Street dogs have been a problem plaguing Sofia, and many Bulgarian cities for over 20 years.
To many in Bulgaria they are a painful reminder of the country's backwardness, to others they are beloved neighborhood pets that are fed, cared for and sometimes even taken to the vet.
Occasional dog attacks and several deaths over the years have flared the emotions.
Since then, the municipality has adopted a program to neuter, vaccinate and mark all street dogs, removing aggressive and sick dogs from the streets. The neutered dogs are returned to their usual spot in the city. It’s a practice that is believed to prevent other dogs from moving in.
The program became highly controversial after several corruption scandals and cases of dogs marked but not neutered surfaced.
Nevertheless, Sofia’s street dog population has been steadily decreasing and is currently estimated to be under 10 000 dogs, down from 30 000 about 10 years ago.
For the most part, the current canine inhabitants of Sofia’s central streets are friendly. In remote neighborhoods, though, packs of strays continue to roam and the danger of a dog attack increases.
Several NPO’s work to resolve Sofia's dog problem. Thanks to their efforts adopting such animals is getting more and more popular.
Still, to many in Bulgaria, owning an expensive and pure breed is a sign of prestige and a fashionable expression. Many of the animals are sent to Western Europe and adopted there.
HOW TO HELP
Animal Rescue Sofia, an independent NPO, operates one of the several kennels in Sofia. Street dogs are taken there to be neutered and put up for adoption.
Learn more about Animal Rescue Sofia and how to donate or volunteer.