NVMS - Propositions and Recommendations
Concerning the Control of Homeless Dogs
Ministry of Agriculture and Forests
National Veterinary-Medical Service
15A "Pencho Slaveikov" blvd., Sofia 1606
Phone: 915-98-20; Fax: 954-95-93
TO THE MAYORS OF BURGAS, VARNA, VELIKO TURNOVO, VIDIN, VRATZA, GABROVO, DOBRICH, KURDZHALI, KYUSTENDIL, LOVECH, MONTANA, PAZARDZHIK, PERNIK, PLEVEN, PLOVDIV, RAZGRAD, RUSE, SILISTRA, SLIVEN, SMOLYAN, SOFIA, STARA ZAGORA, TURGOVISHTE, HASKOVO, SHUMEN, AND YAMBOL MUNICIPALITIES
Concerning: measures for control of the homeless dog population
Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,
Due to the considerable public interest concerning the measures for stray dog population reduction, and to the numerous letters and complaints of citizens and animal protection organizations that we received, we use the opportunity to address you and express where we stand on this grave social problem.
A modern program for stray dog population reduction must include several basic elements:
- mandatory identification (tattoo or microchip) of owned dogs and their licensing in the municipalities;
- strict control on the part of local governments to enforce dog marking and licensing and to impose appropriate sanctions;
- measures to limit the reproduction of owned dogs (various methods can be used: a tax for intact dogs, education campaigns to explain the benefit of neutering pets, mobile sterilization clinics to operate in the small towns and villages, the industrial and suburban areas, etc.)
- limiting the population of street dogs through their mass neutering, deworming, vaccination, marking and release back in the habitats, until the birth rate is cut off completely, after which the dogs are gradually rounded up in shelters for homing or care for life.
In the conditions of homeless dog overpopulation, it is of utmost importance that no dogs give birth in the city streets. We deem it unsuitable that all neutered dogs be killed when there are hundreds of others that give birth, which would very quickly fill in the vacant spaces in the urban niche, resulting in the pointless boost of the existing population.
Regarding the prevention and elimination of zoonoses, the euthanasia of homeless dogs is a method which has already been abandoned by the veterinary-medical science and practice.
A research study undertaken by the World Health Organization between 1981 and 1988 as part of a project to control rabies in humans and dogs in developing countries, announces that dog removal programs (wherein homeless dogs are captured and humanely killed) are exceptionally ineffective and very expensive.
A WHO Expert Committee concludes, in a 1992 report, that concerning the regulation of dogs, their capture and removal are no longer regarded as efficient measures for direct control. Indirect benefit can be gained through the selective elimination of intact dogs that are not subjected to regulatory measures. The removal of such dogs should only be employed if the ecological niche cannot be filled in with other dogs.
In this respect, if local governments discontinue the regime of tolerance toward the homeless dogs that have been treated (neutered, immunized against rabies, dewormed, and marked), all the achievements made so far in controlling the population will be lost.
In Sofia and the other bigger Bulgarian towns the size of the population is so large that every new ecological niche is instantly refilled with new dogs. For example: when the municipal enterprise that deals with the problem in Sofia started its activity in 1999, there were 50 000 dogs. 3 years later, the enterprise has on record 52 000 euthanized (some adopted) dogs. After, until the middle of 2002, 1 541 096 leva have been spent, the number of dogs remains almost the same.
This is so because the dog population in Sofia reacts in agreement with the long-known ecological laws: According to a WHO Expert Committee, there is no evidence that dog removal ever had a considerable effect on the population density and the spread of rabies (and the other zoonoses - author's note). Dog reproduction is so great that even the highest reported removal rates are easily compensated for by the correspondingly boosted survival rates.
In the case where a dog is diagnosed with a condition not treatable through immunotherapy or chemotherapy, the sick animal is euthanized. This is a guarantee that only dogs, proven by documents to be healthy by all criteria, are released back to their habitats. It can be responsibly claimed (and this opinion is supported by Dr. Malcho Petrov, Deputy Dean of the Veterinary-Medical Faculty at the University of Forestry - Sofia, Department of Surgery, X-Ray Technology, and Physiotherapy) that homeless dogs, treated according to a program for vaccination, neutering, and deworming, are a barrier that breaks the cycle of zoonose spread. The elimination of healthy homeless dogs in the conditions of overpopulation is counter-indicative for the solution of either side of the stray dog problem - the spread of diseases and the unchecked reproduction. The space (containing food resources) that is vacated by the destroyed healthy dogs (left to die a natural death and being the last link of the reproduction web) is promptly filled in with new dogs of an unclear health status that reproduce freely.
The euthanasia of homeless dogs provided by the Veterinary-Medical Law is a humane and necessary method for the removal of select unwanted animals, but (according to the official position of the Canadian Veterinary Association and WHO) is not an acceptable means for population control.
In the opinion of NVMS, the programs for the lasting solution of the street dog problem through neutering and returning of the dogs under the care of a specified person, do not contradict the Veterinary-Medical Law regulations. According to article 70, paragraph 1 of the Law, dogs that inhabit a specified place and are put under the care of a specified person who feeds them and provides them with veterinary care (in this case the person is already the animal's owner) cannot be considered ownerless or stray.
We think it necessary that in the present-day conditions and in relation to Bulgaria joining the EU, an adequate framework should be installed to support programs for stray dog population reduction through humane means, in accordance with WHO recommendations and the practices of the European Union and the Council of Europe for humane treatment of animals. These programs should lay the foundations of a beneficial cooperation among the local governments, NVMS, and the animal protection societies, which is the democratic way to solve problems regarding the health and safety of the citizens on one hand, and the protection of animals on the other, and at the same time to prevent the annihilation of the results that have been achieved so far - i.e. to protect the invested finances and efforts, both taxpayers' and local and foreign organizations'.
NVMS itself has provided for some specific measures to find a place in the new Veterinary-Medical Bill, aiming to bring the stray dog population under control with the shortest possible delay: registration, passportization, and permanent marking of owned dogs and regulation of unwanted reproduction through the implementation of a tax for intact dogs, as well as detailed measures for the control of homeless dogs through humane methods, in accordance with the recommendations of the World Health Organization and the practices of the countries from the European Union and the Council of Europe.
DIRECTOR GENERAL: /DOC. ZHEKO BAICHEV, DVM/
[official stamp and signature]