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The Romanian government has given the green-light to the mass killing of tens and thousands of stray dogs in the country's capital, The Associated Press reports.
The move comes after a 4-year-old boy was attacked and killed while playing outside a park with his older brother. In 2011, a woman was mauled to death by a pack of strays.
The law allows the state to round up the city's estimated 60,000 strays and have them put down. Despite hundreds of protesters urging parliamentarians to vote against it, the law was overwhelmingly approved -- by a vote of 266 to 23.
"We want a civilized capital, we don't want a jungle," Adina Suiu, a hairdresser in Bucharest told AP. "When I walk around my neighborhood, I am always looking over my shoulder. If we don't stop them now, we will be taken over by dogs."
Gabriel Paun, director for animal rights group 4Pfoten, told BBC News, a nation-wide sterilization strategy is necessary to control the burgeoning dog population.
"In the last few years we've castrated 100,000 dogs in Romania altogether, 10,600 of them in Bucharest," he said. "But it's not enough, this is a voluntary private project -- we need them to do the same thing at national level."
According to rescue group Any Dog, the cost of killing a street dog may be considerably higher than sterilizing it.
The city of some two million people shares its public spaces with an estimated 40,000 to 60,000 stray dogs -- a number that has ballooned since the fall of communism in 1989.
A Bucharest hospital spokesman told The Associated Press 9,760 people have been treated for dog bites in the first eight months of this year.
Romania Stray Dog Slaughter Approved Amid Protests From Animal Activists
Mickey Rourke pledging $250,000 to help Romanian dogs:
Mickey Rourke with his Chihuahua, Loki
Earlier this spring, Mickey Rourke changed the life of a single stray dog in Bucharest, Romania. When the Shepherd mix wandered onto the film set of the actor’s latest project, human and canine fell in love. Rourke adopted the dog he now calls Foxy.
Had he stopped there, we would have been satisfied — even inspired: He saw an animal in need and he took action. But he didn’t stop there. Rourke was so struck by the number of strays in the capital city — and the dismal quality of life they face — he decided to found a sanctuary.
The actor is putting up the first quarter of a million dollars himself, with the goal of raising $2 million, to create a football field-sized shelter capable of housing and caring for thousands of dogs. (Estimates have Bucharest’s stray dog population at over 100,000.)
Details are sparse at this early stage. It’s unknown whether a comprehensive spay/neuter campaign — crucial to stemming overpopulation — will be part of the plan. But Rourke has promised to return to Romania as often as needed to ensure the sanctuary’s completion and is already in talks to acquire a suitable piece of land. And he’s warning potential partners that this is an emotional endeavor, not financial. “Nobody will make any money from this investment,” he said.
No word yet on how to donate to the Wild Dogs of Romania Sanctuary.