Sarajevo: Intense manipulation with pre-election dog catchers

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Written by: Jelena Paunović

Photo: Jelena Paunović

At the recent press conference in Sarajevo, the Head of Canton Sarajevo, Premier Muhamed Kozadra and Minister of Physical Planning and Environment of Canton Sarajevo, Zlatko Petrović, outlined a set of procedures to be implemented to “humanely” remove potentially aggressive dogs from the city streets.

Minister Petrović informed the media that the public utility service P.E. “Rad” has legally registered a hygiene service to begin the work of removing dangerous dogs on Monday, September 22, 2014. With total staff of nine people, three teams will work in cooperation with the Veterinary Inspector and members of the CS law enforcement (MUP).

In a telephone interview for our blog, P.E. “Rad” representative relayed information that the hygiene service was unable to begin the work of removing dogs from the streets of Sarajevo on Monday due to unmet technical requirements.

Meanwhile, Canton Sarajevo for Inspection Affairs office confirmed that the emergency phone number (033 770 156) for reporting dangerous dogs is available to residents. Two mobile phone lines (061 145 508 and 061 160 926) are expected to shortly become available to residents for the same purpose.

To recall, Canton Sarajevo government allocated 88,000,00 KM ($58,000) for the establishment of P.E. “Rad” hygiene service. It is estimated that the annual cost will require 680.000,00 KM ($450,000).
Information Manipulation

While the full extent of falsehoods has not been confirmed, two unregistered hygiene services “Lokom” and “Komunalac” have continued to operate unabated. Each day we are receiving calls from Sarajevo residents informing us that the employees of these hygiene services are removing stray dogs to undisclosed locations. The number of dogs killed by these services has not yet been revealed.

For the work of the “nonexistent” hygiene service “Komunalac,” Sarajevo municipality Hadžići allocated 9000 KM ($6,000) for their work. Dogs removed by “Komunalac” are reported to have been placed in an unregistered “shelter” and access to the dogs has been denied. The relevant government bodies have ignored all requests by activists to gain access to the shelter.

In previous articles we wrote about the hygiene service “Lokum;” From the information we have previously gathered, “Lokum” is charging 75 BAM ($50) for catching stray dogs and “housing’ them in camps AKA “shelters.” “Komunalac” is charging approximately 120 BAM ($79), tax-free, for the same activities. Where did all of those dogs go? Of course, no one knows.

While the Minister continues to tell one story, the Premier tells another, and directors of hygiene services are maintaining their own. It appears that anything goes in the race for votes in the upcoming election. Politicians are creating a state of mass hysteria, acting as if Bosnia’s greatest problem is the stray dogs and not, for example, 100,000 people who were left without homes following the floods in May 2014. While people do not have a roof over their heads and 60% of youth are unemployed, the politicians, together with some paid-off media outlets, are ignoring their ineffectiveness as public servants and are trying to keep their seats on the backs of the stray dogs.

The entire state of Bosnia is covered in election posters. The posters contain the smiling faces of people who have brought this country to the brink of disaster. They continue to promise the impossible on all available political shows. Meanwhile, Canton Sarajevo government, whose building was set on fire during protests in February (yes, the work of our public servants is so “good” that Sarajevo residents burned the buildings of Canton Sarajevo government and the Presidency in February 2014), are now consumed by the election and are racing to manipulate the public at the cost of thousands of dog lives.

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People from all over the world are asking what is happening with the dogs. The most honest answer right now is that it is not clear. But, we will continue to report on any developments as long as our work continues to be supported.

In the meantime in Sarajevo…

Two days ago I spent an hour with stray dogs on the streets of Sarajevo. Every third persons, whether a Sarajevo resident or tourist, stopped to pet the dogs. One of Sarajevo’s most famous dogs, known by the name Vuk, was peacefully laying on the street and sniffing my camera. Next to us walked parents with children, but the dogs remained peaceful. Well, that is the only home that they know! After an hour, a woman walked past me and started to throw rocks at the peaceful animal, Vuk.

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Vuk immediately started to run away, but the lady ran after him and continued to throw rocks. I asked her what she was doing as she screamed back at me, “Don’t take photos, don’t take photos!” But, of course I took pictures of her.

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I did not report the incident to the authorities due to a meeting I was late for, but many people have recognized her after I published her picture on my Facebook page.

As I hurried to my meeting, I asked myself if she was that person who would report Vuk to the Canton Sarajevo for Inspection Affairs to have his life wrongfully taken away. Why? Is Vuk guilty because one insane woman is throwing rocks at him? But the real question is just how many peaceful and socialized dogs will be reported and their lives cut short now that everyone has the right to call in complaints to the government agency? This is what is going to happen when P.E. “Rad” becomes operational.

The nongovernmental sector is warning that the forming of yet another hygiene service and torture “shelters” will not solve the problem of stray dogs, but their message is being ignored by the most powerful media outlets. Even when they take statements from various activists, they are not included in the final reports in the media. The only objective TV house thus far has been Al Jazeera Balkans.

For those who are uninformed on the matter, P.E. “Rad” has a history of brutally killing dogs. “Lokom” and “Komunalac” have been killing them for the past two year. They have not killed them all. Hopefully, god will not allow it.

Animal rights activists are doing an unbelievably humane work and are helping those who have been condemned to lynching by our society. However, not all is so bleak. Ordinary residents continue to call me to let me know about the dogs they are looking after and will take a stand to protect them.

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If you would like to help Journalists for Animals in their work in documenting what is happening for animals in Bosnia Herzegovina, or to assist in any particular rescue effort or case, please go to PAYPAL and make a donation to:

journalistsforanimals@gmail.com

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