Years after Romania’s stray dog problem was brought to the attention of international media, animal activists are fighting yet another battle with public opinion. The Romanian media is fueling the discord.
Ana Oros Daraban was attacked by a pack of dogs in Bucharest while jogging. A bite to her femoral artery was fatal and emergency services couldn’t do anything to save her life. The 44-year-old woman was an environmental expert working for the mayor’s office and left behind a grief-stricken husband and a young child.
The news of the brutal attack took the internet by storm, however, the information presented by the various media channels varies. Some claim the woman was attacked by stray dogs. Other channels state she was attacked by several pitbulls from nearby houses. Either way, the actions of the authorities following the tragic event are a blow to Romanian animal activists after they fought with international support to ban the massive euthanasia campaigns a few years ago.
ASPA (The Authority for Supervision and Protection of Animals) has been capturing stray dogs in the area and relocating them to no-kill shelters. Before the attack, the organization had been organizing citizen education campaigns, informing them of the importance of sterilizing the animals, of the consequences they could face for abandoning them and offering free and low-cost sterilization. ASPA’s adoption events from the past few years have been highly successful.
Despite the daily work of this institution that is under the coordination of the central municipality, the mayor of sector 6, Ciprian Ciucu, is criticizing it for organizing awareness campaigns instead of euthanizing the dogs. He also accused ASPA of falsifying documents but later admitted he spoke without knowing the facts. Ciucu is a mayor affiliated with the Liberal Party, overseeing part of a European capital where thousands of people live for weeks without heat and hot water due to a lack of infrastructure modernization.
While Ciucu continues to blame ASPA, he doesn’t say anything about the importance of the collaboration between them and the local and national police, which is almost nonexistent. The police’s responsibility is to report the stray dogs’ locations, check the legality of dog ownership (microchips, sterilization, vaccination), and apply the law where they find problems.
The conflict between animal lovers and those who want stray dogs euthanized has blown out of proportion in the days following the attack. The media channels give conflicting information, use clickbait titles, and share stories for the sole purpose of escalating the conflict.
For example, a large news outlet in Romania shared a story called “Revolting images at the cemetery: stray dogs next to the casket of the young woman who was mauled.” There were no dogs next to her casket. The article simply stated that there were stray dogs in the cemetery where she was buried.
Various news channels are running stories on how to escape aggressive dogs, urging people to scream and hit the animals, which is the worst and most dangerous way to approach such a situation.
Two cities from Romania, Cluj-Napoca and Craiova, are the perfect examples of how things should be done. The two cities started campaigns years ago to inform citizens of the importance of sterilization. The mayors’ offices, organizations for animal protection, and the police have been working together to avoid euthanasia and reduce the number of stray dogs in the cities. Thousands of people came together and aided the institutions through Facebook groups, where they inform each other of abandoned and injured animals, help with donations, foster, and adopt.
In Cluj-Napca, four such organizations help manage the number of stray dogs and place them in international adoptions. After 13 years of free and low-cost sterilizations, the number of stray dogs was reduced significantly in the urban area.