#Romania out of control!! #Bucharest - Brutal attack of municipal dog-catchers against German animal-rights activists!! Two German citizens and activists of the animal-rights organisation AnimalsUnited were attacked by municipal dog-catchers in the presence of hooded special forces of the local police last week. The activists were lead into a trap and attacked brutally. The animal-rights activists managed to save themselves with a smashed windshield, a bloody lip and further injuries. They are going to press for legal charges on grounds of a violation of human rights.

For several weeks, the German animal-rights organisation ANIMALS UNITED has been receiving information on near-rioting conditions in Bucharest, #Romania, by various sources. Under the pretext of civil safety, dogs are caught brutally and sometimes they are even violently snatched from their owners in order to receive a bounty equal to EUR 50.00 per dog. Afterwards they are brought to „#shelters“ – a trivialising expression for dog killing camps. In order to get an idea of the current situation in #Bucharest, ANIMALS UNITED decided to take action and support the work of the Romanian animal-rights activist Claudiu Dumitriu for some days. Last night, two members of ANIMALS UNITED, among them a 70-year-old board member and the Romanian animal-rights activist, were lead into a trap during their observations in their car and brutally attacked and injured by members of the local institution ASPA (Autoritatea pentru Supravegherea şi Protecţia Animalelor).

Together with his team, Claudiu Dumitriu, a recognised Romanian animal-rights activist and partner of ANIMALS UNITED, reached a legally binding agreement that animal-rights activists are allowed to accompany the dog-catchers of the ASPA – a measure to increase transparency. The members of the #ASPA, however, do their utmost to discourage the animal-rights activists. Trying to keep the capture actions hidden, they are started at nightfall escorted by the local police. Convoys of several cars overrun red lights with high speed in order to shake off the animal-rights activists. The special forces of the local #police are hooded and masked, they threaten to use pepper spray and keep trying to block the cars of the animal-rights activists to enable the dog-catchers to drive on untroubledly and strike by catching dogs. Intimidation and threats by the ASPA employees are happening daily. In order to save at least some animals from being killed, the German and the local animal-rights activists pursued the ASPA last night to document the events and to warn dog owners. The convoy could be stopped several times and dogs could be saved from the dog-catchers at the very last moment through the intervention of the animal-rights activists, who screamed loudly and protected the dogs. Many citizens of Bucharest supported them with loud screaming.

The activists of ANIMALS UNITED could not foresee that their work would end with a car chase through the city, which lasted several hours and during which the dog-catchers kept obsessively watching out for free-running dogs. Their clear intention was to find unguarded free-running house #dogs. There was no trace of an alleged number of 40.000 stray dogs – an amount used to justify the actions of the ASPA. Two cars of the local police drove in front of respectively behind the car of the activists in a narrow street. The police car in the front took up speed at the next crossroad and disappeared behind the next bend. When the car of the animal-rights activists arrived at the crossroad, the activist were attacked by the employees of the ASPA. Viktor Gebhart, one of the animal-rights activists from the association ANIMALS UNITED describes the incidents: „We were following the cars of the ASPA, when six dog-catchers suddenly ran towards our moving car. They jumped on the windscreen and bashed it with their feet, elbows and hands until it broke. We were suffering fear of death.“ One of them even managed to slap him in the face when he tried to film the incident with his mobile phone. The injuries on his head and legs had to be treated by an emergency physician afterwards. The most shocking fact is, that the attack took place in the presence of the local police, which failed to intervene in the fight between the passengers with the extremely aggressive attackers, which went on for 5 minutes at least. The activists managed to free themselves finally and fled to a nearby petrol station. An ambulance, the police and the press arrived shortly afterwards. The German Embassy, however, made the activists wait in vain and only asked them to be cautious via phone. The animal-rights activists are sure that the dog-catchers would even have gone further, if they could not have saved themselves. „They were so extremely aggressive that we really had to fear for our lives,“ says Hinrich Rieken, board member of ANIMALS UNITED. The members of ANIMALS UNITED filed a charge. After several hours of interrogation, the police escorted them to their hotel.

The ASPA – a municipal organisation of dog-catchers – has hit the headlines repeatedly in the previous weeks, as the dog-catchers stop at nothing to make a profit. Physical conflicts are happening regularly. The ASPA is determined to catch all stray dogs of Bucharest in order to bring them to so-called „shelters“. It is officially forbidden to kill dogs in these shelters anymore but the dogs are mostly abandoned to their faith – insufficiently supplied and under disastrous hygienic conditions they vegetate in kennels until they die. This action, which is cruelty to animals, was originally taken to free the city from stray dogs – the animal-rights activists could hardly find any stray dogs in the streets of Bucharest. The ASPA still tried very hard to find dogs at night, no matter if they were really stray dogs or not. During their visit, the activists of the animal-rights organisation ANIMALS UNITED found out that the dog-catchers tried to catch dogs on private property. Reliable sources also confirmed that the ASPA even forces their way into houses and steals dogs in order to receive a bounty of EUR 50.00 per dog. The German and the local animal-rights activists and most citizens are convinced that the ASPA is a mafia-like organisation with the intention to gain profits, sponsored by the city and apparently nationally as well as internationally tolerated.

Animals, which have been abandoned by humans, have led to stray populations, like in Romania. These problems were created by humans and therefore humans should try to get the problems under control in an animal-friendly way. Stray animals don’t live in freedom but they are confronted with fear, hunger, diseases and exhaustion every day. In order to stop further animal suffering, killing measures should not be the solution of the problem. Regular neutering actions and feeding spots are the only humane and sustainable solution. This is the only way to guarantee that the animals can live more and more healthy and peacefully on the streets and to reduce the number of offspring. Animal lovers should also avoid to buy animals from breeders but adopt animals from shelters and they should be neutered in any case. The Romanian authorities are urgently requested to start neutering projects, to inform the citizens, to address the problem by the root and to stop the current measures immediately, which have only led to violence and greed for profit. Romania is an EU-country in the 21st century, which must act accordingly. The European Union must not stand and watch when sentient beings are treated like that. „It is not acceptable that German citizens, who exercise their democratic rights peacefully, are attacked an beaten in a European country before the eyes of the local police without any intervention. Romania but also Germany and especially the European Union have to take actions in order to become aware of their responsibility for the welfare of the citizens. This goes for human as well as non-human beings. Violence must not be tolerated!“, says Viktor Gebhart, member of ANIMALS UNITED, after his treatment by the ambulance. The Romanian media have already reported extensively on last night’s incidents. It’s about time for Germany and Europe to open their eyes and ears and take action! Because compassion is not enough!