Sofia’s stray dog problem: All talk and no action

The deepening problem of Sofia’s street dogs and the lack of any evident effort to tackle it efficiently, sparked a new round of attacks against Sofia mayor Yordanka Fandukova and municipal company Ecoravnovesie (Ecobalance), which is supposed to deal with the stray animals in Sofia streets.

Fandukova’s rival from last year’s mayoral elections, the Bulgarian Socialist Party’s Georgi Kadiev, has referred the street dog issue to the Sofia City Prosecution.

In a media statement, Kadiev said that he had approached prosecutors about “the criminal inaction of Sofia mayor Yordanka Fandukova regarding the problem with street dogs, which is costing the lives of innocent people“.

In the past two months, two elderly men were attacked and savaged by packs of street dogs in various areas of the city. Both died because of their severe injuries, in spite of medics’ efforts to save them.

Those are just the two attacks with fatal consequences, however, stray dog attacks on Sofia residents sum up to an average of 400 per year, according to the municipality.

After the first fatal incident Fandukova vowed to speed up and ease the procedure for building dog pounds. The matter was discussed by the city council, but nothing happened. After the second incident, Fandukova repeated her promise.

On the basis of official estimates, Sofia is said to have about 9000 street dogs, but public perceptions are that the number is higher. The planned new dog pounds will house about 2000 dogs and, with the expansion of an existing one, the total number will reach 4000.

In his complaint to the prosecution, Kadiev quoted a paragraph of the Penal Code, by which the guardian of the animal is held responsible, if the animal causes death or injury. “In the case of the stray dogs, this is the City Council and the mayor,“ Kadiev said in his statement.

Ombudsman Konstantin Penchev also commented on the street dog issue. He suggested the establishing of a new national programme to deal with the problem.

“City councils must carry out full castration,“ Penchev said in an interview with public broadcaster Bulgarian National Television. “We must stop trying to solve our problems by antagonising each other. Each year 120 000 dogs appear in the streets. Who would look after them?“

Penchev said that the law in this regard is not modern and has to be updated. “You can’t say, every time there is a problem, that there are bad people who cause problems. We need a new strategy and we haven’t had one for years. Apparently someone’s not doing their job. How many more have to be eaten alive?“

Meanwhile, the Sofia City Prosecution opened a pre-trial investigation into alleged financial irregularities by Ecoravnovesie. The case was started after the matter was referred to them by Fandukova last summer and is based on a financial audit of the company for the period between January 2009 and April 2011.

In another development, representatives of animal protection organisations repeated to television station bTV their claims that the population of stray dogs in Sofia is increasing because people from nearby villages bus puppies to Sofia and dump them in the streets. They, however, did not deny the urban legend that there are cases of “fake“ castration.

Tihomir Purlev of the Municipal Inspectorate said the rules for registering and installing chips in dogs applies to animals living in the yards of the villages within the municipality.

Both the representatives of the animal protection organisations and the municipality agreed that the current system of chip registration is inefficient as there is no unified data base for the information in the chips.

(Photo: Hristina Dimitrova)



Hristina Dimitrova

Hristina Dimitrova has more than a decade of journalistic experience and is a senior editor at The Sofia Globe; previously she has worked in both online and print media, having started her career at The Sofia Echo.