Interview with the Director of the Veterinary Office of BiH and the Head of the Representative Office of the Dogs Trust Foundation in BiH
We discuss about the problem of stray dogs, the state Law on Animal Protection and Welfare, which enables its solution, the people responsible for the implementation of this legislation and the reasons why this problem is continuously repeated, with Saša Bošković, Director of the Veterinary Office of BiH, and Anel Bećirović, Head of the Representative Office of the Dogs Trust Foundation in BiH.
Mr. Bošković, the Veterinary Office of BiH, as the highest Veterinary Institution in the country, created the state Law on Animal Protection and Welfare, which was adopted in 2009. Who is in charge of its implementation?
The implementation of this Law, like any other, is the sole responsibility of the authorities, in this case the local authorities, i.e. the municipalities. Municipalities and other local government institutions are the only ones with the obligation, right, possibility and resources to implement this Law and permanently solve the problem of stray dogs. This is why we are appealing to local authorities across the country, including various types and levels of Inspectorates, to start working seriously and decisively on this.
What exactly is the Law on Animal Protection and Welfare?
This Law, adopted back in 2009, brought progressive novelties in relation to the old system, which was based on inhumanity, destruction and did not act on causes. It prescribed effective measures to manage the dog population in a sustainable and humane manner, and thus brought BiH into line with European standards. Unfortunately, local authorities were not sufficiently educated and did not prepare themselves for its implementation, so they did not align their budgets and activities with the prescribed measures, which is why the problem escalated. It is important to emphasize that this Law protects both animal welfare and the community, because irresponsible dog keeping opens the possibility of risks that can and should be prevented by the Law. Inspectorates should pay particular attention to any unregistered activity related to animals, which often includes the illegal profiting of individuals or groups, as this is not in the interest of either animals or the community.
Saša Bošković, direktor Ureda za veterinarstvo BiH
Mr. Bećirović, how is Dogs Trust acting in BiH and what is the role of this organisation in solving the problem of stray dogs?
The Dogs Trust Foundation is an independent charity from the UK with 130 years of experience in the field of dog welfare and management, as well as foster care and rehoming of dogs. Since 2012, it has been providing its assistance in BiH on a purely voluntary basis, achieving very significant results, certainly helping to mitigate the problem for many regions in BiH where we were active, while improving the welfare of dogs. However, without the involvement of the authorities as the only ones responsible, and the only ones who actually have all the legal and other possibilities at their disposal, unfortunately such significant support, effort and investment, as well as
the results achieved, can be invalidated. If local authorities do not use our results and assistance and do not continue to enforce the prescribed measures of the Law after our activities are completed and the problem is brought under control, the problem will occur again very soon.
Mr. Bošković, how does the Veterinary Office feel about the support of the Dogs Trust?
The Veterinary Office supports the Dogs Trust Foundation, which has been the most active in BiH since 2012 in terms of implementation of the Law, i.e. elements of a legal, humane and efficient system for managing the dog population. We appreciate its purely voluntary, but very significant support that directly helps the implementation of progressive, domestic law, as well as a more effective solution to the problem of stray dogs, and which has an extremely favourable impact on the veterinary profession in BiH. However, I do agree with Mr. Bećirović: no one can replace the authorities, so the Veterinary Office remarks that with the significant help of the Dogs Trust, municipalities have the opportunity to fulfil their obligation in an easier, cheaper and faster way, as well as implement the Law and establish a self-sustaining system for dog population management. This is the only way to achieve a lasting and sustainable solution, based on the model of all European countries, so that this problem does not occur again as it used to happen.
Anel Bećirović, šef Predstavništva Fondacije Dogs Trust u BiH
Mr. Bećirović, you recently announced that after having evaluated the impact of your support, you are working on a new approach. What is Dogs Trust’s plan for the future?
While our support has helped bring the problem largely under control in many regions of the country, and through dog mass sterilization campaigns has prevented new litters, i.e. hundreds of thousands of new dogs, from entering the streets, we believe that our resources can be used even more efficiently. This is why from now on our plan is to implement our programmes only in those regions whose local authorities demonstrate in advance that they are familiar with the legal measures and that they have taken steps towards their full, consistent, continuous and transparent implementation. We believe that only in this way, our results will not be at risk of being invalidated, but actually maximized so that local authorities establish a permanent system that will ensure in the easiest way and with the least possible burdens on the local budget that this problem does not occur again.
What is your final message, Mr. Bošković?
The point is that community welfare and animalwelfare are closely linked. People are responsible, not animals. The problem will not be solved overnight, but only a legal and systematic solution can solve it permanently, and guarantee that the problem will never happen again. I remark that the unsystematic approach and sporadic activities, especially those that are not transparent, are illegal, inhumane, as well as economically completely ineffective. Using an already limited budget without a plan for a sustainable solution is at least irresponsible to citizens who elect and finance their authorities. Therefore, my final message is directed to the ones in charge in the municipal and other levels of local government: get well acquainted with the Law, start acting systematically in accordance with it, and use the valuable help at your disposal! I can't accentuate enough how much easier the job will be for you, and the budget costs lower, with Dogs Trust support rightly having a different approach from now on – i.e. helping those who want to solve the problem themselves and who are already actively working on it.
What about your message, Mr. Bećirović?
We believe that a community can only be happy if the dogs in it are happy. We believe that dogs do not belong on the street, but still, they are there, and not by their own decision and merit, as they do not have the capacity to do so. Only a systematic, responsible and consistent approach leads to a safe solution. In this regard, we invite local authorities to fulfil their obligation; on the other hand, those who have already launched specific initiatives in this direction are invited to visit our website and learn in detail about our new approach and how they can apply for our support.