Wednesday, November 23, 2011

An extremely compelling letter

Dear all,

I have read many reactions about the mass dog culling law in Romania during the last 24 hours. One letter, however, conveyed so much truth and reality, dignity and strength, that I really felt I had to put it on this blog as well. My Facebook friend and fellow Romanian rescuer, Mada Spataru, explains the current situation and the impact of the new mass dog culling law extremely well:

"To Whom It May Concern:
I apologize for the disturbance, but as of Tuesday, November 22, 2011, the Democratic Liberal Party (PDL) has succeeded to pass an extremely controversial piece of legislation (bill 912/2007 to modify and amend Emergency Government Ordinance no. 155/2001) in the Romanian Parliament that allows for the indiscriminate killing of all stray dogs throughout Romania. While on a moral level I am outraged that this bill will allow for the reinstatement of barbaric conduct previously demonstrated by local authorities, going against all animal welfare requirements and against the recommendations of the EU (including Written Declaration 26/2011), my letter to you is motivated by factual issues:

1. This legislation, once put into practice (although it is widely in use already in mayoralties such as Tulcea, Botosani or Ramnicu Valcea, where dogs are cremated alive, brutally killed with clubs or poisoned with glass shards or even rat poison), will offer impunity to municipalities where such practices have continued despite a 7 year period where spay-neuter-return was the official policy.
2. This legislation, once adopted by President Basescu, will allow for the illicit raising of campaign funds for the PDL election campaigns of next year. Their pecuniary interests were revealed by major journals here, with major actors such as Elena Udrea (Minister of Tourism and Development) being personally involved in the fund collection process.
3. This legislation allows for the funneling of funds and money laundering. While the officials declare euthanasia costs of up to 275 euro/dog (as opposed to 15 euro, the cost of spay/neuter/return), to which cremation costs are added based on exaggerated weight assessments, the reality of the years in which euthanasia was the general practice have shown that dogs are usually starved to death and the remaining ones are killed without any cost whatsoever (translation: clubbed to death). This in turn adds to the engrossed funds raised through such barbaric practices additional sums allotted to feeding the dogs, in the tune of thousands of euro/month. The above mentioned facts are proven through statements, transcripts, recordings and testimonies that further underline the fact that no medical care whatsoever is offered to the dogs in the shelter, despite the fact that tens of thousands of euro are invoiced every month by designated vets (i.e. the shelter in Botosani).
4. This legislation does not actually solve the stray problem in Romania, a fact which is desired by most pet owners. While euthanasia has exorbitant costs, it is estimated that only 1 in 10 dogs that are able to reproduce are actually euthanized by local authorities, allowing for a seasonal surplus of approximately 50 dogs (over 100 dogs per year, for every dog euthanized by local authorities).
5. This legislation does not effectively discourage animal abandon. Each year, approximately 50% of pet owners in peri-urban areas abandon excess dogs (i.e. female cats and dogs) in urban and adjacent areas such as roads and industrial sites, leading to a renewal of the total population of strays, facts also demonstrated through interviews, statistic data and testimonies.
6. This legislation does not lead to the elimination of aggressive strays, as statistical data has shown that dog catchers predominantly collect tame strays that socialize with residents and puppies.
7. This legislation does not support in any way the efforts of the pejoratively called "animal lovers" or animal rescuers, who are currently facing an unprecedented overflow of injured and abandoned pets. The economic crisis has lead to an increased number of abandoned pets and a diminished interest in adoptions, leaving the few people actually doing spay/neuter&adoption over-agglomerated and without sources of funding their activities (no public funds are allotted whatsoever to these activities). As such, many private shelters and refuges are now faced with no resources, no volunteers and no funds to support their rescues.

Moreover, the campaign to collect signatures for the euthanasia of stray dogs has brought forth internal PDL documents and campaign footage and materials that demonstrate its abusive and misleading character. PDL volunteers and high-ranking officials effectively manipulated the general public into believing they were signing to support spay/neuter/return. PDL members were faced with expulsion from the party upon failure to gather 2000 signatures/person and there is tangible evidence that professors, public servants and employees in the private sector were threatened with termination if they expressed opposition.

As such, I would like to bring to your attention that we, the general public, alongside NGOs have proposed a number of measures that are cost and time effective and would limit the occurance of subsequent issues such as cat over-population. Among them, the following best represent my view on the potential solution:

1. Census of dogs and cats with owners.
2. Introduction of mandatory chip identification of pets.
3. Introduction of national pet database, accessible over the internet to every vet (e-charts), allowing for the identification of owners and a more prompt treatment.
4. Introduction of mandatory sterilization of pets without reproductive potential, thus limiting puppy mills and animal overpopulation. The owners who elect not to spay/neuter their pet will incur a yearly fee and mandatory bi-annual veterinary check-ups. Animal abandonment and animal cruelty should be harshly punished, and penalties should be reinforced in the new Penal Code, including the interdiction to own pets.
5. Registration of all shelters and refuges, legal and privately owned (50+ animals), creating a national database that allows for redirection of the 2% annual tax refund. This measure would allow for animal rescuers with unofficial refuges and shelters to undergo audits bi-annually and to receive local funds and support from their respective municipalities.
6. Reform of volunteering law that stipulates that all veterinary medicine students must perform a number of hours and procedures in public and private shelters and refuges, in order to support medical treatment, as well as stipulating a number of hours of supervision from veterinaries in local shelters (non-existent at the moment, the measure would increase quality of care and lower mortality). Moreover, introduction of stipulation that all NGOs active in animal protection (in this case, stray dogs) must pledge a number of hours in the local public shelters as a condition to maintain qualification.
7. Reform of animal control law (repeal of current one, introduction of mandatory spay/neuter/return) that would lead to the creation of modern shelters that create jobs in local communities (educated, responsible and humane animal control employees, hygiene personnel, dog trainers and behavioral experts, medical personnel, etc.), that are primarily geared towards the treatment, spaying/neutering and socialization of strays (including training therapy dogs and cats as well as rescue and specialized dogs) in view of supporting the needs and interests of potential adopters. Modern shelters should allow for the creation of educational programmes in schools. Moreover, public shelters should be supported and even managed for periods of up to 6 months by qualified NGOs in the area, in order to support transparency and quality of care.

I am a citizen of Romania, of the European Union, and I am also an "animal lover". I am a responsible pet owner, with 9 disabled cats and 4 dogs, all of which are spayed, micro-chipped and vaccinated and that have a more-than-adequate space to live their lives in safety. I am a responsible citizen of Romania - a professional in my line of work, a law-abiding tax payer, and I am doing my civil duty by helping people and animals in need alike. I am dismayed that my elected representatives have chosen to disregard cost-efficient measures that would effectively solve the stray problem in Romania within the next five to seven years, choosing instead to follow pecuniary interests that go against our dire needs. The measures proposed above are my own view of how the problem could be solved, and I hope that others will reach out to you suggesting many others.

As a responsible citizen, I cannot support this recent legislation. As a responsible citizen, I feel it is my duty and my obligation to practice civil disobedience on moral and policy grounds, along the lines defined and discussed by the likes of Henry Thoreau, Gandhi and Ronald Dworkin. I admit my personal limitations in understanding the complexities of the definitions and interpretations that this concept has been given over the years. However, what I do know is that I am not a delinquent. I am a regular citizen that expects the state to represent my interests and reflect them through legislation. I believe that the recently-passed bill is immoral in the sense that it condones the inhumane treatment of animals, and I feel that this policy is wrong both in its assumption that it will solve the problem by delegating decision-making to the local level as well as through its hasty adoption in the months preceding an election year, likely to cloud better judgement and heighten financial interests.

Until all municipalities in Romania have adopted the Spay/Neuter/Return policy and one or several of the measures proposed above, I believe it is my duty as a Romanian citizen to stop payment of any and all taxes. It is my personal opinion that revolutions do not necessarily have to take place in the street. I believe we, as Romanians, still have our own voice, and that we don't have to respond to violence with violence to be heard and understood.

Thank you very much for your time.

Sincerely yours,

Mada Spataru"

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