Canine control is weak as questions are raised about how well public shelters do their jobs.
After spending millions of dollars of city money trying to tackle Kyiv’s chronic abundance of stray animals, authorities admitted in November that they have failed to make headway.
Their new solution?
Throw millions more of budget funds at a plan to put strays into shelters that experts are calling an ineffective method of dealing with the problem, and more like a way to suck money from the city coffers.
That may not even cure anything, considering how badly money gets spent in this area.
“Not a single European country spends so much budget money on stray animals,” said John Ruane, director of British non-profit animal welfare organization Naturewatch, who met with Kyiv authorities and activists in November.
The amount spent annually on three communal companies to carry out the new policy is around Hr 8 million ($1 million).
The old plan – to sterilize street animals before releasing them – has been abandoned amid signs that it wasn’t working.
More than 3,000 people were bitten by stray animals in Kyiv in 2009.
In a July 22 story, the Kyiv Post reported that a massive sterilization program – part of a four-year, Hr 76 million effort – failed to sterilize more than 3,000 animals. No officials answered questions about why the program failed or where the money went.
In November, city authorities announced a new plan to tackle the problem – picking up stray animals and accommodating them at private and government shelters while looking for owners or sponsors to pay for the animals’ upkeep.
As well as three government shelters, Deputy Mayor Anatoly Holubchenko, who is in charge of the plan, said the city is negotiating with private shelters, which will be paid for their services.
In short, critics say, it is an expensive strategy that will do more to maintain a bloated bureaucracy than solve the problem at hand.
The three government agencies dealing with stray animals in Kyiv devour approximately Hr 8 million annually from the city budget.
More than 150 people are employed by these companies – Animal Shelter, Center of Identification of Animals and Kyiv City Veterinarian Clinic – with more than 15 offices all over Kyiv and Kyiv Oblast.
Animal Shelter houses 720 stray animals. Its 68 employees are paid salaries totaling around Hr 3 million per year.
The company has generated Hr 459,000 in revenues in 2010 by offering services such as accommodating animals whose owners are on holiday.
The head of the shelter, Olha Drozhdova, said it needs more staff to cope with its task of collecting stray and dead animals, as well as housing and caring for them.
“We want to create a collecting team in each city district, which is 10 more teams,” she said.
The Center of Identification of Animals, which registers domestic animals and people who care for stray animals, received Hr 2 million per year.
The center is run by Svitlana Berzina, who left her post as director of Kyiv zoo earlier this year after allegations of financial irregularities and a surge of animal deaths.
The company – which Berzina said was created “not for commercial purposes but for social ones” – employs 37 people, including a lawyer, two accountants and a secretary.
It occupies ten offices across Kyiv. Experts said this is a huge operation given that it is unclear what benefits registering brings for owners and carers.
By comparison, a private animal shelter in Hostomel, a town near Kyiv, run by pensioner Asya Serpinska accommodates 650 dogs and 150 cats at a cost of Hr 600,000 per year.
The shelter is funded by charitable donations and employs five workers along with a number of volunteers to feed and clean up after the animals.
SOS, another famous animal shelter situated on the outskirts of the city, houses around 2,000 stray dogs and cats. It employs 11 people – eight keepers, a driver, a veterinarian and a director – and costs around Hr 600,000 annually, which comes from the International Animal Protection Society SOS and donations.
Tamara Tarnavska, president of SOS, said the Hr 8 million spent on the three communal companies is enough to build two new shelters and sterilize several thousand animals.
She accused Drozhdova, who estimated 45,000 stray animals in Kyiv, up by 15,000 since 2009, of overstating the figures in order to get more money from the budget.
Tarnavska puts the number of strays at “no more than 15,000.”
Recently city authorities announced plans to merge the three companies into one with a minor cut of employees.
However, the heads of the companies have come out strongly against the plan, arguing it will cause the effectiveness of management suffer.
In most Eastern European countries, including Poland and the Baltic states, communal companies only collect animals from the streets.
They are then delivered to private shelters where they get medical treatment and the process of finding a sponsor or new owner begins. Shelters benefit greatly from donations and volunteers and get very little money, if any, from the budget.
British animal welfare expert Ruane said money needed for managing stray animals the European way is significantly less than the amount spent on maintaining huge bureaucratic structures.
However, city authorities argue that most Kyiv citizens support communal companies.
“According to recent public consultation on the matter, 70 percent of people prefer communal companies taking care of animals rather to private ones,” reads a statement on the Kyiv city administration website.
Ukrainian animal rights activists also claim people`s attitude towards shelters in developed countries is much better than in Ukraine.
“For some reasons, Ukrainians are very cruel to animals. They easily throw animals onto the street, or pass by a dying animal. In the West, many people come to shelters to look for a pet. It happens very rarely here,” said Natalia Mochneva, head of the SOS shelter.
Dec 10, 2010
This article in the Internet: http://www.kyivpost.com/news/nation/detail/92513/