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Dogged by strays, Kosovo capital pays people to adopt them

Dogged by strays, Kosovo capital pays people to adopt them

WeirdNews

The city will pay households 50 euros a month for every stray dog they adopt

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Pristina (AFP) – The mayor of Kosovo's capital is offering to pay people nearly a third of the country's minimum wage every month if they adopt a dog in a novel bid to clear packs of strays from the streets.

With Pristina overrun by up to 4,000 strays, according to activists, street dogs have become a major headache, with many people saying they have had to run from large aggressive hounds.

But a shocking widely-shared video of one small stray being badly beaten in the street by a young man brought the problem into sharp focus and animal lovers out to protest late last month.

"This is not an isolated case, this happens to dogs every day all over Kosovo," animal rights activist Argjenta Dociqi said on Facebook.

"When we hurt animals they become aggressive towards us," said schoolgirl Berta Meha, who was at the protest in Pristina's main square with her father.

But that lesson is lost on a lot of adults, the 11-year-old said. "If we feed them and do not hurt them, they will not be aggressive," she told AFP.

50 euros a month

Mayor Perparim Rama, who has spent much of his life in Britain, hopes his ambitious new scheme, "A home for every dog", will solve the problem and help change attitudes. The city will pay households 50 euros a month for every stray dog they adopt.

"Keeping a dog is costly and not everyone has the money," the 48-year-old architect told AFP. "That is why we are helping families that adopt strays."

The city has already begun rounding up street dogs, and Rama vowed that they "will continue every day until we remove them all". He said they will be held in large shelters where they will be vaccinated, sterilised and prepared for adoption.

Mechanic Sami Haxhaj was among the first to take up the mayor's offer, adopting 10 dogs from the municipality.

"I want to do something for them," said the 52-year-old, who has built a row of kennels in a fenced yard in the village of Sibovac, west of Pristina, where the dogs can play safely. He would even like to adopt 10 more.

"I am happy that I provided them with a roof over their heads and enough food and space," he added. The city said others should "follow Sami's example and give every stray dog a home".

Going to the dogs

But some are far from happy with the mayor's idea, dismissing it as a waste of money. "We must be drowning in cash to give money for dogs," said Mirsad Balaj, 65.

"All dogs should be sterilised so they don't breed anymore or the entire state budget will be going to the dogs," the pensioner added.

Elza Ramadani, head of the local Animal Rights Foundation, said the city needs to focus on the root of the problem, "uncontrolled breeding and the abandoning of dogs by a large number of people who don't see them as a member of the family."

Architect Bajram Kazagiqi said the dogs were also "residents of this city". "If we want to take care of the people of our city, then we must also take care of stray dogs as members of our families," said the 62-year-old.

Mayor Rama insisted that with a budget of two million euros a year "we can seriously expect to solve the problem... if the calculation of the number of stray dogs in the capital is correct. "Someone had to begin this war," he said.

However, Ramadani is not expecting Pristina's dog number to drop overnight. "That will happen maybe in 10 or 20 years when we will show more love towards dogs and society really wants to adopt them."