Partner spotlight: working with UNDP to help end fear of roaming dogs in Bosnia
I’ve just returned from Bosnia where there are thousands of dogs roaming city streets and thousands more languishing in poor conditions in shelters. There are advocates working their socks off to care for these dogs through catch sterilize and return programs, education programs and volunteering in the shelters and rescues – but it isn’t enough.
The sheer volume of dogs is overwhelming and the ones on the streets really frighten people. These interventions alone are not addressing the core problems at their roots and stemming the source of dogs on the street.
While some of these animals are social, basking happily in the sun at news-stands and crosswalks, being fed and watered by some kind soul, there is a very real problem of groups of these dogs chasing and biting people.
In fact, in some places people are scared enough that the Citizens Security Forums, which have been established by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in Bosnia and Herzegovina, have identified roaming dogs as a human security issue.
This is why I was there - to put the finishing touches on an agreement between the UNDP and the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) in an effort to help these communities develop practical, humane and sustainable dog population management plans.
A partnership with the UNDP is a perfect match for IFAW because they share our approach of community engagement and developing local solutions to local problems – they also have long-standing experience of working in Bosnia where the bureaucracy is complex to say the least!
Developing a plan to manage a community’s dog population is no small task, and implementing one is a long-term undertaking. There are no quick fixes. However, these communities want to solve their problems with their dogs and we are keen to help.
Last week our partners at the UNDP BiH met with the Mayors of Jajce, Gradacac and Lopare and representatives of the Citizens Security Forum from Sanski Most to discuss how we can assess their dog populations and community concerns associated with them. We also introduced them to our facilitated planning process in which we can guide their communities in the development of a sustainable, humane management plan.
Now we will start reaching out to other stakeholders in each community, listening to their concerns and thinking about the resources they have - municipal departments, health institutions, schools, veterinarians, community members who take care of the dogs in the neighbourhoods and people who shelter and re-home them.
Everyone’s concerns, expertise and input are critical to the planning process.
Our combined hope is that the UNDP/IFAW assessment will show that there is a real possibility of building consensus.
If a community’s stakeholders can come together and agree to plan together, we will lead them through a process by which they can develop a shared understanding of their local situation and align their agendas towards united efforts.
If they can collaborate with us to develop a community-focused, sustainable and humane plan, we will help them get started. This is not easy work. It means really listening to each other. It means collaborating. It means doing things differently. Each step is vital; because, despite the efforts of many, the current situation is clearly not working.
That said, there is passion and a very clear desire to find sustainable and humane solutions for these dogs – we’re looking forward to helping!
For more information on our projects to help communities and their animal companions, visit our Dogs and Cats page.