Romania Chronicle of escalation

The streets of Bucharest call the situation of a civil war to mind: The local animal protection authority (ASPA) disregards the law killing stray dogs illegally. Animal rights activists thwart them - until the situation escalates


Click here to read the German version.


About 60,000 stray dogs only live in Romania's capital Bucharest, in total six million dogs are estimated to live all over Romania. The street dog problem has its origin in the history of the country. Nicolae Ceausescu, the former Romanian dictator, tore down a huge part of Bucharest's Old Town in the eighties. Hundreds of households had to give place to the largest building in Europe, the "parliament palace",. People were resettled in prefab apartments around the city where there was no space but for themselves. The consequence: dogs that had previously lived in the households were abandoned on the road where they multiplied in an uncontrolled way. The overpopulation quickly lead to problems: According to the local animal protection authority ASPA (management for the control and protection of animals) several thousand biting incidents happening Bucharest annually.

As a result, the killing law was valid until the end of 2007. Then, dogs were allowed to be captured and killed after 14 days in custody. Upon entry into the European Union, the law had to be cancelled as it did not comply with EU rules on the protection of animals. And the killing law did not show the promised effect anyway: the population could not be reduced.

Romania: Since the 10th of September 2013 thousands of dogs became victims of the "killing law"
Since the 10th of September 2013 thousands of dogs became victims of the "killing law"
© Moritz Münch

To bring the situation to heel, animal welfare authorities as the ASPA in Bucharest have received four million Euros since the end of 2013, above 600,000 Euros before that. The money was said to be forwarded to animal shelters to guarantee a good treatment of the dogs. Pictures of suffering and dogs close to death prove that the funds were actually misappropriated. - Insiders reckon, it went onto the personal accounts of influential politicians and their staff. Numerous volunteer animal welfare organizations, who settled in Romania around the millennium, cope with the problem differently: They call auxiliary and neutering programs to life. And their methods show effect: In the city of Oradea for example, it is thanks to "neuter and return" (geld and reset on the street) that the population diminished from 6000 to 350 dogs within the last five years. In Bucharest, a positive trend is becomes apparent: A large proportion of ownerless dogs are (visible by a mark on the ear)gelded , in order to avoid an enlargement of the population.

But animal rights activists know that this success is not desired by all parties,. The declining need for local funding to find solutions to the problem regarding street dogs is reflected on the personal accounts of mayors and dog catchers. A way to reintroduce the money bringing law is found quickly.

Tragedy at the right time

On 2nd September 2013 the tragic accident happens and the war against the Romanian street dogs starts again: The four-year-old Ionut Anghelwas allegedly attacked by a group of dogs - and dies from the bite wounds. Politicians and the press immediately blame the street dogs. Despite that, it has been proven and reviewed by the courts that guard dogs attacked the boy on a private property. Still, the Romanian Parliament recommends the "killing law" again.

Read on the next page all events in detail.

Chronicle of escalation

Bucharest, 2nd of September 2013:

The four-year-old Ionut Angel and his older brother Andrei leave the playground to go to the park. Set in private grounds on which they pass through a loophole in the fence, thus Ionut is attacked by a pack of dogs. He dies due to his injuries.

Immediately, the press and politicians make the street dogs responsible. The chase begins. Followers of political parties distribute flyers with populist slogans and false information. Their goal is to increase the people's aggression against street dogs more and more. Under the title "clean our city" and "our children are no dog food" the furious Romanians demonstrate as a result of which the debate about the reintroduction of the "killing law" reignites again. At the same time, however, doubts about the politicians' and the media's claims are expressed: Critics assume that Ionut's grandmother had left her grandchild indefinitely from her eyes. A re-enactment of the events shows that the children have passed through a loophole on a private estate nearby the edge of the park. The suspicion hardens that no stray dogs have killed the boy.

10th of September 2013:

After the funeral of the boy, the Romanian president Traian Basescu enacts the "killing law", also called euthanasia law "PL912". If captive animals are not retrieved by their owners or adopted after 14 days, they may be killed. But the state authorized mass murder of stray dogs in Romania encounters opponents, too: 30 MPs call for the examination of the law in terms of animal welfare. Also, the EU Health Commissioner Dr. Tonio Borg takes up a position. Although the European Commission had no jurisdiction, they can and will admonish member states to comply with the relevant international agreements,. He cross-refers them to the guidelines of the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), which prescribes that euthanasia of healthy dogs should only be used if other methods had no effect.

25th of September 2013:

The Romanian Constitutional Court legalizes the mass killing of stray dogs claiming they were consistent with the constitution. However, cities and the six sectors of Bucharest can refuse the implementation of the. Very few actually seize the opportunity to do so.

09th of October 2013:

The protests against the law spread beyond the borders of Romania. "Stop Killing Dogs Romania" is the motto of many international animal welfare organizations and private animal rights activists. First Europe-wide petitions start. The Association of FOUR PAWS mobilize 180,000 supporters up to today on But the addressee - Prime Minister Victor Ponta - refuses to respond.

November 2013:

Animal shelters prepare themselves. Killings are already scheduled for mid-November. The Bucharest authority ASPA employs 32 new employees - funded by local municipalities and urban households. Insiders claim that the dog catchers in the capital receive 50 Euro per caught dog. For Romanians, who earn an average of not more than 400 Euros a month, the dogs catch and -killing is a lucrative supplemental income now.

12th of December 2013:

The killings start before they become legal. Many animal shelters have killed all their dogs, others only those that have been there for a long time. One of the largest dog shelters in Bucharest (Pallady) is found empty.

14th of December 2013:

A huge demonstration in the square in front of the National Theatre in Bucharest brings together many animal rights activists. The live web cam, which usually runs nonstop and transmits to the Internet, is shut down by the government for this event. Later, the activists therefore organize almost exclusively via Facebook.

Romania: Meanwhile 67 percent of the Romanians wish the "killing law" can be stopped. Some of them demonstrate in front of the ASPA building regulary
Meanwhile 67 percent of the Romanians wish the "killing law" can be stopped. Some of them demonstrate in front of the ASPA building regulary
© Moritz Münch

1st of January 2014:

In Bucharest the big hunt for stray dogs begins. Even dogs that have been gelded and marked in the past or dogs, that are considered harmless, get caught and killed. Contemporaneously, the animal rights activists reorganize. Some work on lists: Those animals that were scheduled for the killing are taken into private animal shelters.

27th of January 2014:

The European Citizens' Initiative (ECI) "Ethics for Animals and Kids" puts pressure on the European Commission: The killings violated fundamental EU rights and the EU had to be called in.

11th of February 2014:

The Agriculture Committee of the European Commission calls for a meeting. Two new regulations for stray animals in the EU get decided: they are now no longer considered free-living animals or pets. This actually means that the protection of pet animals is a national matter. The EU Commission is obliged to be active only when there is a breach of EU law.

In public animal shelters of Bucharest (Pallady, Bragadiru and Mihailesti) are in an abominable state: dogs starve and die of thirst. A lot of heavy biting incidents take place. Injured dogs are not taken care of. Puppies are simply thrown away.

March 2014:

It becomes increasingly apparent: The public funds donated to animal shelters, that are supposed to be used for housing, feeding, castration, identification or euthanasia are misappropriated. The money is not invested in the appropriate treatment, but disappears somehow. Meanwhile, the killing methods applied exceed all imagination: mass killings by electrocution, starvation or targeted blows to the head. Some animal shelters kill all of their dogs several times a month.

Parallelly, the management of the district in which the attack against Ionut Anghel took place , lay charge against the estate's owner, the company Tei Rezidential, and the management of the sector 2: "Manslaughter" is the accusation. The court relies on a report presented by the animal welfare organization FOUR PAWS. The investigations at the scene confirm that the seven dogs were not strays, but watchdogs. The trigger for the killing law loses credibility. Pressure upon the government increases.

8th of March 2014:

Under the slogan "Yes, we care" people around the world protest against the killings of dogs in Romania.

21st of März 2014:

Several dog catchers of the ASPA break into a veterinary clinic of the organization FOUR PAWS. They catch the dogs in an extremely violent way, four of them die as a result of their injuries. The organization had taken the animals in their care and used the property for the castration of dogs. Supposedly, that has no longer been approved by the city since April. But a notification on this has never received the organization.

26th of März 2014:

The EU Commission rejects the European Citizens' Initiative (ECI) "Ethics for Animals and Kids" officially.

April and May 2014:

Many of the state-owned animal shelters refuse animal rights activists and refuse admittance to possible godfathers, although their official mission is to promote the saving of dogs. Instead, they kill by the yard.

20th of June 2014:

FOUR PAWS accuse the implementing rules of killing law to the Court of Appeal in Bucharest. Until the accusations are checked, the law is abeyance.

That same evening, the ASPA's cars nevertheless leave the premises. Animal rights activists observe them catching dogs. The ASPA CEO justifies his deeds: Until the court's reasoning is presented, he will exploit loopholes. Even some of the state-owned Animal Shelters react in protest: In order to avoid wasting money and killing illegally, they stop feeding the dogs. More and more dogs die from hunger or illness, but officially not by human hands.

24th of June 2014:

Animal rights activists start protesting on the streets. A group of Romanians gather for days in front of the premises of ASPA to document the illegal catches. They collect video and photo material for the trial - and almost every evening they find proof.

Romania: The local police saves the dog catchers
The local police saves the dog catchers
© Moritz Münch

01st of July 2014:

Razvan Bancescu, the head of Bucharest Animal Welfare Inspectorate ASPA, demands to be escorted by the police and national gendarmerie. In wild chases across the city, the police cover the illegal work of dog catchers.

08th of July 2014:

During the persecutions, Bancescu causes a serious accident in which two people are so badly injured that they need to be admitted to a hospital. In the presence of the police, Bancescu is furiously beating a woman.

14th of July 2014:

The ASPA takes Stericycle under contract. The company will take care of the burning of dog's body in Bucharest.

15th of July 2014:

German animal rights organization "Animal United" join the Romanians and follow the ASPA-car when they are suddenly lured into an ambush. Several men beat through the wind-shield and the windows of their car. They can escape but say they could have easily been killed had they not succeeded in escaping.

22nd of July 2014:

The Court of Appeal in Brasov initially places the law on hold. They want to validate the guidelines and implementing rules.

01st of August 2014:

Lawyer Brigitte Swoboda hands in a letter to court of the European Union. This is available for download here.

8th of August 2014:

The first German politicians intervene. Members of the party "Mensch Umwelt Tierschutz" travel to Bucharest for a visit and talk to animal conservationists . They want to collect the results of the discussions and discuss them in the EU Parliament.

09th of September 2014:

The trial in the death of Ionut Anghel begins.

Romania: One year ago the law started. Even its forbitten to kill strays today, dog catchers still go on
One year ago the law started. Even its forbitten to kill strays today, dog catchers still go on
© Moritz Münch

Today, 10th of September 2014:

A year ago, the law was passed. Today, the implementation is illegal – but stray dogs in Romania are still killed every day. According to the head of the Bucharest Animal Welfare Inspectorate ASPA, 16,000 stray dogs have been killed in the capital until the end of August. 2000 more are still in public shelters. They face the same fate. Bancescu publicly admits that about half of the dogs have been killed illegally after the repeal of the law.

The EU maintains their silence. When approached about the events in Romania, the EU replies that it was not their area of responsibility. The situation in the country was solely the competence of the Romanian Prime Minister Victor Ponta. But he's remains silent, as well - probably waiting for the upcoming elections in November.


Under the slogan "Yes we care" many cities worldwide protest and demonstrate on September 27 2014 again. More information is provided on:

Stay up to date:

"Map of Hope - Map of hope for dogs in Romania" documents all the events since the start of the killings: sowie

A review of nationwide campaigns and ways to helping are summarized at Netzwerk Europäischer Streunerschutz (NESS) together:

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