NEUTER AND RETURN
Bill # 554-01-15 provides for the inefficient and expensive practice of euthanasia (Article 189, Paragraph 2, Section 2) as the leading method for population control, without taking into account that its application for the past five years in Bulgaria, in compliance with the current Law for Veterinary-Medical Activity (Darzhaven Vestnik issue 42, May 5, 1999), has kept the canine population at a constantly high level, which has resulted in more incidents involving humans and in the spread of zoonotic diseases.
Since 1999, the senseless killings in the capital of Bulgaria have not effectuated a drop in dog numbers: those continue to fluctuate about the city's carrying capacity, at levels between 30,000 and 70,000.
With approximately 50,000 dogs in the streets in 1999, according to a report of the Municipal Enterprise Zoomilosardie [Zoo-Charity], later renamed Ekoravnovesie [Ecobalance], that same agency has destroyed, through euthanasia, 47 725 street dogs in the course of 3 years, spending for the purpose about 1.5 million leva from the municipal budget. The problem, however, has not been solved.
Consistency is needed in the application of the spay/neuter method, for in order to solve the problem through neutering, campaigns should be carried out over a fixed period of time across the country, so that migration of intact dogs can be prevented.
The WHO - recommended strategy for effective dog population control is control over the reproduction by applying the successful formula "Neuter-and-Return". The formula requires:
- Registration and identification of owned dogs;
- Surgical neutering of street dogs and their subsequent release back in their habitats.
The dogs are neutered and returned to the places they were taken from. The only effective approach to the overpopulation problem is a massive spay/neuter campaign for street dogs coupled with long-term control of family pets. If it is only the elimination of street dogs that is aimed for, habitat niches will be vacated and re-occupied shortly by newborn puppies or migrating animals. The temporary reduction in the number of homeless dogs will take turns with population level recovery, then reduction and recovery again - a cyclic and never-ending process.
Neutering does not vacate ecological niches because the dogs are put back in the habitats they were taken from. For some time, the population may keep its initial size; however, dog numbers start to drop afterwards, for mortality cannot be compensated for by birth rates if the number of the reproducing animals has been greatly reduced.
Experience in other countries shows that the "neuter-and-return" method is effective in the gradual reduction of dog numbers and in the dogs' eventual disappearance from the streets. A key point of this concept is the mission of the returning neutered dog to act as a barrier against the migration of untreated animals which could present a health threat to humans. For a further, sustainable development of the results that can thus be achieved, the new propositions stipulate control over the regular prophylaxes for neutered free-roaming dogs.
"Article 188. (1) Ownerless dogs that are rounded up in shelters are tagged, neutered, treated for parasites, and vaccinated against rabies.
(2) The tagging (Paragraph 1) is done using a microchip, or a tattoo in one of the ears, together with a "V"-shaped cut of the other ear or some other ear marking."
"Article 189. (1) After the veterinary manipulations specified in Article 188, Paragraph 1, in the condition where, after a period of 10 days, no person has requested to keep the dog as a companion, the dog is returned to the place it was taken from.
(2) The measures under Paragraph 1 can be taken before the 10-day term has expired, at the discretion of the veterinarian and the shelter manager.
(3) It is forbidden that the dogs under Paragraph 1 be captured again, except in the cases where the animals pose a danger to the health and life of other animals and of humans."
"Article 193. (1) The animal protection organizations and the municipalities are responsible for the supervision and veterinary care of the dogs under Article 189, including deworming procedures once every three months and annual rabies boosters.
(2) The animal protection organizations and the municipalities place information about the activities under Article 193, Paragraph 1, at the disposal of the Regional Veterinary-Medical Services every three months."