bucharest stray dogs

It’s an abhorrent solution to an overwhelming problem.

Walk down any residential street in Romania’s capital and you are likely to encounter a member of Bucharest’s canine population — if not a whole pack of them. Banding together in groups of three or four, or even more, the dogs treat the city as their own, wandering freely, even hopping on and off public transport.

But these days, Romania’s stray dogs are increasingly seen as a threat. The Romanian Parliament is currently debating legislation that could lead to the euthanizing of thousands of stray dogs. Since 2007, the Animal Protection Act has outlawed the killing of these canines. But following the death of a woman attacked by dogs in Bucharest earlier this year, some lawmakers want that ban reversed.

It is estimated that 40,000 pooches live on the streets of Bucharest, although local authorities say the number is closer to 100,000. While lethal attacks have been extremely rare, 8,348 people in the capital were treated for bites by stray dogs in 2010, according to the National Institute of Infectious Diseases in Bucharest.

People blame former Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu for the homeless pups. In 1984, he razed the historic town center to create the House of the Republic, now the Palace of Parliament. As a result, an estimated 40,000 families were relocated to modern apartment buildings in which pets were forbidden. So they abandoned them to the streets.

If passed, the new amendment will put the ultimate decision on how to tackle the problem into the hands of local authorities, with euthanasia as one option.

Romanian law defines euthanasia as the administering of a humane lethal injection. But animal rights activists say that cheaper methods have been employed.

“We have seen photographs as well as videos showing dogs being killed with metal bars, electrocuted and having their throats slashed,” said Marcela Pisla, president of Cutu-Cutu, an animal rights organization that has been active in organizing public protests and lobbying against the amendment.

Even if the initiative passes, and more dogs die, it won’t convince everyone that these canines are dangerous and should be put down.

“Dogs are the innocent victims in this situation,” said one Bucharest resident, Mihaela, who declined to give her full name.

“Humans have the power and this power should not be abused.”