Whose interests does serve the Mayor Fandykova's ''alliance for animals''?
This article was first published in Allvices, 10th July 2013
Ecoravnovesie, the infamous Sofia municipal animal control enterprise, released 2967 neutered stray dogs in the first six months of 2013, as its director Manol Nejkov told media. Catch-neuter-release approach is legally provided through the Animal Protection Act of 2008 as a substantial method in solving the dog overpopulation problem, while the over-reproduction in companion animals is left unaddressed. Local owned dog population is estimated about 200,000.
After taking office in November 2009, current Sofia Mayor, Jordanka Fandykova, reportedly inherited 8538 street dogs, as its predecessor, Bojko Borisov claimed few months ago. Two months later, Petyr Petrov, then animal control chief, announced the sterilization rate of unowned dog population reached 80 per cent, i.e. near 6800 neutered strays were already available outside.
Some might have thought about Mayor Fandykova's intention to alter the rest roaming dogs by performing some 2000 surgeries and releases in 2010. Since the beginning of 2010, however, reported releases already reached over 13,000. Ecoravnovesie claimed 2770 dogs neutered and released in 2010; and roughly 4000 in 2011. In 2012, Ecoravnovesie and Mayor Fandykova's inner NGOs reportedly neutered and released 3784 dogs. Sofia authorities became involved in a striking animal control scam that has no end.
Even more worrying, Mayor Fandykova's animal control system is likely involved in illegal practice of pound seizure, i.e. institutionalized animal abuse. The law does not provide standards for reporting annual intake and disposition of shelter animals. Municipality increased Ecoravnovesie dog catcher teams to eight in 2012, while reported shelter intake is unrealistically low. The teams are equipped with large caravans, e.g. Ford Transit 1994 edition. Reported numbers show not more than three dogs loaded per team in a working day - something quite unbelievable. This is a major concern from the point of animal welfare.
Mayor Fandykova rely safely upon unprincipled behavior of four rescue groups operating in Sofia. Those preferred municipal partners are not opposed to the opaque animal control practices diligently imposed by decision makers. Regardless their own claims, those NGOs are prone to perform any kind of stray animal control, rather than a determined animal welfare advocacy. In turn, Fandykova's team swiftly increased number of local animal control facilities to six, of which four were ceded to these quasi-autonomous non-governmental organizations.
Mayor Fandykova's animal control alliance took enough public funding for the period January 2010 to June 2013. However, practically all money were poured into the doubtful stray dog management, i.e. treating the symptom and not the cause. Ecoravnovesie enterprise was granted with 5.6 million leva plus additional, new-built animal shelter at a price 1.3 million leva. Municipality spent over 500,000 leva on renting the private holding facility operated by Animal Rescue Sofia. Тhe six animal control facilities maintained by municipality also absorbed undisclosed taxpayers' money for building repair costs. In addition, at least two of the NGO partners - Animal Rescue Sofia and Vier Pfoten Bulgaria - are known to receive some public funds for their own running costs.
As a true animal welfare advocate, Bulgarian Animal Programs Foundation (BAPF) confronts current trend and proposes steps toward reforming animal control at national and local levels. Best practices already recommended include establishing widely accessible neutering schemes for owned dogs and cats that involve private veterinary practices. This shall provide free and low-cost neutering services subsidized by the municipality.
BAPF also raises alarm over fatal shortcomings in animal-control related provisions in national legislation. Current law provides field control to be performed by animal shelter managers and their subordinated dog catchers that just deliver strays. A range of documents Animal Programs issued urge the government to enact "provision for appointment of municipal animal control officers charged with duties to promote responsible pet keeping and reduce owned dog's roam, i.e. education and law-enforcement bodies"; and "provision for standards in animal shelter reporting on intake and disposition of animals, regardless of individual shelter policies accepted".