30 April, 2012

Dogcatchers’ Safari in New Belgrade – Attack on Human And Dogs’ Life (eyewitness testimony)

On March 13, 2012, animal hygiene team of “Veterina Beograd” (Veterinary Institution responsible for the affairs of public animal hygiene in Belgrade), began the dog clean-up action on the streets of New Belgrade (suburb of Belgrade), on two locations: at the Palace of Serbia (former Federal Executive Council building) and at the former site of the Energoprojekt Company in Spanish soldiers street.

Dogs at the Palace of Serbia used to live on a large construction site nearby, but when work on that site was finished, those dogs migrated to a deserted, unpopulated area near the Palace of Serbia.

They are the descendents of a small group of dogs that survived the massive strychnine poisoning in September of 2005, when “Veterina Beograd”, under the direct orders from the Department of Environmental Protection, got an order to “clean field”. A lawsuit filed by these dogs’ guardians, despite all autopsy, pathology and toxicology findings, as well as statements from witnesses, has not moved any further than the district prosecutor’s office.

For four days, March 13-16, 2012, at the site by the Palace of Serbia, “Veterina Beograd” dispatched 5 brand-new dog-catchers vans fully equipped with rotation lights, swarmed on this group of untrusting but peaceful, healthy and well fed dogs, and chased them through the field, wooded area and the shrubs that these dogs were hiding in. They chased them onto the two busiest four-lane streets, Mihajlo Pupin Boulevard and Nikola Tesla Boulevard. Causing 2 young dogs, on March 13, who were trying to run away from the speeding dog-catcher vans, to run into the heavy traffic on Nikola Tesla Boulevard and end up dead under the wheels of passing vehicles. The dog-catchers were directly responsible for the deaths of those two dogs and threatened the safety and endangered lives of everyone driving on the Boulevard at the time. Aside from the direct attack on the lives of people and dogs, the dog-catchers caused a tremendous trauma to drivers (and everyone in their cars) whose vehicles ended up killing the dogs. Trauma was caused to the people that were on the public transportation bus that was stopped at the traffic light at the time, who watched and were appalled at this horrid and savage campaign. Dog-catchers packed their “pray”, young dogs less than a year-old, into two stationary vans. Older, faster, stronger and more experienced at hiding dogs, resisted a few more days.

On March 16, they arrived at the Palace of Serbia with 2 vehicles, continuing to chase the already traumatized and tortured remaining dogs. With one of their vehicles, they hit the oldest female dog named “Big Mama” and killed her by breaking her neck. The eyewitness Aleksandra Dokic ran to the dead dog and snapped a picture before the dog-catchers removed it. At the scene, two dog guardians, Nada Prokic and Mileta Kusurovic were also present.

After they were done with the hunt at the Palace of Serbia, dog-catchers moved on to an “easier” job at the former site of “Energoprojekt”. This abandoned site housed a group of about 10 dogs, where all but one female were neutered, vaccinated and micro-chipped by the “Veterina Beograd” in the Fall of 2011 and earlier. These dogs are untrusting but non-aggressive, well fed and calm. They do not leave the enclosed space of the former site. In the autumn of last year, the guardians of these dogs contacted the dog-catchers, helped them catch the dogs using the blow-darts, had them sterilized in Resnik and returned back to the site. Dogs were returned to their habitat, micro-chipped in the names of guardians who assisted in this action.

And as in 2006, 2007 and 2008, the animal hygiene of Belgrade places a condition of returning all dogs to their previous habitats by forcing their caregivers to become legal guardians and accept all responsibilities of ownership. The difference now from previous decade is that, on September of 2011 City Council adopted the latest Strategy of dealing with non-owner dogs and cats in the City of Belgrade. As a direct executor of this Strategy, “Veterina Beograd” is required to work based on the Strategy guidelines. One of the specific goals of the Strategy is to legalize the street animal guardian status. Quite the opposite, “Veterina Beograd” for months now, has transformed the guardians into owners, thereby negating the purpose of this Strategy, as well as one of the two fundamental methods of the Strategy: Catch-Neuter-Release (CNR). On the other hand, despite the Regulation that recently went into effect (article 36, page 2) and conditions to be met by the animal shelters, “Veterina Beograd” does not inform dog guardians when their dogs have been caught. The whole problem has an economic aspect as well – catching and transporting one guardian dog is 5,500 Dinars (about 55€), one day at the shelter is 460 Dinars (about 4,5€).

On March 13, at “Energoprojekt”, dog-catchers started removal of all already neutered dogs, registered on guardians who feed and care for them. Using the blow-darts, they caught one dog on the first day and one more the next day. On March 15, traumatized but wise remaining dogs hid under some barracks seeking shelter.

When the dog-catchers discovered their hiding place, they started dismantling the barracks, by slamming on the walls and moving the concrete foundations, putting the hiding dogs in direct danger of concrete slabs collapsing on them. Poking and hitting them with wooden planks and iron bars, they forced the dogs from one end to the other, where they waited for them with ropes and wire cables. With a wire cable they caught one of the male dogs – scared and with bleeding head wounds, injected him with tranquilizer and threw him in the van. Since the eyewitnesses were in their way, one of the dog-catchers, Markovic, started insulting and cursing at one of the dog guardians – an elderly lady dressed in bereavement black clothes.

On March 16, another eyewitness Nada Prokic, who is also a dog guardian to several dogs, arrived at this site, previously obtaining permission at the gate to enter. At that moment, dog-catchers were dragging one of the long ago sterilized, a female dog Ema. When they saw Ms. Prokic, all but one (Markovic) dog-catcher stopped and stood there in silence. Markovic started using profanities at Ms. Prokic, screamed “what is she doing here” and called his supervisor at “Veterina Beograd”. He was told to call the police, which he did several times until they arrived at the site. Markovic waited for them at the gate and told them that Ms. Prokic is “interfering with their work”. Ms. Prokic was joined by another eyewitness, dog guardian Mr. Veselinovic, who tried to talk to the police. Entering the site, policemen Trajkovic (badge number 10 56 92), demanded ID cards from both eyewitnesses and asked them both to leave as they are trespassing and explaining that they are there “unannounced and disturbing men at work”. Ms. Prokic told the policemen Trajkovic that they did obtain permission to enter from the site guard, and were there as witnesses of savage dog-catching practice which violating several laws - The Animal Welfare Act, the Law on Veterinary, the European Convention, as well as the Rules of “Veterina Beograd” on how to capture animals. Ms. Prokic, having explained all that, refused to leave the site, but the policemen grabbed her roughly by the arm and, dragging her from the site, pushed her into the police car. The dog-catchers continued their action. Nada Prokic was taken to the police station, where she was held all morning under police guard – she wasn’t allowed to use the bathroom or was given any water. To complete the picture, Nada Prokic is an elderly, small and frail woman, a doctor and a retired professor from the University of Medicine. The other eyewitness, dog guardian Mr. Veselinovic is also a professor at the College of Mining and Geology.

On March 17, one of the dog guardians called Vladimir Terzin, Deputy City Secretary for public utility services, the animal hygiene sector, complaining about the savage handling of dogs by dog-catchers and use of steel rods, hooks and planks....Vladimir Terzin replied “We’ll knock down the barracks if we have to!”

The dog-catchers briefly stopped their “hunt” on March 21 and 22, but then continued their savage persecution of these dogs.

Veterinary Inspection, at the Ministry of Agriculture, Trade, Water and Forestry, responsible for overseeing the implementation and animal welfare, as well as Veterinary Administration, did not respond to any of the numerous letters written by dog guardians, about the Law violations by the “Veterina Beograd”.


The corpse of the oldest bitch named Big Mama. Dog catchers hit her with their car and killed her right at the spot by smashing her neck
The corpse of the oldest bitch named Big Mama. Dog catchers hit her with their car and killed her by breaking her neck.