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April 30, 2012

Finding Humane Alternatives for Street Dogs in Ukraine

Thousands of animal lives will be saved thanks to sustainable population management programmes

Humane Society International/Europe

  • Mark Jones (right) of HSI/UK was present, along with other partners, at the press conference held in Kiev to address the issue of street dogs. HSI

Located in Central/Eastern Europe and with around 45 million inhabitants, Ukraine gained independence from the former Soviet Union in 1991. However, the plight of its street dogs has come to the attention of the media in more recent times, thanks in no small part to the country's having won the right to co-host the 2012 European Soccer Championship tournament with Poland.

Ukraine has a growing economy that has experienced a significant urbanisation of its population since independence, with large numbers of rural people moving into the outskirts of cities looking for work. Many of these people will have brought their dogs with them, and the subsequent escape or abandonment of the animals may be responsible for a rise in urban street dog numbers. An accurate count is difficult to establish, but it is estimated that in Kiev (the capital and largest city) alone, there are from 12,000-15,000 dogs without homes.

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Reports of brutal street dog extermination practices being conducted by a number of municipalities in order to 'clean up' the streets in advance of the soccer tournament have naturally raised serious concerns among animal welfare groups and the public at large.

Helping make change possible

Successful solutions to street dog problems depend on the circumstances in the particular country, city or jurisdiction, the source of dogs, the reasons why authorities wish to control them, the attitudes of local people towards the dogs, the opportunities for rehoming, etc. HSI has a long history of developing and implementing humane and effective street dog management programmes using the principle of catch-neuter-vaccinate-release (CNVR), so when we heard of the situation in the Ukraine, we were naturally eager to see if we could help by offering our experience and expertise to Ukrainian authorities.

Joining efforts

Working alongside the RSPCA and a smaller UK-based animal welfare group called Naturewatch with a long history of dealing with dog shelters in Ukraine, HSI/UK executive director Mark Jones, himself a vet, travelled to Kiev in February 2012 to meet with representatives of the Ukrainian National and Kiev City Authorities. The aim of our discussions was to encourage officials to develop a well-planned, long-term, sustainable and most of all, humane, street dog population management programme.

It was encouraging to see that the Kiev City Administration had already put together a draft five-year programme identifying all the key partners who will be vital to the success of the campaign, including the relevant government authorities, veterinary authorities, existing municipal dog shelters, and non-government groups. HSI was pleased to be able to present further information which should help improve responsible pet ownership through education, registration and sterilisation of animals, decrease street dog populations through CNVR programmes where appropriate, increase rabies vaccination and awareness, and improve legislation concerning pet ownership, stray animal collection, housing, and, where necessary as a last resort, humane euthanasia.

Our meetings with representatives of the National Authorities were also encouraging.

Finally, we held a press conference in Kiev in order to help inform the Ukrainian public about the international concern for the welfare of Ukraine’s street dogs, the need for humane solutions, and what various groups are doing to try to help.

Next steps

HSI firmly believes that street dog management should be the responsibility of governments, and that the role of non-government organisations should be to help governments create humane sustainable programmes through training and capacity building. HSI, alongside our partner organisations, will continue to work with the Ukrainian government to help find humane solutions for the country's street dogs. Become an HSI Street Dog Defender.

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