According to Romania’s Authority for Animal Surveillance and Protection (ASPA), more than 2,000 dogs have been euthanized in the country’s capital of Bucharest, and roughly 2,800 more are being held in the city’s three state-funded pounds. An estimated 64,000 more roam the streets of the Romanian capital.
The Eastern European nation has had a stray dog epidemic in the years after the late communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu ordered the relocation of over 40,000 people from their homes to “House of the People” cramped apartment towers, most of which did not permit dogs, The Atlantic Cities reports.
Then, following Romania’s 1989 revolution, the debt-saddled nation found themselves with very limited government funds, making animal control a low priority. Thousands of intact dogs reproduced at alarming rates, and the feral and stray dog population multiplied. Now, it is difficult for even spay/neuter programs to keep up with how quickly Romania’s street dogs reproduce. Dogcatchers patrol the city, capturing street dogs and taking them to the pound, where, thanks to a new law, they can be euthanized if they fail to be reclaimed or adopted within a two-week period. It’s a grim outlook for many of these animals.
But if 13-year-old Ana-Maria Ciulcu has her way, many more of her country’s stray dogs will have much brighter futures. Thanks to the young teen’s rescue efforts, more than 150 former Bucharest street dogs have found happy homes, primarily with families from Belgium, Germany, and Austria. Several have also gone home to new owners in Britain.
The Romanian teenager catches the strays herself, then brings them to the backyard kennels she has set up at her family’s home. Ciuclu and her family bring the dogs to a veterinarian, where they receive an exam, vaccinations, sterilization surgery, and a microchip. Ciulcu even takes it upon herself to arrange foreign passports for her rescued pets, so that if someone should take an interest in one and contact her about adoption, she can be sure the dog is ready to go.
All medical and administrative costs — from veterinary care to supplies, microchips, surgeries, and passports — are covered by Ciulcu and her family. According to Reuters, each dog costs the Ciulu family roughly 150 euros (or $210 USD). Transportation costs are covered by the adoptive families, which Ciulcu finds through her popular Facebook page.
Ciulcu uses her Facebook page to post photographs of the dogs and puppies she’s taken in off of the streets near her home, hoping to find her four-legged friends the forever homes they deserve. Thousands of people from all over Europe contact Ciulcu every day, expressing interest in one dog or another. But Ciulcu takes her role very seriously, and is determined to only adopt her rescued dogs to the very best families, so she is very thorough when considering possible adopters.
“I like to know that my dogs will be spoiled, and will be allowed to sit on the sofa,” Ciulcu explains,“so one of my first questions would be: ‘Are you going to chain him?’”
Ciulcu disagrees with government efforts to intern the dogs in packed shelters before euthanizing them. She feels there is a lot more to be done that will both cut down on Romania’s stray population and save more animals at the same time.
“Dogs can’t live packed together. They need affection,” Ciuclu insists, explaining why she spends all of her free time devoted to these homeless dogs.
Ciulcu, who hopes one day to become a doctor, plans to focus on her dog rescue efforts before one day going to medical school.