Translation of an article and interview with Jelena Paunović on Tacno.net (09.03.2013) Ono što su monstrumi započeli u ratu sa ljudima u miru su nastavili sa životinjama
Jelena Paunović, an animal protection activist and pro-life fighter, we say pro-life because the person who does not appreciate life of an animal will hardly have respect for human life either. This brave woman proudly defies the primitivism she is surrounded with, protecting these innocent creatures from the evil of local people which nearly loses the sense of this word.
In her interview for tacno.net Jelena speaks about her struggles, about the lack of understanding from people and institutions of the system; how she will not give up, on the contrary, she proudly looks ahead and puts herself on the line as a shield for animals.
Realizing how serious the problem of animal cruelty is in our society, portal tacno.net will soon open a section devoted to this issue.
Interviewer: Predrag Blagovčanin
Miss Paunović, tell us more about your Association, mission and goals you stand for.
The association “Život” is registered in Bosnia and Herzegovina and is an association for the protection and welfare of animals. It was founded in 2010 with the goal to raise people’s awareness about animal welfare, about what animals mean, how important they are for our community and how much the quality of a society is displayed through the treatment of animals. However, this very goal of promoting animal welfare and education has taken a back seat due to the situation we have in the field. Hence I believe that despite of all the articles, statements and interviews, the NGOs in Bosnia and Herzegovina have not really moved further than simply saving animals from the streets, which are terrible.
Is there an exact number of NGOs and associations in Bosnia and Herzegovina that actively work to promote the protection of animals?
There are many associations. However, despite a common goal, methods of achieving this goal are different. And, there are many fakes. I’d like to mention the association “Help animals” led by Gordana Ristić. Mrs. Ristić has a shelter in Faletići that has been saving animals for a long time now.
I would also like to mention Mr. Velimir Ivanišević from the Association for Prevention of Animal Cruelty “SOS”. Ivanišević belongs to the old school of activists from which you can always learn something new. Without good teachers there is no good work.
I cooperate with all the activists in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Our paths simply cross and we all know each other. I believe that each of us does what they deem best. A good example of an activist and great humanist is certainly Daliborka Čolić. For years she has been helping dogs from Bosnia. The work of her Association “SOS Šapice” from Gradiška represents the brightest example for B&H that through consistent application of the Animal Protection and Welfare Act, with a lot of work, sacrifice and love for dogs, the problem can be solved. During a recent visit to her shelter, I cried and was left speechless. Let alone the tidy kennels, the healthy and beautiful dogs–one can simply feel the love for animals in the air.
Apart from members of associations, there are numerous activists working in Bosnia, doing more than their fair share of work every day. The informal civil group “Avlijaneri” led by activist Sanela Kotorić Etterle takes care of the dog shelter in Gladno Polje.
I will stop here because I am afraid I could forget to mention someone. The most important thing is that we are there!
It is obvious that the problem with stray dogs in Sarajevo has escalated to the point where they represent a potential danger for citizens. How can this problem be adequately solved to the satisfaction of both people and animals?
There is no alternative to the Animal Protection and Welfare Act which came in effect in April of 2009. The only way of solving this problem is consistent application of the Act!
If the Act states that all dogs (owned and strays alike) need to be tagged with chip or marker, then it is how it should be! If irresponsible owners were to be sanctioned, then people would not be able to do whatever they want with their dogs. There is no unified record of owned dogs either, and not all owned dogs are neutered/spayed.
And here we come to the second link in the chain, neutering and spaying. Municipalities put funds towards this purpose, activists do what they can with help of donations, however there is no systematic effort towards the solution of the problem. If we only sterilize stray dogs using catch, sterilize and release method, we come back to the source of problem, and those are owned dogs.
Rural areas are almost never mentioned. Maybe we will solve the problem in Sarajevo at some point, but what about the villages around Sarajevo? Talking with people from nearby villages we tell them: we will do vet processing of a dog (sterilization/castration, vaccine, microchip, pills against internal parasites, spray against external parasites), and you will only participate in paying say 50 or 100 KM (25-50 Euros/35-70 USD). Often we get the answer that someone “Would kill hundred dogs for that money”. Owning a dog means taking responsibility! Unfortunately, most people have not yet “reached” the understanding that a dog is a living being.
Often in the media we see statements that “shelters have not solved the problem”. To all those who feel that way I can say that they never will. Short and simple! Shelters are but a small link in the chain of solving the problem.
One of the most important links is education, and currently in Sarajevo, “Dogs Trust” is the only one working on education of children.
The last, but certainly not the weakest link, are the media. They are the ones who should promote the moral treatment of animals, promote giving them homes, respecting the Animal Welfare Act. And yet they do a very poor job on this. At one point we had daily titles in the media like “dog bit…”, “dog attacked…”, “dog slaughtered” etc.
Apart from social networks, you will rarely encounter necessary promotion of giving home to animals. Half breed dogs as well. Instead, we have situations like: “We love dogs but we do not want a mongrel, we will give a thousand marks for a dog, we will then play with that toy for a while and we realize that this toy pees and poops, we will throw it out on the street.” And when this dog ends up on the street, neither police nor the veterinary inspection will do their job, and us activists are back at the start of this story…
Because the institutions in charge refuse to do their job. The institution in charge is the Department of Foreign Commerce and Economic Relations of B&H. They are in charge for implementation of the Act. The Office for Animal Health of B&H is in charge of supervision. And the Act is implemented through official veterinarians. In the article 27 of the Animal Protection and Welfare Act it states that, if you see an abandoned animal, you are obliged to report it to the official veterinarian. However, there is a “catch”. Veterinarians who passed the Act now refuse to implement it!
Due to this you find yourself in a situation that once you inform the official veterinarian about irresponsible ownership, abandoned or lost animal, he calls the animal protection associations! Official veterinarians are by law obliged to implement the Animal Welfare Act. We however, do what we do purely for ethical reasons.
It is hard to react if we know that a dog is being attacked, that it will be put on a stake, that they poured boiling oil on it, slaughtered it or similar. Every reasonable being is haunted by things like this because you always believe there is something you can do. However, this is not our job and we are not supported by the budget nor does anyone pay us.
Lack of work and irresponsibility of members of the police also make our work difficult. Although they are obliged to react according to the Criminal Law of FB&H or Criminal Law of RS, they often respond to the reports with: “Are you calling us about some dogs again?” It is irrelevant that this dog was slaughtered before the eyes of children, for example what happened in Blažuj last year. Then we come to social services, psychiatry etc.
Dogs on the street is the problem of a non-functioning system in the entirety, and that is what people need to finally understand!
People offer their services on social networks to kill animals, has anyone reacted on this offer to commit murder? Is there a reaction from the police?
With more reports I hope there will be more response! There is another law dealing with this topic, and that is the Act on Local Government where, in Article 8, there is a mention of solving the problem of abandoned animals. Taking care of abandoned dogs as well as the series of preventive measures so it would not come to abandonment and unwanted offspring is prescribed by the Animal Protection and Welfare Act in which it is stated that part of responsibility for solving the problem comes down to municipalities. However, in Sarajevo we have a situation where only one municipality has its own shelter, and that is the Municipality of Ilidža. Now there is a contract that Ibrahim Hadžibajrić, the Mayor of Ilidža, made with Municiaplity of Istočni Stari grad, or more precisely with the shelter “Hreša” managed by Slaviša Jovičić.
What are conditions like in dog shelters?
I will just say that in no shelter prescriptions from the Regulation for Founding and Conditions that need to be fulfilled in animal shelters are fully respected. Here they first build the shelter with no conditions, and after this inspection comes a million times and requires improvement of conditions. I am very exclusive on this topic. If there is a Regulation, then it should be followed.
A little while ago the media reported on the conflict between representatives of animal protection associations and Mayor of Municipality Stari Grad Mr. Hadžibajrić. Can you tell us more about this conflict?
I would not call it a conflict. In the democratic system, every private person and everyone from the NGO sector has full right to indicate incorrect spending of the budget. We can say “poor dogs from Stari Grad” but that is just one side of the coin which, in this case, is not so interesting. Maybe to me personally, but not to the social community that fills up this same budget. However, when you say OK, so where is the money from the budget, then that is something else.
We have a very specific situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina. There is a law on the state level that is somewhat observed in Federation and we have the first draft of the Act from 2008 which is in force in RS. However, in RS this Act was never harmonized with the state law. This means that in RS there is the “kill” system (both healthy and sick dogs are euthanized after 30 days). There is no euthanasia in Federation, unless a veterinarian believes this to be only option.
I personally believe that Hadžibajrić found a hole in the law and signed this unfortunate agreement with “Hreša”. Why unfortunate? Maybe it would all be fine if no one from the municipalities in RS did not sign the agreement or protocol about cooperation with this same shelter. No one probably expected that activists would not allow for killing of the dogs!
Recently members of the Association “Life is Life” stated on “Oslobođenje” that Novo Sarajevo is in negotiations with the shelter “Hreša”. The Mayor of the Municipality Novi Grad, Semir Efendić, also publicaly stated that they will sign agreement with them. So we have a mathematical and logical question: how can eighteen kennels solve the problem of dogs from Bosnia and Herzegovina?
In the whole “Hreša case”, the important role is played by the signing of a cooperation protocol between the shelters in Prača (Sarajevo) and in Hreša. Since I did not see this protocol, I do not know all the details and I can only speak about what has been said in public. From what I gathered from everything that has been published, Hreša will collect dogs, Prača will take them over (they call it dog transfer!), the association “Life is Life” will ask for donations of blankets and food, and Slaviša Jovičić of Hreša shelter will take money from all possible budgets and spend them as he wills! I fail to see any logic there. Apart from what is obvious.
Despite how much any activist may love dogs and want to help them, we cannot give legitimacy to illegal activities by jumping under the bus! If all the activists had not in the past and continue every day to play Mother Theresa – institutions in charge would have to solve the problem a long time ago. In this way, the situation moved out of their hands.
So we have laws on all possible levels and the problem arises from implementation of these laws. However, does this law completely protect animals?
We have a great state law and animals are completely protected on the paper. Before the law we had a hideous rendering plant that had killed dogs for 50 years. So they had been killing dogs for 50 years and yet still did not kill them all! Killing is not a solution! They were receiving up to million KM from the budget every year. That is the fact that is rarely mentioned. And also a few people know that people trained in RSPCA program captured dogs with wires, tore off their legs, and strangled them in front of citizens. “Hreša” was this type of facility until recently! I could never imagine myself as having any kind of cooperation with murderers.
I had to mention this, and the concrete answer is that Animal Protection and Welfare Act with all relating sub acts is very clearly defined. There is no killing and no torturing! And yet practice shows that fire crackers are being put in dog mouths, that children are being cruel with dogs, that dogs are raped with umbrellas… Only when you see what people do to animals, you realize how degenerate the society we live in is.
What monsters have started during the war, they have continued now with animals in my opinion. I will quote Velimir Ivanišević who says : “Animal cruelty is training for cruelty over people.” They start with picking out eyes of pigeons, raping dogs with umbrellas, then they rape their sister and in the end they kill their mother. It is simply the way it is.
The subject does not exist, and as for teachers, I cannot say: teachers in Unsko-Sanski Canton love animals. We can only speak about this on individual level. An organization from Great Britain, “Dogs Trust”, came here last year and they do this type of education on the area of Sarajevo Canton, As for our NGO sector, we have a lot of work, but when we have time, we organize a lecture or a forum.
We have information that animal activists are being threatened, what it is like to live under the pressure and threats made on life just because you are a humanist?
If someone looked at my Facebook profile they would maybe say: “Great, she helps animals”. But for some it represents an attack on position and possible review of money flow. And at that point this story receives a whole different dimension.