Comment: What should we learn from a tragedy, and how Romanian politics got stuck on the stray dogs

The Romanian public is currently in shock over the killing of a child by stray dogs. The news is very sad, alarming, and at the same time, the results of this tragic event are, in my opinion, a dramatic mirror of Romanian society.

The tragedy touched me as it probably touched everyone else who has feelings and a heart. I will not comment on what happened, as I don’t have all the information and I don’t have the right to comment on the family’s attitude. Instead I want to note the reaction of the Romanian society, media and politics, which gives me tremendous anxiety.

Of course, this is a tragedy. The family has been destroyed.  We can only hope that, in time, they will find the balance and tranquillity needed to continue their life.

But I think Romanian society’s emotional and aggressive reaction does little to support the mourning family.

As usual, Romanians reacted very instinctively and divided between for and against stray dog euthanasia.

The two parties announced meetings and the already overheated situation – especially here in Bucharest – was further agitated by the so-called Romanian politicians, with help from the media.

The politicians, a pack led by the President and the Prime Minister, jumped to solve the problem behind the tragedy, in this case stray dogs.

But if you take a broader perspective, in my opinion, the stray dog situation isn’t the main cause here, as has been the case in many almost similar situations.

Remember the Japanese citizen who had a stroke and died because a stray dog in Bucharest.

There are many other causes, triggered by problems left unsolved for years in Romania, and the stray dogs are just a part of the puzzle.

I would group the causes in three batches, which, to me, derive from each other.

First off, in this country, politics tend to get tangled up in every event, no matter its nature and amplitude, which always causes people to choose teams, argue and make noise instead of solving the problem.

The entire hysteria however ends in cold silence until a similar event happens again and the unfruitful debate re-starts.

Then there’s the responsibility avoidance, which is very much part of the Romanian society and, more discouragingly, is becoming more and more an individual feature of many Romanians.

Also, there’s the lack of education in many matters, which leads to disproportionate reactions and measures.

Many Romanians don’t understand the proper role of education, including in matters of day-to-day life, such as knowing what to do when you encounter a stray dog.

These three are potential causes to this particular event. Unfortunately, the authorities tend to take general measures, which demonstrates not only incompetence but also a very dangerous and inflexible way of thinking.

The generalization, the punishment of an entire category has always been ineffective and generated conflicts.

The administrative measure of euthanizing the stray dogs is almost unfeasible. If one takes into account the number of dogs and the fact that it’s unknown where many are, you’re left with a very time consuming and very expensive activity.

At the same time, to cast off all guilt from all stray dogs in Bucharest (or entire Romania) is another weaknesses of the Romanian society in its ability to solve such matters.

But what have the local/national authorities and the NGOs specializing in solving the problem done in the last 23 years?

The everlasting arguments between them, the separated and, in many cases, contradictory actions are what have generated the present situation.

So this unfeasible administrative measure, protests, arguments and pieces of advice given during talk shows will again, not solve the matter.

What is actually funny in this very sad story is the so-called identification of the cause of tragedy …that particular stray dog.

This dog and its “family” (all stray dogs in Romania) are the only ones responsible, it seems, and there’s no human being, or institution to blame for this. Actually, if we really want to find the responsible for this event and find the proper solutions then we should ask:

Why haven’t Romanian authorities succeed in solving the stray dog problem in 23 years?

Why real and honest cooperation between authorities and the NGOs does not exist?

Where is the responsibility of the administrative authorities for the growing of number of stray dogs?

What about dog lovers – why don’t they assume the risk of taking in their houses these poor animals?

Where is the support (financial and medical) of the authorities for people who really want to take a dog but who could not afford it? I know a lot of old people who love animals but who could not afford keeping a pet because of their meagre pensions.

And the education system; wasn’t it supposed to teach children how to behave with an animal, how to take care of them, and how to be safe around them? To love animals, to take care of them, to understand their role in our life and world is an educational necessity and is a very important way to develop responsibility in our children. And Let’s not forget, this type of education should also come from family.

It will be difficult to answer all these questions, but a few measures to address some of these issues, both at a society level, and individually, are possible. Cooperation between local authorities, NGOs and individuals is possible to solve the problem. It should involve proposals for a rapid and feasible inventory of stray dogs, finding financial sources for sterilization of the female dog population, and motivating people to take stray dogs into their homes. Everyone should play their part in taking responsibility for in this matter.

Further, educational programs should be started for children, as well as for adults, teaching them how to behave with animals.

Concluding, I wish to say that we must assume our responsibilities individually and as a society too. We have to understand and accept that animals were created as we were created and we don’t have the moral right to take their lives. We must take our responsibility firstly to control and secondly to solve the stray dog problem, and, above all, to educate our children in the spirit of protecting lives.

Please don’t forget “Bless the animals and children!”

By Mariana Ganea, guest writer

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