An overview of dog welfare situation in Bulgaria
The Sofia syndrome
During the last decade, Sofia roaming dog population is estimated roughly 10,000 animals. Since 2007, City Hall spent about 7 million leva to treat the syndrome while the core problem - unplanned pet breeding - remains unaddressed. Authorities do not consider adequate approach, e.g. providing both accessible low-cost neutering services and appointing dog warden services to discourage dog owners who allow their pets to roam outside unmonitored. It results in at least 10,000 animals that join unwanted dog population every year or a total of 50,000 new strays since 2007.
On the other hand, current number of sterilized strays roaming the streets remains undisclosed. Almost 17,000 were reported as neutered and released outside. All such dogs have no collars and tags, i.e. they are supposedly unregistered.
Dog population growth
While trends in companion animal management are broadly positive in Europe and North America, Bulgaria is not on track to reach the humane pet population control. The community has given all attention to the abundance of unwanted dogs in Sofia, and the promises to either neuter or destroy them. However, the over-breeding in owned dog population always remains the core issue throughout Bulgaria.
Anyone can obtain a dog, allow the animal to breed freely, and abandon or give away the offspring to anyone. There is a subpopulation of so-called "latch-key dogs" constantly breeding in Sofia's suburban areas, whose offspring is constantly repopulating the residential areas
The excessive pet breeding contributes to many animal welfare, public health and safety, environmental, and fiscal problems. It is very seldom to find an owned female that has not given birth to an offspring or few. The so-called "latch-key dogs" living in the construction sites and business yards are reproducing unrestrictedly.
The immense number of the animals bred by the pet lovers from their very birth exceeds the possibility for reliable ownership and have no chance to find suitable homes. Meantime the already grownups on a large-scale are quietly disappearing.
The direct consequence of the habitual pet breeding is an ever-changeable over population. The peculiarity of dog population is its striking inconstancy. Its makeup shifts very dynamically and the animal’s average lifespan is relatively low. Enough Bulgarian owned dogs are doomed to a short lifespan, suffering and death wherever that may be in the unlicensed laboratories, illegal fur mills or in a newly-opened shelter.
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.
A big part of the bred animals in a how-d'ye-do state of no registration check and dependable shelter add to an hidden overpopulation through ads for secondary adoption. In spite of the predominance of thoroughbred dogs in Sofia you could hardly find few in the Municipal shelter. Becoming bored with soon after they grow many owners pass their unregistered pets to whoever wants them. Parallel with all that, the re-homing is such an unpopular thing in Bulgaria yet; so we very seldom see "second-hands" to find anew a suitable home. Some form of collection and reduction, already exists - while throughout 2000-2004 in Sofia you may ran across many young Rottweilers, Central Asian Shepherds etc., since 2006 they became rarity.
Many unregistered animals let free by the owners add to the noticeable overpopulation roaming the streets. At the present there are very small number functional dog shelters in Bulgaria. Their supposed gross capacity is about 2-3% of total dog population and 5-10% of probable annual dog increase. No cats are finding their way in it at all. Despite of that, the left animals do not stay in the streets and yards for a long time, there is no concentration of different generations of unwanted animals, the old, sick, starving and dead animals are rare in recent years. Instead, so called "animal rescue" existing in Sofia, Plovdiv, Kazanlyk, Shumen, Dobrich, Ruse etc. - collecting grown up dogs with promises for their re-homing in Austria, Switzerland, Germany or Netherlands - has been also well known for years.
General public and true animal welfare community are unaware of the roaming dogs' faith. Unreported pound seizure and pet theft are suspectively the major activities of the local animal control services. For example, between 1 September 2006 and 12 December 2011, a total of 26,390 impounded dogs were reported by officials. Also no lost dogs reported as returned to owners.
At the same time, there are numerous registered cases in the Sofia City’s dog-shelter, that the animals kept in it are also falling as a live-stock to the illicit traffic. 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, as a mediator. In 1999-2000 in the same shelter there were disappearing two impounded healthy owned dogs; also there was a video showing tens of sedated live dogs, big and healthy, being boarded in a truck and loaded to an unknown destination.
Click on the next link to read an outside news article: Cheaper than mink or sable - fur coats made from dogs that were skinned alive - The Sunday Telegraph, December 18, 2005
More: Bulgaria country profile >>
More Views on Animal Control Issues in Bulgariq
Declaration from the National Association of Municipalities. National Assembly Chairman, Cecka Cacheva, and PM Bojko Borisov, get a written declaration from the National Association of Municipalities in Republic of Bulgaria (NAMRB) dated July 7, 2011. The association insists a national strategy for solving the stray dog problem to be considered as relevant national bodies to be charged with the responsibility in dealing with dog overpopulation. The declaration in Bulgarian language >>
Die Weltwoche: Paws Gone Astray. The animal protection organization "Four Paws" in Switzerland gets millions in donations. However, behind the touching stories of rescued animals, it looks rather than unpleasant: The organization is characterized by inefficiency, incompetence and bullying... [read the article]
"Chain reaction", The Sofia Echo, 25 September 2009
"Killers on the road", Vagabond Magazine, Issue 17, February 2008
"Practices for Stray Animal Control (Europe)". Louisa Tasker, author of this report issued by WSPA and RSPCA, summarized the typical approach presented in a group of countries ca. 2007:
"One country exclusively practiced catch, neuter, release of dogs (Greece). This approach was reported to be problematic because it appeared to result in owners "dumping" their dogs in areas "where they knew they would be looked after.
A further six countries (Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Italy, Malta, Serbia and Spain) operated catch, neuter, release in a limited number of locations, although the reasons for this were unclear, as were the problems encountered when adopting this approach.
The over production of dogs has not been addressed. Poor enforcement by the authorities does not encourage owners to follow regulatory requirements relating to licensing or registration of their dogs. Owners are not discouraged from letting their dogs roam or encouraged to neuter their pets." Read the full document >>
"Sofia street dog population is also down by half", Animal People, July-August 2007
Letter to Bulgarian authorities from the EP Intergroup, 2007
"Cheaper than mink or sable - fur coats made from dogs that were skinned alive", The Sunday Telegraph, 18 December 2005
Letter to Bulgarian PM from the EP Intergroup, 2005
Letter to Sofia City Council from WHO authorities, 2003