The following article appeared in the Polish magazine Moj Pies. The author is Kasia Gruszczynska, who was having a holiday in Romania.

Welcome to Dogs' Hell

A beige half-breed dog approaches a small table. He is about 50 cm (20 in.) high. This animal looks like a skeleton clothed with skin. He looks at the guests of a Romanian restaurant. Suddenly the sitting people hear a yelp. Some of them started to look in a different direction. A man selling pretzels in a nearby store looks like he was waiting for the dog. He grabbed a chair and hit the dog in the head. Fortunately the chair was made of plastic. The stunned dog ran away. This is a typical example of treatment of stray dogs in Romania. There are over 5 million of them in this country, the most in Europe.

When we hear the word Romania we think of Dracula, Vlad III the Impaler, who reigned on Wooszczyzna in the XV century. The beauty of Carpats and the legend of a brute, taken and changed by the pop culture, pulls tourists to this poor country. In Dracula's country the cruel tortures are no longer made on people, but on dogs.

Children and Dogs Are Begging

How does a Romanian dog that was lucky enough not to be killed by a car look like? A skeleton clothed with skin. Because of all the diseases and insects, the dogs often do not have any hair; they look like they were naked. 80% of the animals have broken legs and some of them have a leg missing. Many of them have been hit by a car, others treated with a stick by people, like a big dog in Targu Jiu. I saw this from a car window, where in the Gypsy part of this town called the dog and when it approached they started to hit it with a metal tube.

In a gloomy and dirty city, Braila, situated above Danube, the dogs with broken legs run between the vehicles on the street. Their rivalry in begging for some food are Gypsy children, who are cleaning the windows of cars, but they prefer money.

It's possible to travel all over Romania and see only a few dogs who have owners!

Nobody pets the street dogs, because they are dirty and they stink. Slowly they become wild. They are aggressive in the view of people. Some of them are sick, others have experienced the pain caused by humans. A big part of the dogs are psychologically unbalanced dogs that stay near a road and jump under a car when they see one.

Japanese Excuse for Killing

In 2006 a 68-year old Japanese businessman in Bucharest was bleeding after a dog bit him in the leg and severed a vein. In this time, on the streets of Bucharest there were about 100,000 stray dogs.

The massive extermination began in 2001. The mayor of Bucharest (now he is the president) Traian Basescu, wanted to solve the problem of stray dogs. The easiest way would be to kill them. This information ran around the world. One of the people who reacted to that was a French actor, Brigitte Bardot, who delivered 150 thousand dollars from her company for the sterilization. She also stated that Romania does not deserve to enter the European Union because animals are being killed there.

At the beginning of the activity of authorities, they did not have anything in common with humaneness. They killed dogs, it didn't matter if they were healthy, sick, aggressive or friendly. They were killed by a shot in the head, they were dying of starvation. Many of them were poisoned, tells Sara Turetta, the founder of the foundation Save the Dogs in Romania, "Last year, in December as a result of international protests, the law related to animals was modified. The parliament confirmed, that healthy dogs and cats can not be killed, however not everybody respects this law."

Sara Turretta lived and worked in an advertising agency in Milan in Italy. After her work she took care of stray Italian dogs. In 2001 she went to Romania after my return to Italy. I couldn't believe what I saw. I thought of the dogs dying from starvation and the full Romanian shelters says Sara. In 2002 she quit her job in Italy and came back to Romania to save the dogs. "The best way to solve the problem is castration and sterilization, taking them away from the street" that's what we do."

The World Health Organization (WHO) suggested those solutions already in 1991 but Romanian people didn't apply them.

And All Because of Ceausescu

The problem of the dogs began in the 80s. Their hard street destiny was prepared by Nicolai Ceausescu , an owner of a few black Labradors fed with veal. On the order of Ceausescu small villages were destroyed and people were moved to apartments. Rural houses with gardens had to be exchanged for small apartments, in which dogs were not likely seen. Thousands of dogs landed on the streets. The dog population started to grow very quickly.

"Now we take care of eight pups that are 4 weeks old and their mother, saved from the dumping ground in Braila," tells Nancy Janes from an American organization Romania Animal Rescue (RAR).

Nancy Janes, same as Sara Turetta, came to Romania in 2001. She saw people feeding poison and torturing dogs. When she came back to San Francisco, where she is from, she founded the organization.

"Twice a year we send veterinary surgeons to Romania, who sterilize and castrate dogs. We have already sterilized 4500 dogs. We dream of a mobile clinic a vehicle in which we could travel everywhere in the country," says Nancy.

The tragedy of Romanian dogs mobilized the activity of large Scandinavian organizations, which are a mediation in adoption. One of them is a Swedish company Daisy Hope. They import to Sweden about 10 dogs monthly. "There are also stray dogs in Sweden, but not on such a scale. Swedish people love animals and willingly help them. Obviously we also inform that an adoption of a dog that spent his life on a street is much harder," says one of the Daisy Hope volunteers.

We've Already Had Enough

"International adoptions are also arranged by RAR. We found houses for 80 dogs in California. Unfortunately, helping dogs from outside our country creates controversies, plus the air transport is very expensive. We want to find them some houses in Poland and other parts of Europe," says Nancy Janes.

Animals in Romania often are treated like items less or more useful. This year in May a politician, Bacau, in the eastern Romania used stray dogs for his election campaign. He dressed them in red overalls with a motto, "We've already had enough" and his name. Animal organizations immediately protested because dogs could get heat stroke from the warm clothes."

Doing something good is always a fight, but the happiness of saving so many animals is worth that," says Sara Turreta from Save the Dogs. Sara has one dream: "When I'm old I want to live in a house in Toskania, full of old, hated dogs. But before this occurs, I still have to do some things for them..." she quickly finishes.