Failure of Armenian s/n program brings NYC success

From ANIMAL PEOPLE,  March 2012:

NEW YORK CITY–Newly released New York City Center for Animal Care & Control shelter surrender numbers gave Companion Animal Network founder Garo Alexanian cause for celebration on February 4, 2012–and a message for Yerevan,  the capital city of Armenia.

“After five years of virtually unchanged numbers of dog and cat surrenders to the CACC,”  Alexanian said,  “the total dropped by 15%,”  or nearly 6,000 animals,  “during 2010,  the first full year that we operated our Low Cost Vet Mobile,  and fell another 9% in 2011,  our second full year.”

The theory that providing free or low-cost veterinary care to pets in low-income neighborhoods could reduce shelter surrenders and killing emerged in New York City more than 100 years ago.  This was the founding concept behind the Animal Medical Center,  opened in 1910,  and behind the Henry Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital,  operated by the American SPCA since 1912.

But before high-volume,  low-cost pet sterilization techniques were developed and popularized,  whatever effect the Animal Medical Center and Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital had was lost among the torrent of unwanted litters.  Demonstrating the effects of taking free and low-cost vet care to hardscrabble neighborhoods without resident vets was left to the Low Cost Vet Mobile,  deployed in July 2009.

The Companion Animal Network purchased the Low Cost Vet Mobile to do the same job in Yerevan,  using it in New York City only after failing to accomplish the Yerevan project.  “We tried for ten years to work with Yerevan’s government to let us create a spay/neuter program,”  Alexanian fumed.  “We tried with two Yerevan administrations. We sent people to Yerevan numerous times,  built an animal hospital and a shelter there,  and invested over $75,000 to send American veterinarians to train Armenian vets in spay/neuter techniques.  We also sent Armenian vets to Romania to train.”

Corruption eventually ended Alexanian’s efforts in Armenia–the same problem which recently caused U.S. President Barack Obama to announce a 19% cut in U.S. aid to Armenia,  Alexanian said. Meanwhile,  Alexanian lamented,  “Armenia has stepped up shooting of dogs,  even pet dogs.  Yerevan announced it had opened a municipal spay/neuter facility on the TV news,”  Alexanian charged,  “but actually opened an animal killing facility at that location instead.”

Similar issues have afflicted humane work in Romania,  where progress in sterilizing street dogs and feral cats has time and again been undone by animal massacres ordered by city governments in blatant violation of the national animal control law. Traian Basescu, the Romanian president since 2004,  as mayor of Bucharest in 2001 established his reputation for enforcing law-and-order by directing the most aggressive dog massacre of all.

The Romanian Chamber of Deputies,  dominated by the Democratic Liberal Party that Basescu founded,  in November 2011 ratified a new animal control law meant to expedite killing impounded dogs.

But the Romanian Supreme Court on January 11,  2012 declared in an 8-1 verdict that the new animal control law is unconstitutional.  The law was referred back to the Chamber of Deputies for revision.

Vier Pfoten,  the Austrian-based charity whose Romanian dog and cat sterilization program Alexanian sent Armenian vets to learn from,  has meanwhile expanded operations to Ukraine,  where dog massacres erupted in 2011 in alleged preparation for the Euro 2012 Football Championships.

Responding to international exposure mobilized by the British animal charity Naturewatch,  Ukrainian environment minister Mykola Zlochevskiy in November 2011 pledged a moratorium on the dog killing.

Following up,  Vier Pfoten president Helmut Dungler on February 4,  2012 signed an agreement with Zlochevskiy to conduct high-volume dog sterilization in the Euro 2012 host cities of Kiev, Kharkov,  Donetsk,  and Lvov.  “Vier Pfoten will go with mobile animal ambulances to each city,  neuter and vaccinate the stray dogs, then release the animals back to their homes,”  said Vier Pfoten spokesperson Kim Phillips.

“As soon as these cities prohibit killing of stray dogs, Vier Pfoten will start  the neutering project.  The city of Lemberg already issued such a ban,”  Phillips noted.

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