Born innocent – report about the stray dogs of Romania

Finnish newspaper Iltalehti explored the situation of stray dogs in Romania.

Forceful article by journalist Pipsa Parkkinen.

People at the blue gate of Pallady public shelter.

First there is the appalling, strong smell. Then my attention is drawn to apathetic dogs laying on the floor, covering almost all of its surface. One is shyly wagging its tail but most of them are not interested in a visitor.

I am at Pallady, one of Bucharest’s public shelters where dog catchers bring free roaming dogs once they are captured.

The difference to the social and curious dogs that I met the day before is enormous. The Pallady dogs mainly sleep as if they had already given up. Some of the dogs are entirely covered with filth, some are very slim and some are limping. After the visit, I continue to think of a particular friendly dog that had a nasty-looking injury on its front leg. The dog hobbled on three feet and sticked its injured foot through the fence to get my attention.

In this kind of places the dogs gathered from the streets keep waiting – mostly for their own death.

A round of inquiry with various animal welfare people shows that my experience was hardly the worst there is.

Malnutrition and diseases

Eyewitness testimonies from the public shelters are simply horrible. Malnutrition is very common and some of the dogs have faded into skeletons. Some are so hungry they begin to eat other dogs.

Diseases are a common sight. Distemper is widespread in most of the shelters. Gastroenteritis and mange are also common.

Dogs are often packed tightly without any consideration whatsoever: big and small ones, aggressive and gentle ones, unsterilized females and males, all mixed up together. Female dogs in heat, lack of food and arrival of new dogs are all causing fights between dogs.

Dogs die of hunger and untreated diseases. Only the strongest and dominant ones get to eat. They are the only ones that survive.

Untrained staff treat the animals carelessly and violently A dog lucky enough to come out of the shelter may need a long period to recover from the mental injury caused at the shelter.

– The dogs are scared, I would say terrified, and even after we rescue them, many remain fearful for weeks, says Sara Turetta from Save the Dogs association.

During my trip, I met many such dogs.

Against the law

For an outsider the treatment of stray dogs and the authorities’ lack of iinterest in the situation is  confusing and seems extrajudicial.

Animal welfare has no place in Romanian society. The European Union has recommended Romania to follow the guidelines by the World Health Organization and The World Organisation for Animal Health concerning stray dog population management, but with no reaction from Romanian leaders.

This small dog was found next to a buzy road. Her eye was injured and it was operated in a vet clinicue in Bucharest.

The law that allows the mass killing of stray dogs was accepted at the end of September. Officially it must not be implemented before the government has approved the so-called implementing norms. (Editor’s note: The norms were accepted 11th December 2013.)

This has not prevented the public shelters to already get rid of dogs. This is what they have always done.

– Basically it is all the same whether mass killing is legalized or not. Dogs are constantly being killed without anyone intervening. Now it has only become allowed and approved to butcher animals, with the consent of authorities. There is no need to hide it anymore, comments Katarina Vallin from Pelastetaan Koirat association cynically.

Sick and traumatized Sara was rescued from Pallady shelter in October. Young female is slowly recovered physically, but the mental recovery has been slower than expected.

Dog rescuers on their toes

Authorities let public shelters continue with their questionable ways of working. Instead they have lately tracked down shelters that are maintained by private dog rescuers.

This has led to the dog rescuers fearing for the future of animal welfare work and their shelters. Authorities are urging them to seek a formal authorization for their shelters, but they suspect that the real reason behind such demand is to make it impossible for them to continue their work. This might happen by setting challenging requirements and then imposing fines when the requirements are not met.


– We are on private property, but because we have no fence around the shelter, they can come and do whatever they want, says Carmen Mandescu from A Doua Sansa association.

But there is an even bigger problem, if the knowledge of the shelter’s location spreads.

– If people who hate animals find out more about our shelter and the fact that it is not guarded, anybody can come and hurt our dogs, like it happened in April when some of our dogs were poisoned. At other times vandalists have opened the doors to the dog enclosures.

Next up Bosnia and Herzegovina?

The situation of Romanian stray dogs has been weak for years if not decades, but a couple of months ago things got worse.

People began to hunt and kill strays in the streets. Dog catchers enhanced their work and gathered free-roaming dogs into the public shelters.

In a European context there is hardly anything unusual about the killing shelters of Romania. The scale of the events in Romania may be massive in comparison to other countries, but same kind of shelters neglecting animals and serious animal welfare problems take place also in for example Spain, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Moldova, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cyprus and Serbia.

Within the European Union citizens concerned about animal welfare are eagerly waiting for a directive that would give the European Union the possibility to intervene more actively in Romania’s ways of abusing the animals.

At the same time in Bosnia and Herzegovina, a possible candidate for European Union membership, animal welfare associations fear that the country will follow Romania’s example in dealing with its own stray dog problem.

This article was first published on Finnish Iltalehti newspaper 22nd November 2013 and then online 7th December 2013.

Link to the article in Finnish:

Article, photos and video by journalist Pipsa Parkkinen.
Picture texts by Fifirock.

VIDEO: IL-TV visited dogs’ hell

More pictures from and about Pallady Public Shelter >


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