Torturing and Killing of Strays in Areas with Problematic Human Population

posted Jan 7, 2016, 10:08 AM by Vicki Russell   [ updated Jan 7, 2016, 10:25 AM ]

Written by Dalida Kozlic, LLB
Dec 13, 2015
There are an increasing number of cases of animal abuse in the countries of South-eastern Balkans. Animal rights activists and associations for the protection of animals are daily faced with cases of the worst forms of animal abuse not only in public shelters and by dog catching services but on the streets of all cities and towns.

Cases of animal abuse are common even in the centre of big cities such as Sarajevo. You probably remember little Precious who was thrown of a bridge in the centre of Sarajevo. Despite the fact there are many cases of animal abuse in almost all parts of Balkan, the most specific thing is that there are areas where abusing of animals is part of everyday life. People who live in those areas are mostly people who live on the edge of society or they belong to so-called problematic populations who do not have any support from authorities but authorities do not control them either.

Animals in Medjimurje (Croatia) are paying appalling price for the lack of involvement of authorities in solving the problems of the Roma population. Roma children (all younger than 14) have been torturing stray cats and animals in the most horrific ways for months. Media decided to become involved in the case a few days ago and their discoveries have been horrific. Children have been raping, clubbing, slaughtering and throwing animals on railway to be ripped apart by trains.

Also, dogs are being used as bite provocation for other dogs. Authorities now involved and everyone is hoping the problem of young psychopaths will be solved soon and that perpetrators will be punished.

I am dealing with a similar case in Breza. I found Sarpi in one very problematic area in Breza few months ago. He was badly beaten and injured. He died of injuries a few days after I had found him.

Garo was found by me in the same area few days ago. He has injuries on his hind legs and a wound that has been caused by an air gun. All these cases have been reported to the police, but the problem is that in the area where they have been found live many drug addicts, other very problematic populations as well as forgotten Roma population, and there is no video surveillance. Everyone claims he/she knows nothing. (Garo and Sarpi are pictured in this blog. If you wish to help with the vet care of Garo, you can donate via the details below, be sure to mark for ‘Garo’.)

Unfortunately, there is no appropriate response from authorities to violence in these areas.

There are also cases of severe animal abuse in developed countries. However, any such case is well covered by the media and the general public is involved in finding perpetrators. Names of animal abusers and murderers are publicly disclosed. Also, the punishments for offenders are rigorous and exercise a preventive and repressive function. Most importantly, the authorities are consistent in catching and prosecuting perpetrators. Western society understands that animal abuse is a serious anomaly in the behaviour and psyche of man, and therefore a great deal of effort is made in the prevention and punishing of animal abusers and killers.

The problem in the countries of the Balkans is that the protection of animals is often identified with the financial situation in the country. It is a complete absurdity. Financing services for the protection of animals is not a process that can be financed only by economically developed countries. On the contrary, the construction and funding of animal shelters and services for the protection of animals is the cheapest option when it comes to the attitude of society towards animals.

In the former Yugoslavia, there is a problem in the minds of people, and not in lack of funding. In this region, the society is completely incapable of understanding animal abuse and why it is wrong. The society does not understand those who are unable to fight for themselves and their rights, as well as having a complete lack of empathy for those who suffer. Also it implicates that society in having a pathological feature. What the individuals and society in this area do not want to understand is that animal abusers are people with pathological personality traits, who tend to become abusers and killers of people (if not already).

Prosecution and punishing of animal abusers should be the basic function of protecting animals. Special prevention sends a message to abusers that if they re-offend their offence against animals, they are to be arrested and punished. The general prevention message is thus sent to the society: the state and the judiciary do not tolerate animal abuse, and the problem is recognized as a deep social anomaly and that each abuser is to be punished.

In the countries of former Yugoslavia torture and killing animals is a criminal offense. However, the arrest and prosecution of the perpetrators of the crime very rarely occur. It is evident that police officers, as well as prosecutors and judges, are not properly trained and educated. When it comes to the response of police officers, they tend to consider abuse against animals unimportant offences; police officers and inspectors in this area of crime are not familiar with all the consequences and symptoms that animal abuse points to. The problem of judicial institutions is similar; it is generally the view that cases of animal abuse are irrelevant to judicial institutions.

Apprehension and prosecution of offenders is the job of the police and judicial authorities, and funds for financing all types of institutional protection of animals can be provided by implementation of our Act on Animal Protection and Welfare, the introduction of compulsory microchipping and register of pets, and then punishing with fines those who abandon or abuse animals, as well as using funds from foreign organizations towards these procedures.

This approach to problem solving is necessary due to the general lack of awareness that exists in this area. The public itself creates a distorted picture when it comes to animals. Animals are not objects, but living beings with intelligence and awareness of the outside world, but this is not the general view of the populace of this area.

These are the main reasons animal abuse is so present in the countries of ex-Yugoslavia, especially in the areas where authorities actually do not their job at all. Police forces and social services avoid being involved or implementing laws in those areas because dealing with problematic populations is not a priority at all. This causes many issues including cases of horrific animal abuse. Intervening in these areas is absolutely necessary and only when animal rights activists expose the real picture of animal abuse and forgotten areas, some things start changing as is the case in Croatia.

Unfortunately, the situation in Bosnia is even worse because of a much higher rate of corruption, poverty and social cases than Croatia. Law enforcement and social services do not deal with this problem at all. If there are so many cases of animal abuse and killing of animals in well-known areas and big cities, we can only imagine what horrors happen in villages, areas and towns where there are no animal rights activist and persons who can discover and report those crimes.

Vucko's Legacy

posted Jan 5, 2016, 2:03 PM by Vicki Russell   [ updated Jan 7, 2016, 10:26 AM ]

Written by Dalida Kozlic, LLB
Dec 31, 2015

Winter time is one of the worst periods in the year for animals and activists in Bosnia. The main reason is the Bosnian coldness and snow, which cause severe problems for stray animals: they need more food, more protection, more attention. But there is one more reason every activist hates winters in Bosnia — the illegal use of fireworks.

The illegal use of fireworks in our country is a common problem. Fireworks are often used by children and teenagers, but adults are also regular users of fireworks. Animals and small children are victims of this illegal “fun” of the Bosnian people, and during winters there is an increasing number of fireworks used in Bosnian streets.

This illegal fun of the Bosnian people caused one victim whose story no activist or person involved in rescuing animals will ever forget, a victim whose story will chase us forever.

Vucko was a young German shepherd dog who had the misfortune to be born in and to live in Bosnia. In Ilidza (a small town, part of Canton Sarajevo) on the 11th November 2011, two drunken teenagers put a firework in his mouth, taped his jaw shut and then set the firework alight. The explosion caused one of the most horrific injuries of a dog’s face that people had ever seen, but it did not kill him. After he had been so horrifically injured, Vucko wandered the streets for five days. His face was completely disfigured; his jaw was destroyed, as well as his tongue and his teeth. He was in awful pain, without any possibility to eat or to drink. No one helped him until group of activists found out about him and rushed him to a Veterinary faculty in Sarajevo. The veterinarians were shocked by his injuries and condition. Part of the firework was still in his face.  Worms and maggots were eating the destroyed tissue. There was no hope his face could be reconstructed in Bosnia or elsewhere, it was completely destroyed.

(Note, you can see pictures and video of Vucko’s injuries here, but be warned, they are shocking and graphic)

Vucko was euthanized, but his story has remained to teach us a few things.

Activists named him Vucko. It is a Bosnian word for small wolf. The sad irony is that Vucko was also the name of the mascot of the Olympic Games, held in Sarajevo in 1984. By 2011, Sarajevo was famous for its notorious attitude towards animals, especially stray animals.

Vucko’s story showed the world how violent Bosnian people are towards stray animals and how passive Bosnian authorities are towards solving cases of animal abuse. The teenagers who did this to Vucko were never prosecuted. The official excuse of police officers and the prosecutor was that there was not enough evidence, and that “they were only drunken teenagers”. And, there are some of us who will never give up on trying to bring justice for Vucko.

However there was one more aspect of Vucko’s story which proved Bosnian cruelty towards and ignorance of those who suffered. Vucko’s was wandering for five days and no one helped him, no one tried to catch him. Only when activists found out about him, was he brought to a vet. No “ordinary citizens” had reacted. Our society is incapable of understanding of animal abuse. This proves that our society does not understand those who are unable to fight for themselves, it does not understand their rights. Our society has a complete lack of empathy for those who suffer.

Bosnian people do not want to understand that animal abusers are people with pathological personality traits, people who tend to become abusers and killers of people (if not already).

Vucko’s case proves that our society as well as our legal enforcement agencies are not interested in helping injured animals, nor are they interested in bringing abusers to court. Prosecution of animal abusers is the basic function in protecting animals. Special prevention should send a message to abusers that if they reoffend, they are to be arrested and punished. This message would therefore sent to the society that the state and the judiciary system do not tolerate animal abuse, and thus the problem is recognized as a deep social anomaly and that each abuser is to be punished.

In Bosnia and Herzegovina torture and killing animals is a criminal offence. However, the arrest and prosecution of the perpetrators of the crime very rarely occur. The problem of the judicial institutions and the police is similar; it is generally the view that cases of animal abuse are irrelevant to judicial institutions and prosecutors. Essentially, police officers are not capable of understanding how dangerous animal abusers are and what problems they can cause to the society.

People have started realising that in the heart of Europe there is a small country that pays no attention to the rights of animals even though it has one of the best Acts on Protection and Welfare of Animals in Europe. What even sadder about this story is the fact that the Bosnian people survived the worst war conflict after World War II. More than 200 000 people were killed, a million of citizens left the country, and hundreds of thousands were victims awful massacres, ethnic cleaning, raping, daily torture and starvation in the period from 1992 to 1995. We all knew what it meant to be desperate and helpless during the war, and yet no one wanted to help Vucko. Bosnian people have the best knowledge about being helpless, and yet most of them do not feel empathy towards helpless animals.

Believe me, things were so different during the war. It seems to me that many people have lost their hearts after the war.

However, Vucko’s awful destiny has resulted not only in the publicising of atrocities that have happened to animals, it has created a whole new aspect towards helping animals in Bosnia.

Thanks to the widespread publication of Vucko’s fate, including through this website and blog, people have had an opportunity to know the scale of atrocities Bosnian animals are going through. Vucko’s story has helped galvanise people outside of Bosnia towards helping save animals in the country.  Animal Welfare Advocates for Bosnia (AWABosnia) and other groups and individuals have saved thousands of animals since Vucko died. I believe that this blog and AWABosnia have played one of the most important roles in preventing Bosnian authorities from legislating amendments to the Act on Protection and Welfare Animals, amendments which could allow a kill policy for stray animals. In Memory of Vucko (this blog, run by Sandra Jensen) is, I believe, the best way to follow Vucko’s path. People who are involved in this project have given up a lot of things to make things better for Bosnian animals, and thank you for that.

Vucko was a victim of unimaginable torture, his short life’s end was a result of living in a cruel society, but he died surrounded by the people who saved him, knowing that there were still some good people in Bosnia. Vucko did not die for nothing, he left us a legacy. That legacy is very difficult to bear, but it is also a motivation for all good people to keep going, to save more and more lives, to chase offenders, to fight for animals and their rights in Bosnia. Vucko’s legacy must always be a motivation for every volunteer, for every activist, for every organisation to keep going, because we are the only persons who can help those who cannot help themselves.

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