Dog populations in the area are, typically, poorly recorded but estimated to be anywhere from 6-8 million, the largest being in Romania, Serbia, and Bulgaria.
Free roaming street dogs
Free roaming street dogs are still perceived as a problem in the Balkans and South-eastern Europe. Although rabies cases are now rare, fear of dog bites, nuisance caused by noise and faeces and the aspiration to have streets free of roaming dogs, can lead to culling or removal of unowned dogs to overcrowded shelters with poor welfare standards.
Lack of responsible dog ownership
Responsible dog ownership is not yet well understood, with low levels of neutering. Thus, the source of the many free roaming dogs in the cities is mostly abandonment of unwanted pets and litters of pups.
Limited access to veterinary services
Access to reasonable vet care is limited to major cities and towns. Veterinarians in rural areas are still largely trained in livestock veterinary medicine in most cases, although this is starting to change. Veterinary standards are variable but vet practices with the ability to carry out good quality surgical neutering are insufficient in number.
There are still many dogs from the Balkans being illegally farmed, trafficked, and imported into Western Europe for sale, including the UK.
Dog ownership is high in the region, and a lack of understanding of dog behaviour and their needs has encouraged poor responsible dog ownership and maltreatment, leading to pet and litter abandonment, which adds to street dog numbers and further escalates intake at already overcrowded shelters.
We want to see shelters operating below capacity and able to provide appropriate care with the resources available that sets dogs up for success
What we’ll do:
Our endgame is for no dogs on the streets in the Balkans and the Southeast Europe region in the long term, with people behaving as responsible owners. We’ll begin by focusing our work in Bulgaria and Serbia.
Emphasis will be on provision of appropriate veterinary upskilling for quality surgical procedures, subsidised neutering of owned dogs, improving sheltering standards, dog welfare, and rehoming culture, and programmes related to mass awareness campaigns on responsible dog ownership (neutering, registration, and behaviour change).
Alongside the implementation through locally identified partners, we will also provide support to OIE for the Balkans roadmap for stray dog management, through provision of training resources and funding training events.
Cultural shift at vet, community and government levels are required but as demonstrated by Bosnia, are achievable and scale-able within 10 years.
How we’ll do it:
We’ll build on our 10 years of experience working in Bosnia so far, strengthening the relationships we’ve already established with local partners to share and reduce the costs overall.
We’ll offer training programmes to support the World Organization for Animal Health (WOAH) in the region
We’ll help to shift cultural norms and perspectives on the dog population within vet communities, the public and in government, too.
By delivering large-scale, linked-up, quality neutering campaigns for owned dogs with trusted local partners across the region to scale up activities, and encourage stakeholder buy in that takes pressure off of the already struggling shelter system.
If you are active in Bulgaria and Serbia, share our mission and would like to work with us, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org