Bosnia deliberates euthanasia policy for dogs

Bosnian municipalities have asked the UN Development Program for our advice and have chosen a path that brings their communities together and empowers them.UPDATED 12.10.13: The proposed amendment passed a second reading in the House of Representatives on December 6th. 20 delegates voted in favor, 10 against and 7 undecided. There will now be a first reading in the House of People on December 16th, after which will come an 'amendments phase' during which it may be altered and eventually a second reading. --RB

ORIGINAL POST: The Bosnian Parliament is considering an amendment to the 2009 law on the protection of animals allowing the euthanasia of dogs after they have been held in an animal shelter for 15 days.

This straightforward, single sentence change has provoked something of a blood lust in advocates for culling of dogs and outrage in those who care about dogs.

A 15-day wait before allowing the option of euthanasia is not particularly remarkable. In many more ‘developed’ countries euthanasia of dogs removed from the street is permissible far sooner. The important consideration is how this single sentence may be implemented.

Also on VIDEO: partnering with UNDP to help dogs in Bosnia

Will it be used as a humane end to the suffering of dogs incarcerated and starving in filthy holding facilities or will it be used simply as a hoop to jump though on the road to all-out culling? That decision will be made at the local level.

We know that there is no single solution for communities facing problems with dogs on their streets. All communities have different perceptions about their dogs and varying levels of tolerance for them.

There is a range of tools and everyone has their favourite:

  • promotion of responsible ownership through education
  • providing resources that encourage responsible behaviours
  • legislation
  • catch-vaccinate-neuter-and-return programs

but only a combination of several tools will make a difference and the right combination will vary by community.

We can’t tell a community what that combination will be. It needs to derive from their cultural context, their resources, and their relationships to each other and the dogs with which they live.

My time working in Northern Bosnia last month gave me a very personal insight into how two very different communities, Lopare and Sanski Most, feel about the dogs on their streets.

In both municipalities people are seriously scared of being chased or bitten, but most people also really like dogs.

The advice we’re giving in Lopare and Sanski Most is not how to solve the problems but rather how they can develop their own humane solutions to their particular concerns that improve animal welfare for the long-term.

Something we do know, unequivocally, is that removing dogs from the street by itself will never solve the problems. Without additional measures, dogs will continue to be lost, abandoned or just allowed to roam free by their owners (which is not necessarily a problem for the dogs!).

If removing dogs is used alone it will need to continue in perpetuity, whether it is culling or mass sheltering. If you just cull, you will be culling forever, causing rifts in your communities, trauma to those who care for the dogs (who are frequently children) and wasting resources on treating one symptom rather than a cause—forever.

Putting a community-appropriate, humane and sustainable dog management plan into action takes commitment and careful thought based on local information.

The municipalities that have asked the UN Development Program for our advice have chosen a path that brings their communities together and empowers them.

They are invested in understanding what they want for the dogs in their communities  in the future and energized about making that happen.

In both the communities we have worked with so far we have found that everyone feels uncomfortable about killing dogs, and they are willing to put in the hard work to find ways to improve relationships between dogs and people.

They are willing to sit in a room together and have difficult, challenging conversations to get there. Whether or not the law changes, how it is implemented will be in the hands of the people. Lopare and Sanski Most are setting the example.


For more information about IFAW efforts to help cats & dogs, visit our campaign page.

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