Are dogs being abused in Romani settlements in Slovakia? Romea.cz asks the authorities and experts
A group called the Animal Rights Association (Sdružení za práva zvířat) in Bratislava, Slovakia, recently posted information to the Facebook profile of its "Czechoslovak Spay-and-Neuter Program" about its activity in Romani settlements there. The association is doing its best to aid dogs who, as they have documented through photographs, are frequently to be found in an underfed state in those localities.
Tabloid newspapers - Blesk in the Czech Republic and Pluska in Slovakia - then reported on the association's work. News server Romea.cz published a commentary on the issue by Stano Daniel, and now we are publishing the statements made by the Office of the Slovak Government Plenipotentiary for the Romani Community, the chair of the Animal Rights Association, Diana Truchlíková, and a representative of the People in Need (Člověk v tísni) organization in Slovakia.
"The Office of the Slovak Government Plenipotentiary for the Romani Community does not have any experience with this particular situation or any other situation like the one described in the article published on Blesk.cz. We have not encountered such behavior among settlement residents to date. We do not have any experience with the 'Czechoslovak Spay-and-Neuter Program'. The statements made by members of the program that are quoted in the article, however, are ones that we consider to be contributing to undesirable stereotypes about Romani people because they are tendentious," Vlasta Tokolyová said on behalf of that office.
News server Romea.cz asked Truchlíková of the Animal Rights Association which specific settlements the photographs taken of the underfed dogs came from, and she responded that the association does not publicize any information about the specific settlements where they work until they have signed contracts with the local governments and agreed on collaborations. "We are doing our best to address the situation in our field, which is animals. We do what we can. Unfortunately, people do not comprehend that cursing the local residents can just deteriorate the situation further, and they also don't get that we are risking our own necks, because more than once we have gotten into conflicts that we have had to cope with and the people in the settlements frequently behave just as impulsively as the people who post commentaries on Facebook. The thing is, on Facebook the emotions are just described, but in the settlements there are actual situations that must be addressed. In any event, however, it must be understood that despite all those emotions, people do provide aid, and the final consequence is that such aid proves to be as necessary as salt. If we care about preventing what is happening in the settlements and rescuing those animals, then the local residents should also care about their animals being healthy, not reproducing so much, not roving in packs attacking people, and not spreading diseases. Our aid is of great significance to all, even if the main role in it is played by the animals for whom we do this," she said.
"Certainly the allegation that animals are abused in Romani settlements is inappropriate," wrote Petra Melikantová of the Roskovce Community Center and Martin Vavrinčík of People in Need Slovakia in a joint statement when asked by Romea.cz to comment on the article in Blesk. "Life in many Romani localities is rough on the inhabitants, rougher than the average majority-society person can even imagine. This is reflected in the interpersonal relationships in those communities and in the relationships of people toward their animals. Animals living in a segregated locality where generational poverty is present have a different value to the people living there, most of them perform a certain role, dogs guard houses and pigs are bred for food. If the abuse of animals is happening in a locality, then in addition to introducing a spay-and-neuter program, it is necessary to work with the community per se. Any spay-and-neuter program is quite welcome, but such programs have a limited capacity to effect change. The matter frequently depends on the local government and its will to solve the problem. Currently this problem rests solely on the shoulders of the municipalities, which frequently do not have enough resources, objectively, to address it in accordance with the applicable legislation. In segregated localities, dogs frequently overreproduce, create packs, and can be dangerous. The people, however, cannot afford to arrange for due care to be taken of the animals, such as neutering/spaying and vaccinations. There is a lack of awareness about such things, and it is difficult to build a different relationship toward animals in an environment without positive examples. For that reason, it is important to build up children's empathy for animals and their relationships with them, to demonstrate to them what great value an animal can have in a persons' life. Without that experience, we will never be able to build enough kennels to meet the need."
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