Animal rights activists abroad are also following developments in Romania closely, with social networks buzzing with protest over the apparent massacre of innocent strays. But those kinds of culling operations haven't even been undertaken. On Wednesday, Razvan Bancescu, the head of Bucharest's animal protection agency ASPA, denied such allegations. According to Bancescu, not a single dog has been euthanized since the boy's death.
Government Neglected Issue for Years
With or without the law, it is unlikely Romania will be able to solve its dog problem very quickly. In addition to a lack of money and years of official ambivalence toward the issue, cities and municipalities lack larger animal shelters and the staff to keep the dog population under control. Until Ionut's death, Bucharest employed only 12 dog catchers. This week, it quickly moved to increase that number to 44.
And Ionut's death wasn't the first case suggesting the city needed to take urgent action. In 2012, a retired woman died in the northern Romanian city of Sathmar after a dog attack. Two months later, stray dogs killed a six-year-old boy in an eastern Romanian village. In January 2011, street dogs in Bucharest attacked a female employee of a recycling firm, and she died three days later of complications related to her injuries. In January 2006, a Japanese businessman bled to death in Bucharest after a dog bit him in the popliteal area of his knee and ruptured an artery.
The stray dogs are just one of many difficult legacies of the dictatorship of Nicolae Ceaucescu. In the course of the country's forced industrialization under his rule, thousands of rural Romanians flooded into the cities. Beginning in the 1970s, old apartment buildings were torn down to make room for new high rises. Many of the people who relocated didn't take their pets with them -- they just left the dogs behind on the streets, where their population quickly grew.
Although many Romanians support the radical new killing program to solve the issue, animal rights groups like Four Paws are instead calling for a mass sterilization program. This, they argue, would stop the animals from breeding and enable them to live out their lives on the street.
One of the dogs involved in the attack on Ionut has already been identified. Authorities said this was possible because of a chip implanted in the dog's ear. But they also said the dog had been sterilzed and that it belonged to a Bucharest animal rights group. The group, Caleidoscop, had adopted the dog in 2008 and was obligated not to let it loose again. State prosecutors are currently investigating members of the group and may file manslaughter charges.