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Freeze all funding to Romania until a humanely compliant dog population control strategy is adopted

Summary

Every year, Romania receives millions of euros from the European Union to fight rabies.

As part of its rabies eradication programme, Romania has promised the EU to control its dog population.

For dog population control, Romania is applying only one method: killing.

According to unanimous expert opinion, killing is a very expensive and completely ineffective method of dog population control.

The law on EU subsidies requires the use of efficient and cost-effective methods.

Romania’s actions are in breach of EU law and ineligible for EU funding.

The EU Commission has a legal competence – and a legal duty - to intervene.

The fact is... 

The EU Commission, along with the Parliament and the Council, are aware of the continued failure of the Romanian government to find a sustainable and humane solution to the problem of surplus dogs in Romania. The utmost cruelty practised on a daily basis in various parts of Romania in the name of “euthanasia” of dogs is in flagrant breach of European values and of a number of international obligations binding on Romania.

By now, it is clear that Romania, an EU Member State, remains unable to solve – in a sustainable and humane fashion – an issue that has been successfully solved in a number of less developed countries. Effective handling of the free-roaming dog population issue calls for measures in line with international best practice.

The inability of the EU Commission, so far, to come up with a credible solution has caused citizens of many EU countries to question the entire justification of the existing EU legal framework. In particular, it goes beyond the limits of imagination of a growing number of EU citizens that

Romania, a country receiving millions of Euros of financial assistance from other EU countries every year is, at the same time, “entitled” to completely disregard a set of European values. Such values are enshrined in Article 13 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (“TFEU”), acknowledging animals as sentient beings.

To date, the Commission has not managed to identify any legal basis enabling it to intervene. However - and the Commission would certainly agree - it is our duty to intervene as soon as a valid legal ground is identified. 

On 23 January, 2014, a total of 211 European organizations co-signed a letter to the European Commission, urging the Commission to finally intervene in the cruel treatment of dogs in Romania. The letter demonstrates clearly that the European Commission has the legal competence – and a legal duty - to intervene.

According to independent legal research, a solid legal basis for an intervention already exists under Article 13 (Animal Welfare) and – in particular - Article 168 (Public Health) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. Other relevant pieces of EU legislation include, among others,Council Decision 2009/470/EC and Commission Decision 2008/341/EC governing the criteria of EU financial assistance to member states.

The letter sets out, from a legal point of view, selected options to establish legal competence for the EU Commission – at last – to take action in this matter.

In the letter, Romania’s current dog population control policy is referred to as “Catch & Kill”, in order to reflect its essential implications. Yet, on the face of it, the wording of Romanian legislation is comparable to legislation in a number of other countries. In our view, it would not be appropriate to defend an inhumane policy disguised by way of a purely “cosmetic” piece of legislation. Romania has decided to implement dog population control by way of removing hundreds of thousands of dogs. Whereas financing, facilities and new homes are not, in practice, available to accommodate the high number of dogs, the essential content of the policy is indeed “Catch & Kill”. Of particular relevance to public health are zoonotic diseases (animal diseases transmittable to human beings), notably Rabies and Echinococcus Multilocularis. Important lump sums are, every year, granted by the EU to Romania to co-finance its Rabies Eradication Programme. For the year 2013 alone, a maximum of six million euros was committed to be paid out to Romania. Romania has received EU funds for rabies eradication since the year 2007, and its current Rabies Eradication Program runs for a total of ten years (2011 – 2021).

Even in circumstances where wildlife (such as the fox) is a primary host of the rabies virus, the need to control rabies in dogs remains of major relevance. This is because the dog, due to its proximity to people, remains the closest point of contact between the disease and human beings (especially children). In more than 99% of all cases of human rabies, the virus is transmitted via dogs. Therefore, eliminating rabies in dogs is the key to preventing the disease in people.

By way of a condition in the Rabies Eradication Programme, Romania has promised to control its dog population. Romania is in the process of implementing dog population control by way of killing. Killing is an expensive and ineffective method, because the removed dogs are soon replaced by new fertile dogs. However, EU law calls for the use of effective and cost-effective methods. Romania’s actions are in breach of EU law and ineligible for EU funding. 

As long as the Commission tolerates this disguised Catch & Kill programme as a method of dog population control, Romania’s efforts to control its surplus dog population will continue to fail at huge expense to the taxpayer. 

Dog population control is explicitly listed among the measures to be carried out under the Programme. In fact, in Romania, Article 1 of the recently-adopted Methodological Norms (enabling the killing of the dogs in practice) clarifies as follows:

“The purpose of the present norms is to reduce the number of stray dogs,…, to reduce the occurrence of rabies and other zoonoses, to reduce the risk to human health”.

The Methodological Norms (the killing norms) were adopted to fight rabies and protect human health, and killing is NOW taking place across the country. Often this is death by grotesque means. Encouraged by governmental exhortation, this is being enacted in the streets, in shelters, in the fields and in the woodlands.

And YOUR money is supporting this! YOUR money!

The EU have the power to freeze this funding until a humane strategy in accordance with international best practice is adopted. But will they? Your voice can decide!

Your voice can be heard in the Hallowed Halls of the EU where elections are due in May!

Your voice can ask: "Which of these helpless creatures did MY money kill today? MY money! In MY Europe!"

Please sign our petition and join the 211 European organizations urging the Commission to intervene on the basis of the legal competence that we have laid out in our joint letter. The signatures collected via this petition will be forwarded in regular intervals by separate letters.

In addition to signing our petition, we would also be grateful if you would take the time to write to your MEPs (Members of the European Parliament) and to ask them to please pose the following four questions to the EU Commission: 

1. Does the Commission agree that it has legal competence to intervene in the issue of Romanian dogs based on EU legislation on Public Health? (If not, why not?)

2. Does Romania’s Rabies Eradication Programme mention dog population control among the measures to be carried out?

3. Does the Commission agree that Romania’s Rabies Eradication Programme should urgently be clarified by way of an explicit condition as follows: Romania must implement long-term measures at the national level for the management of the dog population in accordance with international best practice. In other words, the current “Catch & Kill” policy should be replaced by more efficient and humane measures. (If not, why not?) 

4. Does the Commission continue to exclude the possibility that EU funds are, directly or indirectly, being used to finance the multi-million euro “Catch & Kill” dog management business in Romania via local administration budgets? (If so, on what grounds?)

The letter to the EU-Commission including the list of signatories, as well as all other relevant information, can be found on our website, at:

http://europeancommunicationsteam.weebly.com 

We thank you very much, in advance, for your signature and your precious support.

Your European Communications Team

This petition was delivered to:
  • European Commission
  • Honorary Secretary of the EU Parliament's Animal Welfare Intergroup
    Mrs Marit Paulsen
  • Vice President of the EU Parliament's Animal Welfare Intergroup
    Mr Andrea Zanoni,
  • Honorary President of the EU Parliament's Animal Welfare Intergroup
    Mr Carl Schlyter
  • Honorary President of the EU Parliament's Animal Welfare Intergroup
    Mr. Januz Wojciechowski
  • President of the EU Parliament's Animal Welfare Intergroup
    Mr Pavel Poc
  • Eurogroup for Animals
    Mr Andreas Erler
  • Head of DG SANCO
    Mrs Paola Testori Coggi
  • President of the European Court of Auditors
    Mr Vítor Manuel da Silva Caldeira
  • European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy
    Mr Tonio Borg
  • President of the European Council
    Mr Herman Van Rumpuy
  • Expert of the Federation of Veterinarians of Europe - FVE
    Dr David Pritchard
  • Chair of the Committee on Petitions
    Mrs Ermina Mazzoni


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