Paun went on to say: "President Basescu called Parliament to make a killing law and they did it in a week. Băncescu keeps killing dogs illegally and spending public money, while punching animal lovers who try stopping him, even if they are females. The mayor of Bucharest, Mr. Oprescu, supports him. Prime Minister Ponta remains silent. Something has gone terribly wrong in this country. We will take more legal steps here, starting with Răzvan Băncescu, who has admitted committing a crime by killing the stray dogs illegally."
Four Paws calls on Romanian Prime Minister to call off the killing law in light of new evidence which reveals strays are not to blame. Indeed, the government should instigate an immediate review of the faulty manner in which the killing law came into force. The European authorities have already criticised the Romanian government for the ineffectiveness of this killing law. They should take the lead and hold this government to account for unlawfully killing thousands of innocent stray dogs.
It is time justice was done. It is time to vindicate the reputation of the Romanian stray dogs. We therefore look to the European Parliament to act as a matter of urgency so that further cruelty and mistreatment of Romanian stray dogs can be prevented. The European authorities need to set an example to the rest of the world - that killing the innocent is unacceptable in modern...
The Bristol Inquiry and Steve Bolsin's work led to the implementation of UK's clinical governance reforms. Instead of employing him to improve patient safety, the NHS accepted his exile in Australia. The system then bemoans the failure of patient safety and whistleblowing in this country. The fact is, if you...
Recently, the Balkans have been hit by severe floods affecting over a million people. This has destroyed thousands of homes in one of the poorest regions of Europe. Bosnia-Herzegovina's foreign minister stated that a quarter of the country's people were without clean water, and that the physical destruction wrought by...
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...
On Friday, 21st March 2014, several dog catchers from the Authority for the Supervision and Protection of Animals [ASPA] brutally raided the international animal welfare organisation's [Four Paws] shelter. Shocking images of the barbaric methods used by dog catchers...
Highlights From the Vice-Chairman of the AGRI Committee and Vice-Chairman of the Animal Welfare Intergroup, MEP Janusz WOJCIECHOWSKI (ECR). Press Conference. European Parliament.12th of February, 2014
"This visit proved that signals regarding violent treatment of dogs in these places are true"
"I did not question the necessity of reduction of stray dogs in Romania but I believe that Romanian authorities have decided to conduct this reduction in an inhumane and ineffective way"
"It has become a business for private companies that receive a lot of money to catch and put down these animals, or run these shelters - well... shelters is hardly the right word - given what is going on in them. This program costs a lot of money and it means a lot of profit for the companies involved. And so it's not in their interest to solve the problem. They want the problem, the issue to continue for as long as possible so that can earn as much money as possible out of it".
"The new legislation doesn't solve the problem, it's exacerbating it"
The plight of Romanian dogs and the subsequent 14 day cull law has caused uproar. . Mass protests were held all over Europe and the US. Social networks were buzzing with criticism of the Romanian authorities. Hundreds of petitions backed by famous animal rights activists circulated. Last year, all of these concerns fell upon deaf ears, leading us to question whether anyone was awake in officialdom. As a tsunami of concerns reached the Eurogroup, they wrote:-
"We are aware that a lot of unsubstantiated 'evidence' of perpetrated cruelties has been circulating during the last weeks and that it is sometimes difficult to distinguish between reliable information and invented horrors".
We suggested that the intergroup mount an investigation. Indeed, this is what they kindly did. Two visits to Romania [December 4, 2013 & 28th January 2014] were made by a delegation of the European Parliament. Their mission was to establish the truth and determine whether the contents of correspondence received from Romanian citizens was evidence-based. Correspondence alleged that dogs were being killed in front of children and this concerned the team.
Brief conclusions of their visits were as follows :-
1. Romanian authorities had assured the delegates that canine population control was conducted according to European Standards. The delegation found that there was a major discrepancy between what the authorities had told them during their first visit and what they found on site during their second visit.
2. Adoption from shelters was impossible due to an enormous amount of red tape/obstacles.
3. Dogs were left without food and water at some of the shelters visited.
4. There was a serious failure in the monitoring of shelter conditions.
5. The whole procedure of catching, keeping and anesthetizing one dog is rewarded with €250. It would be much cheaper and efficient to use these resources for sterilization of these animals. Therefore, the number of animals would be reduced.
6. Romania would benefit from further transparency in dog shelters to ensure a higher level of compliance with European standards.
This has been the first ray of light from officialdom at the European Parliament.
Commenting on their visit, Dr. Aurelian Stefan D.V.M (who is the Veterinary Director [Romania Animal Rescue (RAR) /Animal Spay and Neuter International] based in Romania) stated :-
"In my opinion, the EU should push Romania to develop a Master Plan to improve the animal welfare in Romania. Visiting shelters might help but that can be achieved by watching the footage on the web. Romania does not have a strategy and does not have cases of concrete measures such as fines or even jail time for animal abusers. In this respect, there is total silence and total neglect.
Shelters are the most horrible places that will never be visitor-friendly and when you are allowed in, there is no difference between a Nazi extermination camp and a shelter like the Craiova shelter. Most of the dogs spayed in this town (over 7000) were spayed with help from RAR, and RAR also enabled local charities to get donations from our friends in the USA and Europe.
National strategy should include spay and neuter education, veterinary training and law enforcement. Of course, any other ideas are welcome. It is a simple strategy but such complex implementation that needs European help and pressure".
Occupy For Animal has started to ask whether Europe's Sleeping Beauty was finally opening her eyes.
In its excellent summary, the animal rights campaign group also refers to a vital letter that was sent to the European Commission [EC] dated 23/1/2014 and supported by 211 organizations. The letter demonstrates clearly that the EC has the legal competence - and a legal duty - to intervene. The European Communications Team claims that the
"Romanian stray animal eradication program falls under EU-competence, but that it cannot be that the millions of EU-funds that Romania receives each year to eradicate rabies, would be used to fund such an inhumane and ineffective stray animal population strategy".
This claim has been supported by Luxembourgian MEP Claude Turmes (Dèi Grèng) who has written to the Romanian ambassador in Luxembourg and formulated a parliamentary question. Similar questions have been asked by Finnish MEP Sirpa Pietikäinen (PPE). The EC has remained silent. Clearly putting pen to paper is proving extremely challenging. We ask whether the EC is able to determine the meaning of the word "action" in a period when the lights' and cameras' focus is on them. The world is waiting in anticipation to determine whether the Commission has any bite in the land Count Vlad Dracula .
Leading animal rights campaigners reported that the Mayoress of Craiova, Mrs Lia Olguta Vasilescu has authorised the killing of hundreds of stray dogs in Craiova, Romania. Most social networking outlets have been inundated with pictures of shelter staff cleaning bloodstained floors. Speranta pentru Animale wrote:-
"In the last few days taking advantage of the snow that has invaded the kennels ( and that is still not completely cleaned ) Breasta shelter managers made " disappear " dozens of dogs , especially in paddocks 3 and 4. Normally we were present almost daily at feeding program and we participated along with the caretakers ,being able in this way to watch the dogs coming out to eat .But deep snow gave carers the opportunity to motivate the needed to enter and distribute food inside ( they always insisted on not letting us in the kennels ). This began on Saturday ( after the first wave of snow ) on Sunday I left before the food program as a protest against the fact that caregivers sat in the dining room but not a hint of snow had been removed from the kennels (they have a dining room and it seems that they also hired a cook, but they claim they have no money for medicines ).
On Monday I could not get at the feeding program. The method of giving the food inside the paddock continued on Tuesday and Wednesday it was only on Thursday that I started notice the missing dogs, as they removed the snow and the dogs began to emerge .Friday I did check in kennels where last week were 5-6 dogs now are only two while in kennels where there were three only one is left and so on. On paddocks three and four are missing dozens of dogs."
The shelter has been plagued with numerous scandals. This has led to public uproar. Twenty-three thousand people signed a detailed petition . The petition outlines the clash between animal rights campaigners and the Mayoress of Craiova. NGOs (including Speranta) were forced to apply to the courts to obtain the right to feed the dogs at public shelter at NGO expense. They won this application in 2013.
It is clear that the Mayoress does have an unhealthy vendetta against the dogs in her area, and her protestations to the contrary were not convincing anyone . Given her reign has been plagued with some serious scandals, each of us should question her decision-making skills in relation to the helpless and vulnerable. Of course, since the rest of Europe turns a blind eye to her cruel decisions, other faulty areas of governance may not be detected.
This excellent article Sleepless in Craiova outlines the disgraceful, if not evil acts of the local officials in assassinating dogs in the cruellest manner possible. This website demonstrates the acts of neglect performed upon vulnerable animals. It shows botched operations and bleeding dogs. Shocking images of emaciated/skeletal animals demonstrates the extent of neglect. Blood smeared post- operatively is the handy-work of a man who refers to himself as a "vet". Despite all this being in the public domain, no one has acted to effect accountability. The Romanian authorities governing local vets appear to have turned a blind eye to the shocking evidence.
Horrified by the atrocities, Occupy for Animals wrote to the Mayoress:-
"These scenes were viewed in Craiova where the weakest are consigned to a painfully grotesque death or allowed simply to fade away through starvation in YOUR shelter. Yet Craiova dreams of becoming a European Capital of Culture in 2021... A EUROPEAN Capital of Culture!"
The Canine bloodshed and cruelty in Craiova is now at an unacceptable level. The inhumane nature has been publicised through most social networking websites, yet the Animal Welfare Intergroup appears slow to act on cruelty meted out at individual shelters. Indeed, every single authority appears to be turning a blind eye to the issue hoping that in time, these blood stains will disappear into the dim and distant memories of the past.
It is clear that lethargy is endemic within Romania while litres of canine blood is spilt everywhere in Craiova. The fact that it is washed away by cleaners does nothing to preserve its reputation. The Mayoress of Craiova has continued to ignore pleas from animal rights campaigners. The tax payer expects empathy, fairness and justice. If she cannot deliver these three qualities to all creatures great and small, it is time for her to leave office.
The bitter winter of 2014 is passing and dogs have mysteriously disappeared leaving a river of blood and the evidence destroyed. Any tourist visiting should remember the haunting screams, the cries for help and the eventual cruel demise of these defenseless creatures. This is the dark secret of Craiova - The European Capital of Canine...
On the 17 July 2006, numerous media reports featured the controversy surrounding the Romanian steel plant purchased by the rich steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal.
"Some 25 people had been killed and another 254 injured at the Galati plant in eastern Romania since it was bought in late...
Accountability is a vital deterrent to breaches of rights and criminal acts. Without it, a country becomes lawless, as can be seen in Romania's Stray Dog issue. Despite sporting cachectic dogs residing in inhumane conditions, Romania recently released its plans for spending...
Botosani is the captial city of Botosani County, in northern Moldavia, Romania. It is largely famed - insofar as it is famed at all - for its rich cultural life, including the Botosani National Philharmonica and the "Vasilache" Puppet Theatre.
However, lurking in the shadow of these cultural giants lies a dark, shameful secret. For here, alongside the artists, musicians and puppeteers who make up the very essence of civilised society, acts of vicious cruelty and merciless slaughter against our fellow creatures are commonplace, and have been for some time.
As many readers will know, a recent change in Romanian law means that stray dogs are to be captured and taken to publicly funded shelters, where they are to be exterminated if they have not been found a home within 14 days. The Romanian government remains committed to the move, despite national and international condemnation, and their enthusiasm is apparently shared by the Mayor of Botosani, Ovidiu Portariuc.
In a recent interview, translated into English here, he is reported to have said that his regime had been waiting for legislation of this kind for a long time, and that, now it was available, he would be making use of it.
He also appeared to confirm that his Botosani County government had acted in this way before, some time prior to the new law coming into effect. Since it was illegal to kill a healthy stray until the new law was passed, the Mayor seems to have admitted to breaking the law as it stood until then. No doubt, as a professional politician, he will find a way to talk himself out of his apparently ill-advised comments, but the general gist - that the Botosani County government approves of killing stray dogs, legally or otherwise - is now common knowledge, thanks to the Mayor's own words.
Sadly, the Mayor's position is far from unique. Botosani has long had an evil reputation for the abuse and destruction of stray dogs, often in the most inhumane ways imaginable.
In May 2011, news began to emerge of a horrendous massacre at a public shelter for stray dogs in Botosani. Over 200 dogs were allegedly hacked to death in under two hours, leaving staff to hastily - and incompletely - hose down the shelter's bloodied walls while representatives of animal protection Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs) looked on in horror, according to examiner.com.
Stirileprotv.ro reported that the remains of the unfortunate animals were wrapped in plastic bags when the press arrived. Shelter staff were reportedly aggressive towards representatives of the media, hurling bricks and turning hoses on them, before barricading themselves inside the building.
The official explanation for the bloodbath was that some of the animals had contracted a contagious disease, necessitating the instant destruction of all the shelter's strays to prevent a possible epidemic. Veterinarian, Christian Peter Pancu said that he personally euthanised all the dogs by lethal injection, and that their deaths were quick and painless.
Needless to say, doubts remained in the minds of NGO representatives - why were the walls of the shelter splattered with blood? And how could one man personally, humanely euthanise more than 200 dogs in so short a time?
Unfortunately, even this orgy of destruction doesn't seem to be unique, or even uncommon. Workers at the local landfill were not surprised by the massacre, telling adevarul.ro, "Last year bodies of many animals were in the trash where they were burned. When you do not want to kill them with their hands, do not give them food and dogs eat each other."
The adverse publicity attracted by such killing sprees, while hardly international front page news, is clearly not in keeping with the oily, Mr Niceguy facade routinely adopted by politicians at all levels, from the presidents of Superpowers to the mayors of obscure counties. This may explain why, in late 2012, long before the new dog-killing law was conceived, Mayor Portariuc seems to have hatched a devious scheme to transport stray dogs far away from his territory, into the county of Constanta.
According to Occupy For Animals, the so-called "pilot project" was to employ a company from Constanta called SC Puppy Vet SRL to capture stray dogs in Botosani and take them to the public dog pound in Constanta, more than 500km away.
While passing problems - stray dogs, in this case - on to someone else is standard procedure for most politicians, this may be a little more sinister than it first appears. For one thing, the pound in Constanta has an even worse reputation than its counterpart in Botosani. Occupy For Animals alleges that the pound, formerly operated by a company called Alfmob SRL, is nothing more than a facility for killing stray dogs, and that, in 2010, Save the Dogs obtained evidence to this effect.
For another, also according to Occupy For Animals, SC Puppy Vet SRL is non other than Alfmob SRL, operating under a new name. Alfmob SRL is claimed to have captured and killed huge numbers of stray dogs in Constanta, yet the Mayor of Botosani apparently signed a contract with them (in their new guise as SC Puppy Vet SRL) to capture strays and take them to Constanta, "to be adopted". Could this be what Mayor Portariuc meant when he claimed to have "acted before"?
Whatever the truth of the matter, it is clear that Botosani is not a safe place for stray dogs to be. The local government has welcomed new legislation that allows unadopted strays to be killed after 14 days, and purports to have already - and illegally - acted in this way before. It has also contracted with a company to capture and remove strays to a facility in Constanta that is reputed to kill strays with impunity, and Botosani's own shelter has previously been the scene of a horrifying stray dog massacre. Not, perhaps, a city that any dog lover would want to visit, cultural centre or...
Mihailesti Shelter, in Bucharest, Romania, is an animal sanctuary operated by the local government to house stray dogs, ostensibly while efforts are made to locate their owner, if they have one, or find them a forever home if they do not.
Publicly funded shelters matching homeless dogs to dog-loving citizens - sounds like an ideal, humane solution to the city's (and, indeed, the whole of Romania's) overwhelming stray dog problem, doesn't it? Unfortunately, as is often the case with seemingly ideal solutions, all is not as it appears to be at Mihailesti Shelter.
For one thing, new legislation means that, in Romania, stray dogs are kept in shelters for a maximum of 14 days. If, at the end of that period, they remain unowned, they are unceremoniously - and viciously - killed. Unsurprisingly, it is incredibly difficult to find owners, be they old or new, in so short a time. For many of its occupants, therefore, Mihailesti Shelter is but a brief stopover en route to oblivion.
For another, conditions at Mihailesti stretch the definition of "shelter" to breaking point. According to oxforddictionaries.com, it is is a noun meaning, "a place giving temporary protection from bad weather or danger." It can also be a verb, meaning, "protect or shield from something harmful, especially bad weather."
Clearly, the overall gist is of protection from harm, danger and / or adverse weather. As applied to an animal sanctuary, one might be forgiven for picturing an establishment where stray dogs are given regular food and water, veterinary care as needed, and accommodation that is warm, dry, clean, safe, disease free and not dangerously overcrowded.
In reality, however, the situation at Mihailesti Shelter is shockingly different. One local Non-Governmental Organization (NGO), posting via Facebook, and reproduced here, describes how dogs were left in roofless, outdoor cages for two days despite bitterly cold weather and non-stop torrential rain. The only concession to the inclement conditions was an overhead net, intended to provide shade in summer, but utterly useless as shelter from rain.
Staff at the shelter allegedly refused to move the animals to indoor accommodation, claiming to be "too busy". They where eventually shamed into doing so when the NGO brought along a television crew to record the situation.
So much for protection from bad weather! Needless to say, Mihailesti fares no better on the other essential characteristics that differentiate a respectable animal sanctuary from a mere death camp for stray dogs.
According to B365.ro, translated (very badly) into English by Google's translator software here, prosecutors from Romania's High Court of Cassation and Justice began an investigation into Mihailesti Shelter in late September 2013, following complaints from concerned NGO representatives.
They told prosecutors that they had witnessed cruelty at the shelter, with two or more dogs kept in cages designed for just one animal. Groups of 20 - 30 large dogs were kept together, with no attempt to segregate them based on their age, sex or health. Naturally, under these stressful circumstances, this lead to death and injury as the dogs fought over limited food, and allowed disease to spread quickly through the groups. They had seen healthy dogs become sick and weak, they said, while others were observed to have fractures and open wounds that had been left untreated. Clouds of flies surrounded the injured dogs.
So closely confined are the dogs at Mihailesti that, according to staff, their food is routinely contaminated with their own faeces. As a result, instead of giving the dogs more room, they simply throw away both food and faeces, leaving the dogs hungry and cramped. This, the NGO representatives claimed, was a ridiculous waste of resources when the shelter purported to be so short of funds that it couldn't afford to even put wooden floors in its cages, forcing dogs to lie on cold, wet concrete.
During the investigation, the NGO representatives found a dead puppy in a cage, alongside its live littermates and mother. Staff at the shelter refused to acknowledge that the dead dog was one of theirs, as no paperwork or database entries existed for it - the idea that this unfortunate animal might have slipped through the bureaucratic net appeared to be beyond them.
Shelter management refused to comment on the investigation, but, in an action that could have been calculated to enrage Romanian animal lovers, they suspended all dog adoptions from the facility until the investigation is complete, forcing dogs to remain even longer in those appalling conditions. Tellingly, prosecutors themselves were happy for adoptions to continue, suggesting that there was no real reason to suspend adoptions.
After making arrangements with the shelter management, a group of about 15 animal lovers arrived Mihailesti shelter. They formed an orderly queue outside, where they were kept waiting for two hours or more, with only two people being allowed into the building to adopt a stray dog in all that time. Then staff closed a metal security door, preventing anyone else from entering the shelter, and began euthanising the dogs inside, even as adopters stood helplessly by. Unsurprisingly, tempers were somewhat frayed, and the police became involved.
Evidently, Mihailesti Shelter is a shelter in name only. In actuality, it is little more than a cold, unpleasant, disease-ridden detention centre, where stray dogs are taken to die, thereby saving the cost of killing them. Although, if they are so stubborn as to survive 14 days in those hellish conditions, the shelter has no qualms about euthanizing them anyway, regardless of whether or not anyone is willing to adopt them.
It is difficult to understand how anyone could be so cruel. Even allowing for limited resources, why would the staff ignore willing adopters in favour of killing hapless dogs? Are they merely sadistic, or is there a more nefarious, profitable explanation? Time will...
This week, animal welfare organisations in Romania have described the situation there as critical. The plight of Romanian stray dogs following the implementation of the recent culling law [ featured A,B,C,D] has become an emergency. Four Paws wrote:-
"The new law allows the killing of stray dogs after they have been kept in a dog shelter for 14 days. It is hugely unrealistic to think that the dogs could be adopted within such a short time. In addition, there are not enough shelters, food or veterinary care for the dogs. The law has condemned hundreds of thousands of Romanian stray animals to death."
Bagdat Oz, working with Rescuing European Animals in Need (REAN) said :-
"No dog is safe there anymore. We need to get these dogs out of that country ASAP"
She has been rightly critical of the UK and international media's lax attitude to this catastrophe. One local newspaper, the Forfar Dispatch took up the cause. They quote Gail Brown who states
"Even household pets are being targeted. I have heard of one woman's dog being shot right in front of her." She continued: "And people over there who are trying to help the dogs are being attacked themselves. The situation is out of control."
In their urgent appeal REAN wrote
"Animal lovers throughout the world are outraged with this unreasonable and horrific decision, and are trying their best to save as many dogs as they can from this biggest dog massacre in Europe's history"
There is a clear and present danger to dogs in Romania. Supporting REAM's view, Four Paws writes
"In the light of recent investigations FOUR PAWS is worried that the killing of dogs by physical violence and poisoning has already spiralled out of control. The local police even seem to ignore the barbaric killings of stray dogs which have happened up to now. Obviously people don't know that killing an animal comes under criminal law, and clearly the police ignore it. It is now public that one man also died from eating poisoned sausages intended for dogs. Police must take immediate action or we take them to court",
Having suffered violence at the hands of dog catchers, stray dogs are locked in public shelters and often denied food and water. Their fragile lives cut short with a glimmer of hope from rescuers and adopters.
Unfortunately, rescues are erratic and plagued by serious underfunding, making the process painfully slow - a catastrophe situation for dogs who have very little time.
Adopting a Romanian dog will not only extend its life but save them from a painful, horrific death. Rescuers use Facebook.com to engage support, adoptions and donations. Your country will have a support/campaign group there and it is worth researching potential adoptions through them.
Romanian Insider wrote a useful guide for Bucharest here , and international adoption is covered here . The UK's http://www.adoptarescuedog.co.uk/ is a useful primary resource, and first time owners can download the Dog Trust's advice on this subject. Before you Adopt is also a very useful guide. .
Prior to adoption, careful consideration must be given to affordability and your ability to take care of a dog. Adopting a dog from Romanian can cost between £225-350 [mostly transportation costs - organisations vary] in comparisons to the RSPCA's costs [From £120] listed here.
Potential owners need a home check that assesses your lifestyle and ability to take care of a dog. According to Anne Lewis, of the Lost Souls Sanctuary, assessments can look at "height of fences, secure garden, sleeping arrangements, other animals, working arrangements, vet etc".
She also warns "I'd also get a vet reference as these give you a good indication of how they look after their animals". After making an informed decision to adopt, its worth contacting one of the organisations listed here to select the dog you like. Most organisations will guide you through the process and suggest transportation. All dogs require a Pet Passport, Microchip, Vaccines, Health Certificate and a copy of the person's passport.
To lower the costs of adoption, Four Paws team in Bucharest has offered free neutering, rabies vaccine, passport vaccinations, micro chipping and registration. Transportation can either be by plane [ Check approximate flight prices] or by road ELI Pet Transport [email@example.com] organises transport and is rumoured to give discounts for transporting multiple pets. An alternative is Europet .
Many organisations have taken to Facebook to raise much needed funds and feature dogs who require assistance. Romanian Emergency Dog Rescue attempts to feature posts listed by local individuals and organisations. Like all online pleas, it's important to check that the organisation is reliable before you donate. That said, local reliable individuals like Galati based Paun Daniela do excellent work, and are solely dependent on public donations.
Bagdat Oz suggests, those who cannot adopt or sponsor can raise the awareness of the plight of the issue by leafleting, fund raising, social networking. Indeed Facebook is teeming with individual rescuers raising funds for local organisations and facilitating the rescue of dogs from Romania.
Those who have adopted Romanian dogs say it is extremely rewarding. Those who want to adopt can make it happen through Facebook, as there are many people willing to assist. Every life is worth saving, and while we cannot control the way governments work, we can all do something to help. Doing nothing in a state of emergency is no longer an option.