Experiences of an American woman who was married to a Serb.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Update on Stray Dogs in Serbia: Fewer but Happier

As I wrote in 2007, although I had a typical American horror of strays, living in Sombor Serbia for a few months surrounded by mostly sweet and jaunty owner-less dogs had changed my thinking.

The first thing I noticed on my visit this month was that there are far fewer owner-less dogs on the streets. In fact, at first I didn't think I saw any. I sadly asked my husband had they all been put down? I'd heard a mass round up and slaughter happens every few years when the Serb stray dog population gets out of control. "Oh no, not all of them," he replied. "That's an independent dog right over there." He pointed to a healthy-looking dog sniffing at the flower-beds in front of the cafe where we were sitting. But, the dog had a collar. I'd assumed it was somebody's.

Turns out, this past year instead of killing all the dogs, vets in Sombor, Belgrade, and perhaps elsewhere in Serbia did a mass spaying effort on the healthiest of the owner-less dogs. These dogs were fitted with identifying collars and then released to live their lives at their own discretion again. Some Serbs inveigh against spaying as a barbaric practice that robs a dog of its natural personality. This may be true, but spaying also has two benefits for the wild dog population -- not only will they cease to reproduce, but their potential for aggressive behavior toward humans is greatly lessened.

My sister-in-law, who had several scary encounters with feral dogs as she bicycled about her neighborhood in Novi Beograd last year, now fondly watches the wild, collared-dogs playing with a stick in the little park beside her building. Oh, now they've found a rag and are engaged in tug of war battles with it. Adorable. She tells me now that the dogs are less scary, her neighbors have begun setting out food for them.

For now, anyway, Serbia's solution seems to be working. At least, unlike America where generally all dogs must have owners or they are put down, there's a chance for a dog to live its own life in Serbia without leashes and obligations.

1 comment:

Nikola Gedelovski said...

Yes, sheer happiness in the dog heaven of Serbia. First the news of some gentlemen sportsmen giving the hangman's noose to 6 neighborhood dogs, now this "lucky paws" story.