Dalida Kozlic, lawyer and activist in BiH writes:
On June 30th the Government of Canton Sarajevo issued a decision ordering the hygienic service of Public utility company “Rad” Ltd. Sarajevo and Public company “Veterinary station” Ltd. Sarajevo to begin mass catching of stray dogs in Sarajevo.
Authorities of Canton Sarajevo admit they don’t in fact have enough places to put caught stray dogs and more details about the mass actions will be published on Monday.
What we do know is that the hygienic service of “Rad” will actively be catching stray dogs in Sarajevo, and to a greater degree than ever before.
The hygienic service/dog catching service of P. E. “Rad” Ltd. of Canton Sarajevo began working on the 14th of August, 2015. The assembly of Canton Sarajevo voted to establish this hygienic service in March, 2015, after the Bosnian media portals presented months of debate between animal protection activists and organisations and the government authorities. Canton Sarajevo’s efforts to establish this hygienic service failed in the autumn of 2014 after activists uncovered that the government had, in fact, issued an illegal decision to establish the service.
Most of the dogs caught by dog catchers of “Rad” are taken to the Cantonal veterinary station of Canton Sarajevo (Stup) where the dogs are examined and then taken to shelters for stray dogs.
However, the hygienic service of P. E. “Rad” Ltd. does not fulfil the conditions required for a legal hygienic service, conditions which are provided by the laws of the country.
The most disturbing fact is that the director of this hygienic service is the notorious Mustafa Maglajlija. He was the director of an illegal killing pound that existed within “Rad” until 2009. Dog catchers’ service of P. E. “Rad” was previously active until 2009, and became a notorious group of dog catchers who were known for their mass slaughter of stray dogs in Canton Sarajevo. All these atrocities happened under the supervision of Mustafa Maglajlija. Also, the headquarters of the new hygienic service are in the same building as that of the former killing pound which is now full of stray dogs that have been caught by the new team of “Rad“. It is impossible to enter to the facility but witnesses have confirmed new dogs are arriving all the time.
It is obvious that the government of Canton Sarajevo has established a new facility for money laundering that is trying to work in the same way as it worked until 2009. The dog catching service of “Rad” wants to establish the same policy of killing as the Lokom dog catching service established since 2013.
Mass catching of stray dogs in Sarajevo will cause existing shelters to become even more overcrowded than ever. These public shelters do not provide even the barest minimum of health and safety for dogs.
According to provisions of the Act on Protection and Welfare of Animals of Bosnia every municipality is obliged to establish and finance shelters for stray animals as well as hygienic services to catch and transport stray animals to veterinary stations and shelters. Two very important laws were legislated in 2010: laws on the establishment of and conditions within shelters for stray animals and hygienic services. Both laws provide very strict and humane ways of establishing and maintaining of shelters and hygienic services. Bosnia and Herzegovina has one of the best animal welfare legislations in Europe, but the reality is a very different state of affairs and animals within these shelters and caught by the ‘dog catchers’ suffer greatly.
This decision of the Government of Canton Sarajevo is an illegal decision because there are no shelters that fulfil the conditions required by the law. Before a mass action of catching of dogs can be organised, legal shelters must be built and a register of pets must be established.
When authorities finance the catching and placing of stray dogs in illegal shelters, authorities are committing criminal offences according to Bosnian criminal laws. These offences include cruelty to and killing of animals, money laundering and abuse of an office or official authority.
Article 318 of Criminal Law of Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina
Cruelty towards and Killing of an Animal
(1) Whoever severely maltreats an animal or exposes it to unnecessary or long-lasting suffering, or causes it unnecessary pain, or unlawfully destroys animals’ habitats in a larger scale or within a wider area, or kills animals contrary to regulations, shall be punished by a fine or imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months.
(2) Whoever perpetrates the criminal offence referred to in paragraph 1 of this Article for the bet or other material gain, or if, by the criminal offence referred to in paragraph 1 of this Article, the death of larger number of animals or protected species is caused, shall be punished by a fine or imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year.
In Bosnia Herzegovina there are many illegal shelters for stray animals managed by persons close to Bosnian authorities. Politically eligible persons construct so-called shelters for stray animals, which basically have the a function a concentration camp. The managers /owners of these shelters invoice for false spay/neuter programs, for food that will never be given to the animals; for veterinary examination and treatment, and at the end, a means for euthanasia.
Animals are tortured and killed in those shelters. Animals are beaten, cut, clubbed, and worse. Animals are not given adequate water, food, accommodation, they freeze or are exposed to extremely high temperatures. Animals are killed with wires, clubs, glass shreds, poison, firearms.
In the meantime, the local authorities finance people who own those shelters. In addition there are a number of illegal hygienic services which receive money from budgets from different municipalities. These hygienic services kill stray animals, but receive money for food, medications, treatment, catching of stray animals as well as their placement as if they are alive.
Praca shelter, the only registered and the biggest shelter in Bosnia has many problems. It is overcrowded, but at least people are allowed to donate food and medications for dogs, and rescuers are able help to maintain the shelter and provide food, but the situation is still not ideal by any means. This shelter should have been financed by all the municipalities of Canton Sarajevo, but after it was published how much of the budget money had been spent for illegal activities, the shelter was forgotten, but many new dogs were placed there. Apparently, dozens of new dogs are arriving at Praca shelter because of the mass catching of stray dogs in Sarajevo.
Dogs caught are also being taken to the shelter of Gladno Polje in Sarajevo. Rescuers also do their best to take care of the dogs here, but the situation is also critical. More dogs are coming in all the time and the money that is allocated for the shelter by the municipality authorities is not in fact used to provide food other necessities for the dogs and the shelter. Those funds are laundered by establishment of the shelter and authorities.
Because of money laundering through illegal shelters, Bosnian authorities in fact want to have more stray dogs on the streets, not less as they publicise to the citizens. If there are increasing numbers of dogs on the streets, then more dogs can be killed/removed and more money can be stolen.
The paradox is that the veterinary inspection and the police, while being obliged to prevent and punish illegal dog catchers, in fact support them and protect their illegal activities.
Activists are facing the biggest challenge ever and we are fighting against a corrupt system. Police officers and veterinary inspectors have filed a lot of minor offence warrants against activists who are saving animals and fighting against the dog catchers. Since the accusations are false and warrants are not filed in accordance with Bosnian law, activists will prove, before the court in Sarajevo, that the police officers and veterinary inspectors are involved in criminal activities.
The first thing the authorities and the establishment of “Rad” must do is to fulfil the legal obligation of transparency: which means that it must be possible for dogs caught by them to be visited and monitored by activists and citizens.
It is necessary to force the authorities to implement the law and provide a transparent and legal dog catching service and it is clear that we can only force them to do so by filing not only criminal reports but a private suit against all officials who are abusing their position.
The Bosnian law on Protection and Welfare of Animals is one of the best in Europe. In spite of this, a great body of evidence has been gathered and presented to prosecutors and the police about illegal activities. And while there are several on-going investigations into money laundering through illegal shelters and hygienic services, all these atrocities are still happening. It is one of the worst violations of the Criminal Code in Bosnian history.
International focus and help is the only solution for animals in Bosnia. It is very important that international animal welfare organisations, embassies as well as individuals press the Bosnian authorities to stop killing of animals.
The only way to protect animals in Bosnia is to force Bosnian authorities to actually implement their own laws. Rescuers and NGOs should be overtly involved in implementation of the law. There are so many projects and ideas that could be done in accordance with the law in order to control population of the stray animals in humane and effective ways. Those projects are available in both the short and long term, but the authorities do not avail themselves of these solutions.
The imperative is to stop the killing and to enable rescuers to have access to all shelters and dog catching services, not only is this a legal obligation of the authorities, but rescuers can actually assist with the monitoring of the shelters and looking after the animals. Authorities must take their responsibility for solving this problem.
Silence on many international subjects is something we all should worry about. Only public and international pressure can force authorities to start doing their job. People who wish to help Bosnian stray animals should inform their embassies, the international animal protection and welfare organisations and media, letting them know that the situation in Bosnia is not much different than in Romania and other countries where stray animals suffer enormous cruelty.
Rescuers in Bosnia cannot save all strays. So many more lives could be saved if the authorities are forced to implement their own laws.
HOW TO HELP: Please see this post What to do about Gladno Polje Shelter in Sarajevo? which has information on how to locate your embassy, and a draft letter you can modify to send, to them. Please address also your letters to the Bosnian authorities here:
You may add to your letter the following transcript of the speech Dalida Kozlic delivered during the session of the Assembly of Canton Sarajevo.
The problem of overpopulation of stray dogs is a direct consequence of the failure to implement, as well as a series of obstructions and misuse of the Act on the Protection and Welfare of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which has been lasting since 2009 when the law came into force. The Act on Protection Act and Welfare of Animals of Bosnia and Herzegovina is a lex specialis (the main legislation) in the field of treating animals in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Act, as well as related by-laws, are the main legal framework for all other laws and by-laws that are legislated by the legislative authorities at any level of organization of authority in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which regulate the relation, keeping and treatment of animals.
By attempting only a partial and non-systematic implementation of the Act, the agony of stray dogs on the streets as well as citizens will only widen further, and budget funds will be spent on non-purpose, illegal and unsystematic attempts to solve the problem. Instead of solving the problem with legal solutions, authorities have been financing the killing of stray animals in illegal pounds for years. Financing of illegal pounds is a violation of the provisions of the Act on Protection and Welfare of Animals, as well as a serious offence in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Failure to implement the Act on Protection and Welfare of Animals is the result of a series of abuses and obstructions as well as of the authorities dealing only with consequences and not with the causes of the problem, and the causes are the abandonment of animals, irresponsible ownership and uncontrolled reproduction.
Increased numbers of dogs on the streets is always and only a direct result of irresponsible ownership, and failure to implement preventive measures that are provided by the Act on Protection and Welfare of Animals, such as punishing those who abandon animals, the full identification of ownership and pets, spay/neuter projects with vaccination and tagging of stray animals in an appropriate form and number, and education and information campaigns which are aimed to raise public awareness about the causes of the problem.
The Act on Protection and Welfare of Animals very clearly and precisely provides solutions for dealing with an overpopulation of stray animals in Bosnia. The first legal obligation of authorities is to build shelters for stray animals, whose purpose is to care for stray animals until they are adopted. Conditions that all shelters must fulfil are provided by the Ordinance on the establishment and the conditions that must be fulfilled by shelters for stray animals in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Another legal obligation of the authorities is the registration of ownership of animals.
For seven years the State Veterinary Office has not enacted the laws on registration, micro-chipping and identification of ownership of animals Bosnia and Herzegovina, nor has established a unified register of ownership of animals. Abandoning of animals by their owners is a direct generator of the problem, and the cause of abandoning of animals is the policy of impunity of people who abandon their animals. The only way to solve this problem is for municipalities and cantons to establish their own registries of ownership of animals, and this will significantly contribute to improving the situation in the canton, and then the entity and state level. Sarajevo Canton authorities have already been offered software for the registration of ownership of animals.
If the registry of tagged animals and owners of animals is established, it will enable the identification, prosecution and punishment of people who abandon the animals. The implementation of repressive measures will directly affect the consciousness of citizens and achieve the functions of general and special prevention and repression. Because of the absence of a register of breeders, illegal breeding causes an increasing of number of stray animals. Irresponsible or unregistered breeders and breeding contributes to increasing the number of stray animals.
Although it is their legal obligation, municipalities and cities refuse to finance the construction and maintenance of shelters for stray animals because of poor financial conditions, but we witness everyday improper and illegal spending of budget funds. Also false information about the cost of maintaining shelters is published. If violators of the provisions of the Act on Protection and Welfare of Animals are punished, the funds raised from fines ought to be directed towards the construction and maintenance of shelters for stray animals. Also implementation of the Act of Protection and Welfare of Animals can be financed by funds collected from legally obligatory vaccination of dogs against rabies. Until shelters for stray animals are built, municipalities can assist by financing the feeding of stray animals, and authorities are obliged to implement spay/neuter projects.
If the shelters for stray animals, which must be “centres for treatment and adopting of stray animals,” are built and maintained in accordance with state regulations and law, and if there is an appropriate policy for establishing and managing shelters, the cost will be low. Quality education and raising awareness of the citizens will mean an increase in the percentage of adoption of abandoned animals.
Hygienic services are directly related to the existence of shelters for stray animals and because of this, the establishment of hygienic services cannot be an independent measure to solve the problem and to decrease the population of stray animals. Hygienic services must be established in accordance with the provisions of the law on the establishment and the conditions that hygienic services must fulfil in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The purpose of a hygienic service is capturing and transport of stray animals to veterinary stations and shelters. Certainly the establishment of a legal hygienic services is necessary, but hygienic services cannot exist and work without implementing all the other legal obligations of the authorities, especially without building shelters. If hygienic services work without implementing all the provisions and measures provided by the Act on Protection and Welfare of Animals, those services do not solve the problem and they are perfect grounds for different abuses and misuses of the laws. The working of hygienic service of Public company “Rad” Ltd. without full implementation of Act on Protection and Welfare of Animals represents an improper and illegal spending of budget funds.
Only by full implementation of Act on Protection and Welfare of Animals, misuse and illegal killing in shelters and hygienic services can be prevented. Also, all responsible authorities such as Veterinary Office, Veterinary inspection, authorised official veterinarians, police, etc., must be involved in the implementation of the Act on Protection and Welfare of Animals, and it is their legal obligation. Authorities have failed to fulfil their legal obligations and many authorities that are responsible for implementation of the Act have actually violated the Act on Protection and Welfare of Animals. Such illegal behaviour must be punished and prevented.
Preventing of abuse, which are particularly related to the fact that stray dogs can “ disappear” is only possible by consistent implementation of all the measures stipulated by the Act on the protection and welfare of Bosnia and Herzegovina, as the maximum commitment and legal responsibility for the implementation of the Law on the protection and welfare of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and these are the SVO, Inspectorates of veterinary inspection, an authorized official veterinarians, police officers and others. Such engagement is so far absent even in many of the cases which are violations of the law by those responsible for its implementation.
You should be aware that the partial and manipulating misuse of Act on Protection and Welfare of Animals, which has been in practice so far, only makes an even greater and longer-lasting problem. The problem of overpopulation of stray dogs in Sarajevo Canton can be solved by the registration of ownership of dogs, engaging a certified trainer for the protection of animals to educate people, assistance in developing of a strategy to solve the problem of stray animals and finally the building self-sustaining shelters for stray animals.
Without complete and consistently implementing of the Act on Protection and Welfare of Animals, the problem of overpopulation of stray animals will not be solved. It is important to end the illegal practice of partial implementation of the law which is a criminal offence and which causes the problem to become even more complicated and difficult.
Also there is a petition you can sign, but it is our experience these petitions do not make much difference. It is better to send emails and letters as suggested above.
Please read related articles/blogs on this site for more information:
Stray Dogs in Sarajevo: a documentary
Dog Catchers of Sarajevo: Latest news
Disturbing Irregularities found in Dog Catching Service of Sarajevo
The Dog Catchers of Sarajevo are Back
Pope’s Visit to Sarajevo Means Death for Dogs
Sarajevo Demonstrations Against Illesgal Dog Catchers
Former Military Base in Sarajevo involved in dog killing?
“DOG-CATCHERS” OF SARAJEVO CAUGHT IN ACTION!
AUTHORISED SLAUGHTER OF DOGS IN SARAJEVO
2014: What is happening to the strays of Bosnia Herzegovina?
Animal Advocates Assaulted in Sarajevo
Bosnia: Let’s Respect Animals and their Right to Life
Veterinary Office of Bosnia: is it possible to solve the problem of stray dogs?
The “Aggressive” Dogs of Sarajevo
The Campaign Begins With a Slaughter: You will kill the dogs, but what will you do with the beasts?
Stray Dogs of Sarajevo to be Killed in Election Ploy
Stop the Killing of Strays in Sarajevo
Bosnia: Sarajevo set to become the next Bucharest
BOSNIA: kill and slaughter until the dog is no more…
Bosnia Killing Dogs – No Different to Romania!
ANTI KILL-LAW FIGHT – NOW WHAT?
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This site is dedicated to Vučko. Read his story and don’t let him have suffered and died in vain. Please help the stray dogs and cats in Bosnia-Herzegovina. The situation there is utterly dire, Vučko is but one amongst many horrifically abused animals. Even just one dollar or one euro will help make a difference.