Georgia is not party to international conventions or other acts safeguarding animal rights. Animal safety and protection against abuse are not in place within the country. There are no laws in animal protection field, except for Article 259 of the Criminal Code of Georgia (however, this article could be called “dead” as it has not been affected despite numerous and frequent animal abuse facts) and resolution of Tbilisi Municipality on care for domestic animals and their population control. The latter regulates certain issues, although due to lack of state legislation cannot guarantee animal safety.
Significant problems are present in managing both domestic and wild animal populations in Georgia. Absence of respective legislation and imperfections in the scarce existing ones result in total animal abuse and neglect. Many wild species have become extinct in Georgia, among them – species included in the Red Book like European Bison, Goitered Gazelle, etc. Brown bear included in the Red List of Georgia has become entertainment to private organizations and individuals. They are kept captive in unnatural conditions and very small cages representing “stuff” for jokes and pranks. At present about 50 brown bears are held captive, while state bodies do nothing and cannot take actions as prescribed by legislation towards requisition of these bears. Despite the actions of international and local non-governmental organizations no state reserves (shelters) for wildlife included in the Red List have been established. The state justifies its inactivity by lack of funding. However, multi-million budgets of the respective ministries and high wages prove otherwise.
Information on brown bear:
Due to liberal hunting legislation poaching is large-scale problem, while animal populations are not controlled. Unfortunately, hunting is deemed “prestigious” in Georgia and is popularized. Hunting, as a rule, is more like entertainment-sport in Georgia and not a demand of livelihood.
According to animal rights world declaration, hunting practiced as a pastime as well as any use of wild animals for reasons that are not vital, violates wild animals rights, any act compromising the survival of a wild species and any decision leading to such an act are tantamount to genocide, that is to say, a crime against the species. (Animal Rights World Declaration, Article 4, 8).
The situation with domesticated animals (dogs, cats) is very complicated in Georgia. The historical practice of killings of stray animals does not solve the problem, but aggravates the situation. The mechanic thinning of stray animals triggers Natural Selection process, which makes the populations more aggressive, while failing in reduction of the number of strays. This method is the loss of money in vain, and using it is a shame for every society. International practice shows that this method is unsuccessful and inhumane. All above said is perturbing, because with all the money spent and with the use of civilized methods and programs, it would have been possible to take a step closer to solving the problems. The mass and inhumane annihilation caused population destabilization, aggression, uncontrolled illnesses, negative international response, estrangement and frustration of the animal loving intellectual part of our society directed at the state.
Due to absence of the laws in this field, self-government institutions – city and region councils cannot prepare major administration acts to introduce humane type of stray animal population control. In many cities and regions of Georgia stray animals are ruthlessly caught using inhumane methods in front of the population, then transported without specially designated cars, followed by captivity, killing with cruel methods and disappearance of carcasses. There are some cases, when stray animals are shot in populated areas, in front of people. Many people got psychologically traumatized while watching strays being caught with barbaric methods and community dogs exterminated.
It is shameful that Georgia is the number one country in Europe by the number of cases of rabies infection, and number one country in the world by the number of the cases of biting.
It is also very sad that dog fights are a very popular entertainment (involving dog species with high level of aggression), they are held in cities and regions during the daylight, videos and photos from the fights are freely distributed in social networks, while law enforcers do not respond to such facts.
The fact that large part of Georgian population and government officials are not aware of animal protection issues is disturbing. Sharing of the experience from international organizations is limited to short visits and does not actually improve the awareness. Nor other steps are made for solving the problem of stray animals in accordance with recommendations of international organizations, clearly indicating the need of update and change of these methods. Moreover, the concern of international society on these issues are mostly left without attention.
We welcome the fact, that Tbilisi City Hall under the influence and pressure from international and local non-governmental organizations made huge step towards solving the problem of stray animals. Animal Shelter was built and has functioned since 2012 and since then many significant actions have been taken by state bodies to prevent animal abuse and manage animal populations humanely. However, it is not enough and further work should be planned. Animal (dogs, cats) care and their population control within Tbilisi municipality is regulated by respective regulations of the elected board (Sakrebulo) of Tbilisi City Hall dated April 6, 2015. Yet due to low public awareness and lack of state legislation major problems prevail.
This positive exception of Tbilisi City Hall does not change dire situation, while the mentality of our society is very low because of lack of laws and educational programs, also other objective reasons, which has negative impact on the humane relations between animal world and humans. In many cities and regions of Georgia (with the exception of Batumi and Gori) local administrative bodies announce tenders for capturing-isolation of stray animals and sign off contracts with private individuals who do not have shelter or any civilized attitude to the matter at all. They capture and kill stray animals with notorious cruelty and the carcasses disappear. These facts attribute not only to animal cruelty, but make reasonable doubt about corruptive dealings of the government officials.
Only several companion animal shelters established by non-commercial (non-state) exist in Georgia. These shelters lack financing due to poverty and as the majority of animal lovers do not have the means for charity. In addition, the adoption rate of stray animals is very low, which creates even more problems to the shelters, as not all dogs and cats can be returned to the street. The situation is aggravated by abundance of animals kicked out from homes. Due to absence of regulations, animal owners often do not address the veterinarian in case of animal sickness, weakness or old age, do not care for their pet and leave them in the streets resulting in catastrophic situation for people and pets. Georgian legislation does not facilitate sanctions for kicking animals out or leaving them to shelters. There are some cases when owners kill their animals using cruel methods (guns, physical abuse, strangling, capturing without food and water, etc.).
It is very important that the government should find a civilized and humane solution to the situation. Internationally accepted humane methods should be used and the recommendations of local and international organizations working in the field should be taken into account. First steps for solving the problem must be: mass vaccinations, spay/neuter, TNR programs, finding homes. All of these must happen in well-equipped shelters and must be based on relevant legislation bases (legislation must also contain laws about breeding regulation). At the same time, euthanasia of healthy pets (dog and cat) should be prohibited. Euthanasia is allowable only when animal suffers from incurable illness or endangers health of human, what is measured by strict criteria. In this case internationally accepted humane methods of euthanasia should be used. The government should think of and execute human strategies, elaborate state program of animal population management according to European Standards.
The mistakes made by the government in the past brought about population destabilization, uncontrolled illnesses, unnatural migrations, extinction of species, increased number of stray animals and increased aggression, misuse of state funds, estrangement and frustration of the animal loving intellectual part of our society, mass and systematic culling of animals with unacceptable methods.
The government and state legislative body should affect the following:
- Ratification of International Declaration of Animal Rights
- Ratification of European Convention for the Protection of Pet Animals
- Updating and tightening the legislation about animal protection
The legislative body, ministries and municipalities should make correct and competent decision according animal population control that will create a basis for the financial, professional and moral support of local, international and donor organizations. All of these will help creating public awareness, developing and improving our country.
NGO “Georgian Society for the Protection and Safety of Animals” – GSPSA