Why is a Sarajevo government dog service causing such panic?

A citizen of Sarajevo followed by a pack of roaming dogs. c. Steve Jenkinson

The BBC’s News from Elsewhere reported last week on the panic spreading through social media about plans to manage Sarajevo’s dogs.  

The Canton of Sarajevo, where there are thousands of roaming dogs, has announced its intention to establish a ‘hygiene service’ as is required by a law passed in 2009.

The law requires all municipalities to have this kind of service and requires that they should remove dangerous or sick dogs from the street. This doesn’t sound like news to some – many countries around the world require municipalities to have such services. Implementing a law that was passed five years ago sounds rather like just doing something that is long past due.

However, global social media chatter has been spurred by the fear and panic of some in Sarajevo that this might be the top of a slippery slope into a ‘catch them all’ approach. They fear that the great many dogs roaming the streets in Sarajevo would simply be rounded up. 

If all the dogs were caught, what would happen to them? 

While the law requires provision of shelters, Sarajevo is completely unprepared to humanely care for these animals the rest of their days. 

The fear is genuine, based on Bosnians’ first-hand experiences with the municipal treatment of dogs in the past; we won’t know for a while whether their fears are founded or not.

However, the number one reason people are frightened by the implementation of the law and all that is as yet unknown, is that people care about what happens to these dogs.

So great is their fear, that the wave of social commentary has been picked up by the BBC and has spread through the animal welfare community world-wide. 

Clearly many Bosnians care – Bosnians of different professions, ages and backgrounds – and we know this from the communities we’re working in with UNDP. The broad spectrum of people who come to our workshops represent equally broad perspectives on the dog issues.

They may have varied ideas about the problems as well as solutions to community dog issues, but the vast majority of Bosnians we have encountered care about what happens to the dogs in their country and want to see their Government offer services and solutions that are humane.


For more information about IFAW efforts to work on dog management issues with governments and communities, visit our campaign page. 

Post a comment


Cynthia Milburn, Director, Animal Welfare Outreach & Education
Senior Advisor, Policy Development
Jan Hannah, Campaign Manager, Northern Dogs Project
Campaign Manager, Northern Dogs Project
Kate Nattrass Atema, Program Director, Community Animal Welfare
Program Director, Community Animal Welfare
Shannon Walajtys
Manager, Animal Rescue-Disasters