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With half a million Bulgarians constantly leaving their pets on the streets, collecting animals in shelters is pointless

Until municipalities begin to implement measures to limit the abandonment of dogs and cats, the problem will not be solved, FOUR PAWS maintains.

Sofia, 04.12.2012

Data from the research made by Gallup International and Animal Rescue Sofia is yet another proof that the stray animal issue stems from the irresponsibility of dog and cat owners, say representatives from the Bulgarian office of the international animal welfare organization FOUR PAWS. Ostentatious measures, like massive collection of dogs from the city center and into large shelters, will have absolutely no effect, if half a million Bulgarians continue to abandon animals on the streets every year.

According to Dr. Marina Ivanova, head of FOUR PAWS’ Stray Animal Care project, the measures that need to be taken in order to eliminate the source of stray animals are simple - mass neutering of stray and pet animals, strict control over owners, ban of the non-licensed breeding kennels and the trade with pets of unknown origin.

"Unfortunately, this doesn’t happen – from half a million offenders, there is not even one, that has been punished for having abandoned their pet," Dr. Ivanova continues. "On the other hand, municipalities started the mass imposing of show penalties on people who feed animals on the streets, without it having any relation to the population of stray animals. We have been insisting on the inspection of Sofia markets, where animals are sold, for months now. There are three such markets in the capital and its surroundings - Podeune, Goren Bogrov and the flea-market - all three are selling dogs of unknown origin. Such inspections were never organized, and they would have been particularly relevant before Christmas."

The FOUR PAWS experts are adamant that the population of stray animals in the cities is a result of the irresponsible breeding of pets in smaller settlements, as well as the lack of knowledge of their owners.

"Big cities attract animals, as they offer the necessary living environment, but they are not the source of the problem," FOUR PAWS’ representative Yavor Gechev says. "In bigger regional centers dogs and cats are kept mainly in apartments and this greatly reduces the risk of unwanted breeding and the subsequent abandonment of the offspring. According to the survey, owners there are more educated and financially well-to-do – and respectively, the number of neutered animals is bigger. On the other hand, four out of five dogs are kept in houses with farmyards in the suburbs or smaller towns. Their owners do not have the necessary means and knowledge to take adequate care of them, and the number of neutered animals is very low. "

FOUR PAWS’ data shows, that precisely where municipalities should be working the hardest, they are not taking any measures to solve the issue with uncontrolled breeding and abandonment of dogs and cats.

"Of over 260 municipalities, not more than 20-25% have taken any actual steps to solve the problem, and those are mainly larger cities," Dr. Marina Ivanova summarizes. "In most small communities there is absolutely nothing being done – there are no experts, no one seeks the assistance of NGOs or private businesses, and there are no penalties to encourage mayors to address the issue. It suffices to look at what is happening around Sofia - none of the neighboring municipalities have a running program for mass neutering of pets and stray animals, and the control over the breeding of pets is non-existent. Where do the hundreds of abandoned animals from these municipalities go?"