The dog-related issues
BAPF is considering several issues that affect the pet population dynamics, i.e. the average pet's lifespan in Bulgaria as listed below.
Missing relevant positions
Ideally, owned dogs should be kept confined and not allowed to reproduce freely. Best practice in Western World includes appointing animal control officers (also known as "dog wardens") - local/municipal officers that are charged with responsibility for increasing compliance with the law among pet owners by regular door-to-door checks. It is neither established in Bulgaria nor discussed by authority. Instead, archaic dog catcher teams are operating across Bulgaria. All they are subordinate to the relevant animal shelter and serve it by simple and in some extend indiscriminate dog collection, while the sources of strays (e.g. latch-key dogs) remain unaffected.
Intransparent animal shelter operations
What are the true annual dog population growth rates in urban areas where, in most cases, the institutionalized animal control is in place? In fact, relevant authorities do not provide reliable numbers. The widely accepted non-transparent stray dog collection is in turn aggravating the ongoing problem with the dog population dynamics.
For instance, year after year thousands of stray dogs, including unwanted, abandoned and lost, are appearing on the streets of Sofia. The Law stipulates that their collection and disposition is under the municipalities’ jurisdiction, without clear requirements for accountability and reporting.
Since 2000, till now our crosscheck reference and findings on numerous occasions are leading to the conclusion about establishment of hurdles-free harvesting of great amount of pet animals, as a well-resource commodity. Dog collection, unreported pound seizure and pet theft are suspectedly the major activities of the local animal control services. For example, a total of 31,377 dogs was reported by the officials as impounded between 1 September 2006 and 31 December 2012. Of them, 70 pet cent were claimed as neutered and released outside. On the other hand, current number of sterilized strays roaming the streets remains undisclosed. Sofia stray dogs have no collars and ID tags, so they are unidentifiable and unmanaged in a humane and comprehensible manner. Also no lost dogs reported as returned to owners.
Animals impounded in the Sofia municipal animal shelter in numerous registered cases were involved in the illicit trafficking. In August 2004 BTV reported a scandal: an army officer gave to the shelter thirteen healthy army dogs, hoping to provide their re-homing. On the next day, asking for the situation with these animals, he was informed that they were "put down immediately, because of their pour health". Meanwhile the shelter was officially controlled by an NGO acting as a mediator. In 1999-2000 I witnessed a case of two healthy owned dogs that were impounded in the same shelter and then became missing. Amateur footage taken by Pavel Atanasov in 2000 and aired on Nova TV Channel revealed the Sofia animal control services' illegal activity by exposing scenes of spraying dozens of dogs confined in enclosures with some anesthetic substance, then loading them in a truck and driving away to an unknown destination.
The Supply & Demand interaction
The mass demand for pups and kittens by impulsive candidates is a live ongoing thing. Until 1990 in Bulgaria there was a restrictive control over the acquisition of dogs, which restricted the breeding and prevented the population increase. Since 1990 the careless breeding and unrestricted acquisition of companion and guard dogs have become a tradition. The painstakingly proper attitude towards the animals coupled with the frivolous one towards breeding them are demonstrated in numerous ads placed all over town and media in seeking for a match, offering offspring or giving away for secondary adoption grown ones.
Bulgaria has no legal policies regarding commercial pet breeding including licensing regime for dog breeding establishments. Anyone can obtain an animal with no registration required, allow the animal to breed, and sell the offspring to anyone. On the uncontrolled nationwide market are constantly offered and promptly dump for next to nothing or free an enormous number of unregistered puppies and kittens offered by the home breeders. All this leads to creation and maintenance of a hidden pet overpopulation – a true animal welfare problem that remains totally neglected by the community.