Promoting Responsible Dog Ownership in the Western Balkans


The Western Balkan region is not yet a safe place for stray dogs. Their numbers are high and they are unwanted by large portions of the local population. However, at the same time there are several NGOs working to improve animal welfare in the region. Thanks to their hard work and commitment, national and local institutions are beginning to understand the importance of Capture Neuter Vaccinate Return (CNVR) programs and some collaborations have been established in the last few years between NGOs and the institutions.

In Albania, OIPA’s partner StrayCoCo is implementing CNVR programs that are progressing well so far. Our two NGO Partners are Pro Qen Albania and Jeta Tier und Mensch. Together with Pro Qen Albania, we are contributing to the sterilization of more than 500 dogs in the city of Shkodra.  Jeta Tier und Mensch is very active in the area of Fieri and Durrës.

Dogs in Albania. Image via OIPA International.

The CNVR actions in Shkodra are taking place thanks to an agreement made with the Municipality of Shkodra to spay/neuter up to 500 owned and stray dogs this year. However, we must consider that Albania is politically unstable and further activities included in the agreement have not yet begun, namely registering dog owners and microchipping pets. The fundamental problem of the country is that there is no Veterinary Administration at all.

The partner NGOs are doing their best, in the mentioned places, but CNVR has no lasting effects without changing humans as well! Neighbor state Montenegro has started a registration program this summer, and we will see how it works out and what the effects are on the stray dog population in a few years. The mandatory registration of dogs began on June 1st, and microchips will be subsidized by the state by the end of the year, with owners paying two euros per dog. By the end of the year, the state will also finance vaccination against rabies, according to the Food, Veterinary and Phytosanitary Directorate. Read more on the mandatory registration of dogs in Montenegro here.

Based on the reports of Animal Rights Foundation (ARF) in Kosovo, the Food and Veterinary Agency of Kosovo has announced in a meeting that they will start their new CNVR program soon, in September or October 2019. This will be tricky though, because the current Prime Minister recently resigned. The political situation in Kosovo will be fragile for the 6 next months and this might stop some of the processes for stray dog or animal projects in general.

Puppies in Kosovo. Image via OIPA International.

ARF has started a petition to raise awareness about responsible dog ownership, by asking the Chief of Food and Veterinary Agency to start mandatory dog registration as soon as possible.

In Kosovo, we played a role in the abolition of a law that allowed for the killing of stray dogs in the country. It was replaced by a new and more humane law, which paved the way for CNVR programs.. The law was proposed and worked out by StrayCoCo, together with other animal protection organization and the support of a Human Rights Officer at the United States Embassy. But as in some other countries, the written word is seemingly without significance for the administration. Since the enactment of the law in November 2018, the state has done nothing to contribute to the planned CNVR program. The situation in the streets with sick dogs and puppies is disastrous, and the country, which wants to develop, cannot be recommended for tourists, as they will suffer if they like animals.

A few months ago, we helped three skilled vets create a professional association for veterinarians dedicated to small animal medicine in Kosovo. It might seem like no big deal, but you must consider the political and social context. Small animals do not exist in national laws, or in the minds of Kosovo’s veterinary administration, veterinary association and most veterinarians themselves. The creation of KSAVA is a hopeful sign, in a country where the overwhelming majority of vets specialize in large animals to give pets attention and train veterinarians how to treat them.

A dog is sterilized at StrayCoCo’s clinic. Image via OIPA International.

We believe that it is worth it to neuter not only strays, but also owned dogs, as they feed the problem of strays. It is for this reason that we are sterilizing as many free roaming dogs as possible, both owned and without an owner, though owners get only free treatment of their dog if they are too poor to afford any payment.

What we are trying to do in the Western Balkan region is not only a rescue program for single animals. In our view, it is far more important to change the mentality of citizens and the legislation on small animals and stray dogs’ management.

Our final purpose is to push the implementation of responsible dog ownership in Kosovo and hopefully in the whole Western Balkan region. For that, we need mandatory registration of dogs and their owners as well as breeders, microchipping for pets and punishment for abandoning dogs. We want a lasting change in people’s attitudes, as well as enforcement of good laws protecting animals.

Featured image: a dog sleeping on the street in Montenegro. Image credit adunt, CC BY-SA 3.0.

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