The following is a translation of an interview with Inga Dujmovic, Senior Associate of the State Veterinary Inspector for animal welfare in Bosnia Herzegovina.
Interview with Inga Dujmovic: Veterinary Office of Bosnia and Herzegovina has jurisdiction but so far we have not undertaken inspections of dog shelters
Published on the BiH media portal Taco.net 04/10/2014
Author: Predrag Blagovčanin
State law on the protection and welfare of animals was passed in 2009. This law clearly defined the solution to the problem of abandoned street dogs and a series of subordinate regulations were adopted which fully encompassed the protection of animals in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). We spoke with Inga Dujmovic, State Veterinary Inspector for control of animal welfare regarding the lack of implementation of the law for years, the work and jurisdiction of the Veterinary Office of BiH, the problem of stray dogs, and a number of other issues.
Interview By: Predrag Blagovcanin
Are you satisfied with the work of the federal, canton or county authorities as well as the work of RS Inspectors regarding the fulfillment of the Animal Protection and Welfare Law?
Regarding that question I can speak about an incomplete implementation of Act 38 of the law which obligates inspection authorities to document their oversight and report inspection results and measures taken for protection and welfare of animals to the Veterinary Office of BiH. We have received a very small number of reports in 2009 and 2010. Veterinary Office of BiH believes that the inspection authorities are conducting their jobs to the best possible extent and maybe there are specific sanctions issued due to violations of the Animal Protection and Welfare Law, but the Veterinary Office of BiH is not familiar with any such enforcements issued by the inspection authorities although by law we should be informed.
Why is the Veterinary Office of BiH unfamiliar with enforcement and work of inspection authorities?
Because we are not receiving the law mandated reports from the inspection authorities.
A significant amount of work is conducted by the Federal Administration for Inspection; however, those reports are cumulative from all of their oversight. Unless it is explicitly indicated, it is impossible to determine if the inspection was conducted in relation to animal welfare. Based on the provided reports, we are unable to see how many inspections are conducted under this law.
In May 2013, Council of Ministers of BiH adopted information regarding the implementation of the Animal Protection and Welfare Law composed by the Veterinary Office of BiH. Thereafter, all counties were mandated to issue summonses to dog owners to register their pets through local community councils. I am interested in finding out if that was accomplished and what is the general problem with the central registry?
As far as I am aware, that was only conducted by the Novo Sarajevo County. I am unsure about the remaining counties in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The terms for establishing a registry for the entire BiH are contingent on the existence of the protocol for identification of dogs and cats. That protocol is still in the proceedings stage. Hence, we are awaiting the recommendations of the entity ministries in order to move it forward to the Council of Ministries.
What is your opinion regarding the unconstitutionality of the 2008 Animal Protection and Welfare Law of Republika Srpska and its inconsistency with the State law?
The question regarding constitutionality can only be considered by the Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina if a hearing is initiated. In terms of inconsistencies, and considering the fact that the Animal Protection and Welfare Law on the state level was identified as one of the Action Plan priorities for fulfillment based on priorities for European Partnership with BiH and adopted by the Council of Minister of BiH as well as one of priorities to harmonize Entity and State veterinary laws, I hope that the Animal Protection and Welfare Law of RS will be harmonized with the State law.
At the July 26, 2012 session of the Council of Ministers of BiH, they were familiarized with Human Rights Ombudsman of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s recommendations regarding the fulfillment of the Animal Protection and Welfare Law and the related Veterinary Office of BiH’s goal to resolve the problem of stray dog population. What has the Veterinary Office of BiH done from 2012 to now?
Based on the recommendation by the Human Rights Ombudsman of Bosnia and Herzegovina and as the result of the misconduct under the Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Freedoms due to the lack of implementation of the law by local community councils, the Veterinary Office of BiH was not specified for shouldering the recommended measures.
Considering that the responsibility for regulating the stray dog population lies with the local community councils, as mandated by law and recognized by the Ombudsman, the Veterinary Office of BiH has tried to recommend and establish a common model for the implementation of the law during its meetings with local community councils given the difficult financial situation across BiH.
However, the scarcity of financial resources is always listed as the reason for the lack of implementation of the law regarding the care of stray dogs. In principal, this refers to the establishment of shelters as causing the highest demand for financial resources. For implementation of preventative measures, such as castration/sterilization and vaccination of stray dogs, the counties have more or less appropriated funds. Hence, we cannot say that nothing is being done, in some way they have been awaken by the Ombudsman’s recommendations and have begun implementing the law. The point that the counties are responsible for the implementation of the law is confirmed by a big number of payments to residents for damages sustained due to dog bites. So, the counties are processing payments as a result of court orders which further demonstrate their responsibility. Otherwise the court would not rule in favor of the claimant, namely the person who suffered a dog bite. Counties are well aware of this fact but are continuously maintaining the story of funding scarcity. However, if the law would have been implemented and the funds budgeted in a timely manner, it could have resulted in a much greater number of animal shelters that are not capped at 500 animals. It is important to stress that the cost for building shelters and daily stay of animals in shelters has been publicly overstated.
In your opinion, has the castration and sterilization of dogs been successful given that the number of stray dogs in Sarajevo has increased yearly?
Based on the counting conducted by Dogs Trust over the last three years, this year we have noted a decrease in four city counties where counting is performed. However, the number has overall increased as a result that dogs are being brought to Sarajevo. It is impossible to have such a big number of unsterilized dogs presented at sterilization programs in certain parts of the city. That means that when we announce a sterilization program, we are seeing adult dogs which after three years of sterilization and castration should have previously been sterilized. However, it is evident from the behavior and general state of packs consisting of five to six dogs that they have been brought from some other region. They are scared and unfamiliar with the region to which they were brought to. The notable aggression of dog packs is due to the fear and unfamiliarity of the region. These dogs, at least the ones I saw, are in a poor state, lack nutrition, a large number have skin problems due to neglect, but most of all they are scared. Therefore, these are not dogs from the city that are being looked after, and that is evident from their condition and behavior.
Does that mean that certain counties are resolving their stray dog problem by bringing dogs to Sarajevo?
That is the case and I think that the situation would be much better and we could see the results of sterilization if each county conducted sterilization as mandated by law.
What kind of collaboration exists between the Veterinary Office of BiH and animal protection non-governmental organizations?
The Veterinary Office of BiH has an advisory role in its collaboration with Dogs Trust to develop the program. We are attempting to point out main problems with implementation of the law and where Dogs Trust, as an experienced and knowledgeable organization, can help to resolve the problem. The Veterinary Office of BiH is insisting that Dogs Trust expand its area of operations to a broader region of Bosnia and Herzegovina and step outside of Sarajevo. Our opinion is that this would be highly useful to local communities, particularly due to the reason I previously mention that dogs are being brought to Sarajevo under the impression that the problem is being resolved in Sarajevo. In smaller communities, the source of stray dogs comes from abandoned puppies of dogs owned dogs, which are traditionally left “in front of strangers’ doors.” Veterinary Office of BiH maintains that the problem must be resolved in the local communities through castration of owned dogs to prevent population growth, and of course, the number of abandoned dogs. Those are two parallel lines that must be addressed.
Based on your knowledge, how many stray dogs are in Sarajevo?
Current estimates indicate that the number is around 8,000.
What are the legal procedures under which owners are punished for abandoning their pets?
If we are able to establish a connection between a dog and the owner, which is critical for punishment, the law has provided the course for punishment and has strictly forbidden animal abandonment. The ability to punish irresponsible owners exists and the essence of this law is to promote responsible ownership and to punish irresponsible owners. At the moment this is not possible because we do not have a protocol for registry which would require owners to register their pets. At the moment, in most cases, inspectors are unable to determine ownership of dogs.
Why has the protocol not been established?
I really don’t know how to answer that question.
Can we then say that the question of stray dogs is a matter of politics and not professionalism? Does it appear to you that this matter is being impacted by politics more than the profession, and that is the reason why the Advising Council and Ethics Committee has not been established yet?
It is obvious that this matter is being impacted by politics more than by the profession. Not the entire law, but exclusively the matter of abandoned dogs. Dogs are visible and if they were removed we would quickly see the result of someone’s work. The way that would be done or those results achieved is less important. This law never intended for dogs to be on the streets or to have the current situation as its aim. Had the law been implemented over the past five years and all measures applied as mandated by law, the situation would be different. In the first, second and third year we were not mandated to have established shelters, but by the fourth year we should have had a certain number of shelters; and if we would have consistently performed sterilization and castration, I don’t think that we would have this situation today. In the end, if Article 14 of the Law was implemented and aggressive dogs were euthanized, we would not have this many dogs in my opinion. By that I also mean stray dogs that are sick, meaning dogs with compromised welfare. Despite our good collaboration with nongovernmental organizations, we developed divergent opinions. In that sense the nongovernmental organizations assumed a burden that is not delegated to them by law.
After four years of not implementing the Animal Protection and Welfare Law, is it even possible to resolve the problem of stray dogs through the means mandated by law?
I believe that is it. Precisely because the law encompasses the entire population and has
exactly outlined steps for what is necessary to achieve this. I believe that if we begin fully implementing the law that the problem would be resolved, provided that we count on adoptions of which we must have more of. That’s precisely what I see the role of nongovernmental sector to be, and that its current focus should be redirected to adoptions in order to ensure effective shelters and a way for animals to leave shelters.
When we speak about dog shelters across the entire Bosnia and Herzegovina, how many shelters have been closed by the Veterinary Office of BiH due to violations of regulations for operating shelters?
The Office has not closed any, and neither have the inspection authorities as far as I know.
Have you personally visited shelters for abandoned dogs in Gladno polje and Praca in the vicinity of Sarajevo and what do you think about the conditions under which dogs are kept in the shelters?
I did not visit them. I attended the opening of Praca but I have not been involved in the oversight of those shelters and cannot give an opinion on their fulfillment of regulations.
Based on photographs circulating in the media, we can conclude that shelter dogs are living in inhumane conditions. Why are we seeing such pictures from shelters which are receiving significant financial resources?
From what I have seen in photographs, and I am only referring to photographs that I saw through media sources and internet portals, it is in fact true that those are inhumane conditions. First of all, those are unsanitary conditions and the focus on the facilities is not as important as the human factor, unkempt hygiene and the lack of the protocol for operating shelters. It is not enough to just build shelters. You must build an entire infrastructure of people to work in shelters in order for them to function. Especially because you are dealing with a large number of animals and there is an enormous amount of work. Hence, whoever goes into the business of running shelters must be ready for the fact that it entails a lot of work and that everything depends on the prescribed regulations. Conditions are definitely unhygienic and it appears that the shelters are over capacity.
Who has oversight over shelters and who controls work procedures?
Oversight is based on territories. These include canton level, republic, and county level inspector of Republika Srpska.
Does that mean that the Veterinary Inspector Department does not have jurisdiction over shelters?
Veterinary Inspector Department does have jurisdiction, however, we have not conducted shelter inspections.
Answer to that question must be sought from the Director of the Veterinary Office of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
You have mentioned microchipping of small animals. I am interested in why the Veterinary Office has not developed a protocol for microchipping of small animals given that the protocol was supposed to be established in 2009 when the Animal Protection and Welfare Law went into effect?
Microchipping, which means registering all animals on the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina, has been mandated by the veterinary law of Bosnia and Herzegovina since 2002. Therefore, this law did not dictate mandatory animal microchipping, but has reconfirmed that responsibility. In the respect of abandoned dogs and cats, the protocol on the registry of dogs and cats is a crucial component to implementing the law in a way that allows inspectors to do their jobs and to fill the budget through paid fines from the start. This law is not fully effective due to the fact that no one has been successful in issuing fines for the reasons I previously stated. We cannot connect an animal to the owner that abandoned it. The moment we are able to fill the budget through this law, I believe that the story regarding the inability to implement it would fall off or significantly decrease.
When can we then expect the implementation of the law?
When everyone responsible for the implementation begins to behave that way and take action, when we begin working on preventing the source of the problem, and not on resolving consequences of not implementing the law. That is the more expensive option.
Do you have a pet?
I do. I had dogs for twenty years, more precisely I had two dogs. Now I have a cat, but I am close to making a decision on adopting a stray dog. I am cognizant of dog ownership responsibilities and have been vacillating for a long time; however, I think that I have exhausted all of the reasons “against,” which in truth there have not been many.
As you can see from the photographs in this article, Gladno Polje shelter in Sarajevo is in terrible condition. It is but one of many public shelters in the country. Please see: Horror Camps for Animals in Bosnia and many other posts in this blog. The dogs at Gladno Polje are at least monitored by animal activists, but they need your help. Please join our FB Event: Help the dogs in Gladno Polje survive the winter!
And you can donate via YouCaring: Help the Gladno Polje dogs survive winter
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Related articles in this blog:
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!
Ambassador’s Notes: Embassy Sarajevo Views from U.S. Ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina
Jelena Paunović: I got bi’en by a dog in the election campaign / Jelena Paunović: Uj’o me cuko u predizbornoj kampanji
Masovni pokolj pasa u KS košta 680.000 KM / Massive dog slaughter in Canton Sarajevo will cost 340 000 EUR
AlJazeera: Kontekst: Problem zbrinjavanja pasa u Sarajevu (Context: The problem of disposal of dogs in Sarajevo)
Emergency phone numbers available for Canton Sarajevo residents to report dog attacks / Hitni telefoni za prijavu napada pasa dostupni građanima KS
Criminal Charges Pressed Against Acting Prime Minister in The Government of Sarajevo Due to Forming Illegal Dog Catching Service
Bosnia: Sarajevo creates unit ‘to catch stray dogs’
U državama u kojima ne vlada zakon prava, vlada zakon linča
Stranka za BiH: Odluka Vlade KS o uklanjanju napuštenih pasa je neustavna i nezakonita
Sarajevo: Podnesena kaznena prijava zbog formiranja ilegalnog šintorskog servisa
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