Samantha Ellis, Global Animal
The small Eastern European country of Bulgaria is home to an excessive number of stray animals, which has become a huge issue over the past few decades. In Sofia, the capital city, there are an estimated 10,000 stray dogs and even more stray cats. These homeless animals “are exposed to the constant risk of death or maiming by accidents, illness, starvation, abuse and disappearing in the infamous isolators of Bulgaria,” according to the Bulgarian Society for Animal Protection and Preservation (BSAPP).
There are about 200,000 pet dogs in Sofia. The number is only an estimate since pet guardians rarely register or sterilize their pets. This tendency to neglect the necessary step of spaying or neutering a new pet contributes to the growing population of homeless animals. The unsterilized pets breed, and the resulting litters are abandoned (also unsterilized) to the streets. The strays then have litters of their own, and the population of feral animals grows.
The stray cats and dogs come in all sizes, ages, and breeds, with varying levels of health. But each of these animals deserves help and a loving home because they are homeless due to human actions.
According to the BSAPP, Bulgaria faces five major challenges in dealing with the stray animal overpopulation problem:
- Pet owners do not sterilise their pets and throw out unwanted litters on the streets;
- Cruelty against animals is not incriminated;
- Lack of education about the overpopulation problem and spay/neuter;
- Legal and illegal puppy mills abound;
- Taxpayer money is wasted on ineffective municipal programs and not enough stray animals are sterilised to reach the impact threshold percentage of 70% of animals sterilised for TNR (trap-neuter-release) to start showing a tangible effect.*
* Statistical studies indicate that in order to fully control a stray population, you need to achieve a 70 percent sterilization rate of the animals within a particular community. Once you reach the 70 percent threshold, the probability that an unsterilized female comes into contact with an unsterilized male is sufficiently small, and the population stops growing.
The BSAPP and World Health Organization (WHO) recognize the need to spay or neuter every stray dog and cat in Bulgaria in order to stop the overpopulation of homeless animals. Killing strays does not stop the problem and only offers a temporary “solution.” The BSAPP “firmly believe(s) that sterilisation is the only way to humanely bring under control the stray dog and cat population and improve animal and human welfare in the long run.”
The BSAPP isn’t the only organization working to improve animal welfare in Bulgaria. The Rudozem Street Dog Rescue (RSDR) is a nonprofit organization that helps street dogs find homes. The Rowles family began the organization after witnessing the horrible treatment of stray dogs. The family started out feeding the dogs, and they are now working to create a shelter where rescued dogs can be housed until they are adopted by loving families throughout Europe. The RSDR also hopes to help future generations of animals by adding a spaying and neutering operation to the shelter. For more information about the Rudozem Street Dog Rescue and how you can help, visit: http://www.streetdogrescue.com/aboutus.htm
For more information about the Bulgarian Society for Animal Protection and Preservation, visit: http://bulgariadogs.webs.com/situationinbulgaria.htm