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FOUR PAWS signs a 10-year partnership with Bulgarian capital Sofia


A new clinic for stray dogs will open in February

On 21st of December Helmut Dungler, founder and president of the international animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS, signed a 10-year partnership contract with the mayor of Sofia Yordanka Fandakova. The City Hall of Sofia will provide a building for a large veterinary clinic, where FOUR PAWS will neuter stray dogs and cats, free of charge. The clinic is expected to open in February 2013.

„This partnership is a big step forward towards a working solution for stray animals in Sofia and Bulgaria,” says Helmut Dungler. „The persistence of Yordanka Fandakova to deal with the stray dogs issue in a humane and efficient way, despite all the pressure on her, deserves respect and appreciation. FOUR PAWS are here to help make this promise come true. In the next years our plan is to neuter around 2000 dogs and cats per year from Sofia and the surroundings. We will also be working with people who cannot afford the surgery in a private clinic and whose dogs are at risk of producing unwanted puppies.”

The partnership between FOUR PAWS and the City Hall of Sofia comes after a year of hot debate on the stray dogs issue in Bulgaria. In the spring and summer of this year two elderly people were mauled to death by stray dogs in Sofia. A number of politicians and journalists asked for quick eradication of the stray dog population in Bulgaria and for legal changes that will allow this. However, the mayor of Sofia remained firm in her belief that mass killing is not a solution and contacted the biggest animal welfare organisations working in Sofia for a common strategy.

„The stray dogs issue in Sofia is probably the hardest to solve. This would be impossible without the active cooperation between the local authorities, animal welfare organisations and the public,” said Mrs. Fandakova. „I am very grateful to FOUR PAWS for the assistance they have provided so far and will be relying on their support in future not only for neutering, vaccination and deworming of stray animals but also for implementation of joint campaigns to raise awareness about responsible pet ownership.”

The stray dogs issue has been a hot topic of debate in Bulgaria since the mid-1990s, particularly in Sofia. Until 2008 Bulgarian legislation allowed for mass collection and killing of stray and free-roaming dogs. After this method proved to be unsuccessful and some big municipalities turned to the capture-neuter-release method, Parliament banned it in 2008 and instead followed the recommendation of the World Heatlth Organisation and a number of experts, including FOUR PAWS, to legitimise mass neutering as the only possible way to reduce the number of stray dogs. However, due to lack of proper enforcement, until recently only a few of the local authorities took the necessary measures to launch neutering campaigns and to impose sanctions on people who abandon their dogs.

In Sofia FOUR PAWS performed two big Stray Animal Care initiatives – in spring 2011 with a focus on stray dogs from Roma neighbourhoods and in autumn 2012 with a focus on the villages near Sofia, which are some of the main sources of abandoned puppies. Since the spring of 2011 FOUR PAWS is also running a major project for neutering stray cats in partnership with six private veterinary clinics in Sofia. The total number of stray animals neutered, vaccinated and dewormed so far in Sofia by FOUR PAWS exceeds 2.500.

FOUR PAWS has been working in Bulgaria since 2000 and is best known for the Dancing Bears Park in Belitsa (run in partnership with the Brigitte Bardot Foundation), where all former Bulgarian and some Serbian dancing bears have been rescued, as well as for running the Stray Animal Care neutering projects all over the country. Since 2008, when FOUR PAWS started to actively help local authorities implement neutering programmes, the organisation has worked in more than 30 municipalities and has neutered more than 7000 cats and dogs.

Besides Bulgaria, FOUR PAWS has also run successful Stray Animal Care projects in Romania, Lithuania, Slovakia, Ukraine, Sudan, India and Jordan.