Romanian stray dog cull hits legal snag

BUCHAREST Tue Sep 17, 2013 3:23am IST

1 of 3. A woman holds her dog during a rally against a new law allowing dogs caught in public spaces to be put down in Bucharest September 15, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Bogdan Cristel

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BUCHAREST (Reuters) - A campaign to cull tens of thousands of stray dogs from Bucharest's streets after a 4-year-old boy was mauled to death has been held up by an appeal to Romania's highest court.

The boy's death two weeks ago triggered street protests demanding action against the capital's more than 60,000 strays, who bite dozens of people every day and are a deterrent for foreign tourists.

Last week, parliament passed a law allowing dogs caught in public spaces to be put down if they are not claimed or adopted within two weeks. But on Monday, the Constitutional Court received a challenge filed by 30 lawmakers from all parties.

"We have to avoid reacting en-masse through collective killing ... we don't want to see tens of thousands of corpses," one of the legislators, Haralambie Vochitoiu, was quoted as saying by the state news agency Agerpres.

The strays are thought to be a legacy of the late communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu's decision to bulldoze the pre-World War Two villas and houses of Bucharest's historic center in the 1980s to make way for a gargantuan "House of the People".

In the process, thousands of guard dogs were abandoned by residents who had been forcibly relocated into small apartments.

In 2006, a 68-year-old Japanese businessman bled to death in central Bucharest after a stray dog bit him in the leg. Two years ago, a woman in her 50s died of multiple wounds after being attacked by a pack of dogs.

Animal welfare groups say the solution is not killing the dogs but sterilising them. The court said it was likely to make a ruling on September 25.

(Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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