05/28/10 Letter to Velika Gorica Concerning the Welfare of Animals
THE CITY OF VELIKA GORICA
Mr. Stjepan Kos, Deputy Mayor
Trg kralja Tomislava 34
10410 Velika Gorica
Dear Mr. Kos,
First of all, we would like to thank you for taking the time to find constructive and effective solutions for neglected and abandoned animals in the town of Velika Gorica, as well as for giving us an opportunity to propose solutions at the meeting. We hope they will be accepted since they are based on many years of experience, knowledge and collaboration with a number of shelters for abandoned animals. We are glad that you are considering establishing your own institution for the care of abandoned animals, because practice has shown this to be the most economically advantageous and best path toward a solution to this problem, and also represents a civil success and becomes the pride of the city government serving citizens' interests.
Also, we would like to thank you for accepting our proposal to visit the shelter for abandoned animals of the city of Zagreb in Dumovac with Tatjana Zajec, the head of the shelter, as the expert guide. Moreover, we are confirming the meeting date to be on Tuesday, June 1, 2010, at 10:00 A.M. in Zagreb, in the office of Animal Friends, Gajeva 47/1. We wish to emphasize that we would be particularly glad should the Mayor of the town of Velika Gorica accept this invitation, together with all other interested employees. We would like to use this opportunity to point out that we are still expecting a brief meeting with Mr Barisic.
In addition to this, we are providing you with our review of the response of your Legal Department to our contract proposal.
Ad. 1 We believe that three years is a very long period for the framework agreement to be valid and that it would have a limiting effect on the town of Velika Gorica, because during this time various changes may occur that may lead to changes in interests that are subject to the agreement. It is encouraging that one can enter into one-year contracts and that there is a possibility of unilateral termination.
Ad. 2 The Animal Protection Act (Official Gazette no. 135/06) and the Ordinance on Conditions for Animal Shelters and Sanitary Services (Official Gazette no. 110/04, 121/04 and 29/05), the secondary implementing legislation, really lay down the conditions mentioned in the contract; however the responsibility for law enforcement has been given to veterinary inspections, but with aim to protect the rights of animals.
In order for Velika Gorica to be able to protect its interests at any given moment and at the same time protect the interests of animals, as well as influence the fulfilment of obligations stipulated in this bilateral consensual legal agreement, the same provisions have been entered into the contract so that they would enter into the sphere of mandatory law on the principle of pacta sunt servenda. This principle was supposed to be mitigated so as to bring clausula irritatoria that allows one party to withdraw from the contract if the other party does not meet his obligations. In this way we can avoid potential disputes about the right to unilateral termination stating the reasons and cases where it is possible to do so, e.g. because of repeated breaches of contractual arrangements or the failure to meet some important provisions.
Although it is regulated by law, the future contractor is not of the legal profession and could misinterpret some of the law provisions. In this way the underlying legislation is transposed into the contract so as to be understood by all parties. At the same time, the-more-the-better principle is being respected and the possibility of termination of the contractual relationship is not brought into question, which could otherwise become a subject of dispute in the competent court.
The above serves to strengthen the legal position of Velika Gorica when supervising and ensuring the execution of delegated responsibilities.
Therefore, in Article 15 of the Contract Proposal the rights and conditions of when the Client, i.e. the town of Velika Gorica, may unilaterally terminate the contract are explicitly stated.
Ad. 3 The assertion that entering the shelter has to be controlled by the order of the inspection and agreed in advance is inaccurate and highly destructive. In order to avoid the kind of events that have taken place in the last six months it is necessary to formulate the contract accordingly, and Velika Gorica is in the position to set the terms and provisions of the contract in accordance with the Law on Obligations, that officials representing the city government may always and at any time, without prior notice, access the animals that are the property of the city and are only entrusted to the care provider. Indeed, the very Animal Protection Act does not forbid, but dictates that the shelter founder has to cooperate with the local authorities (Article 57, paragraph 2), rather than limit them.
In accordance with the regulations, access to the shelter also has to be given to the public, other animal shelters on the territory of the Republic of Croatia and the veterinary inspection (Article 58, paragraph 1 of the Animal Protection Act), which means access is given to any interested person during the established working hours that may not last less than four hours per day on weekdays, plus 24 hours a day there needs to be someone on duty (Article 14, paragraph 1 of the Ordinance).
Any restriction represents a violation of the law and of the basic purpose of the shelter, i.e. the housing of animals.
Ad. 4 The radio as a medium of informing about animals that look for a home is technologically inadequate and does not fulfil its purpose, although it significantly helps in raising public awareness and advertising the re-homing of animals, and thereby builds the image of the city administration. It is inadequate because it is necessary to detail each individual animal and what each potential owner primarily wants is to see the animal. Almost all shelters, except on radio, also advertise through print and other media with photographs and almost without exception have their own websites with all of the dogs' photos and up-to-date information, because nowadays in the time of easily accessible information, this has proven to be crucial and the chances for adoption are increased several times, which is why this should be one of the conditions.
Ad. 5 We accept your remark in its entirety.
Ad. 6 Spay/neuter is an important preventive measure. Such measure is common and undisputed in the countries of the EU and in the USA in maintaining an acceptable number of companion animals as a counter-measure to the growth of the number of unwanted animals, which at some point may become an insurmountable problem despite taking the measure of putting the animals in shelters.
Although funds are not provided for in the budget or in the bidding documents, please note that cities in the Republic of Croatia are working on projects funding castration and sterilization of the population of dogs and cats, precisely for the purpose of prevention, both in shelters and in pounds, as well as with private owners (e.g. pensioners), partially or fully covering the costs.
Any person who wants to have a companions animal in a responsible manner will not have any objections to mandatory castration or sterilization and in this way he or she will contribute to the reduction of the city's fiscal burden. We must emphasize that it is not possible to assume that all people are suitable owners; on the contrary, there must be a positive selection.
Please note that although castration/sterilization is not legally prescribed as an obligatory measure, and chipping was not either, Velika Gorica was the one to make the visionary decision on obligatory chipping. This is a question of protecting public interest and saving funds in the nearest future (just as long as is necessary for new dogs or cats to be born and become undesirable).
Here we highlight the direct responsibility of the animal owner, which stems from Article 48, paragraph 5 of the Animal Protection Act, and thereby obliges the town of Velika Gorica to ensure the control of reproduction of the animals under its supervision.
Dog spaying/neutering is common practice in all the shelters because it is the best preventive measure, it stops further reproduction, dogs are less aggressive and may be kept in groups, which increases the capacity of the shelter, they are easier to accommodate (especially females) and the return of their offspring to the shelter is prevented.
Time brings changes, so this measure will hopefully become an obligation in the near future, and our activities are directed towards this goal.
Ad. 7 It is necessary to regulate the capacity of shelters in order to always know whether they are able to take in new animals. To prescribe a minimum capacity means to prescribe a number that is optimal, but if needed it also is necessary to prescribe the maximum number if more animals can be placed in a collective kennel.
The conventional wisdom is that a shelter for abandoned animals is just a service performed by the concessionaire in order to solve the potential problems of hygiene, health, transport and similar dangers posed by uncontrolled populations of street dogs and cats, but we would like to draw attention to one important fact that is not very well known.
A few years back, when the Animal Protection Act of 2007 entered into force and when civic initiatives strengthened, as well as the awareness of animal welfare, an essential transformation occurred – former veterinary-sanitary services (VHS), the so-called "shinters," ceased to exist (i.e. their activities were reduced to collecting corpses only) and were replaced by shelters for abandoned animals. In line with that change, it is necessary to change the perception of such activities – until recently VHS collected all animals, took them to the clinic where they were usually euthanized. Thus, they solved the problem of unwanted stray dogs. However, the new era began in which shelters for abandoned animals have become very complex public institutions and an important educational factor. Therefore, organization, structure and the design of their infrastructure require a professional approach. Their many functions may be reduced to two basic activities:
- providing housing for animals
- educating the public and raising public awareness
Quality animal adoption and education are a result of considerable efforts that include:
- As in every public institution, the availability of tours for those who plan to adopt and other interested parties during the shelters' working hours (clean surroundings, access paths and corridors for tours of the kennels with animals), and access to information about each individual dog.
- All animals must be given equal opportunity to be adopted, and immediately upon arrival to the shelter and later on to be regularly advertised (regularly updated website of the shelter with pictures and information on each animal, advertising both individual animals and shelters themselves in print and other media), and the legally prescribed obligation to organize an information centre for abandoned and lost animals (Article 58, paragraph 1 of the Animal Protection Act).
With respect to euthanasia, it is important to say that according to the experiences of other countries, as well as the Republic of Croatia, this measure does not bring about long-term positive effects because it addresses a consequence. Always and everywhere it is necessary to work on finding solutions for the causes, which in this case is education, as we have already mentioned, and it is also insisted on by the legislator in the Animal Protection Act which obliges local authorities and other competent government authorities to raise the awareness about animal welfare, especially among young people (Article 58, paragraph 2 of the Animal Protection Act). Austria, from which we have taken all the legislative solutions, goes so far as to prohibit euthanasia and this decision has been based on their experience of the inefficiency of the killings, which are unethical, among other things. We are proud to note that Zagreb, Dubrovnik and some others have made the decision not to kill animals on their own initiative.
For local authorities shelters are often just one of many city projects for which it is necessary to allocate budget funds, but the fact that this is about animals makes this project especially interesting to us – Animal Friends.
For the past three years The Network Against Animal Abandoning has been operating successfully within our association – it is a project that brings together representatives of the relevant ministries, heads of shelters, companies, associations and individuals whose activities or interests include preventing the abandonment of animals, educating the public or taking care of abandoned animals, so by selecting the concessionaire your town of Velika Gorica becomes part of this initiative, in which we would like it to be an active participant.
Our organization, aside from dealing with the rights and welfare of animals, actively cooperates with the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Rural Development and has participated in the drafting and finalizing of the Animal Protection Act, as well as all the related laws, and the experience in organizing shelters and the cooperation with similar foreign organizations guarantee promptness and competence in this area.
Therefore, as in other cities, we strongly insist on the fulfilment of statutory requirements together with the measures recommended by practice, on the availability of tours, high-quality advertising of animals and the transparency of shelters' operations.
Also, we would be glad if you acknowledged us as volunteer-partners in all the phases of the shelter for abandoned animals Velika Gorica project. Thus we would jointly reduce the number of abandoned animals and resources that the town sets aside for them and to those whose home is in the shelter we would give their last chance for life.
Having discussed your comments on the contract proposal, we have corrected the proposal in accordance with the stated explanations, bearing in mind all your remarks, and we are delivering the proposal for your review. In accordance with our earlier agreement, please send us your version of the contract, certainly before signing, so that we can review it and draft the final version,
President of Animal Friends
Attachment: Contract Proposal
THE CITY OF VELIKA GORICA
c/o Mr Drazen Barisic, Mayor
Trg kralja Tomislava 34
10410 Velika Gorica