Kosovans offered €50 a month to adopt stray dogs

Stray dog in main square of Pristina
Stray dog in main square of Pristina - ARMEND NEMANI/AFP

The mayor of Kosovo’s capital is offering to pay residents to adopt stray dogs as their numbers swell into the thousands.

Perparim Rama, the mayor of Pristina, said he will pay residents €50 (£42) a month – about a third of the Balkan country’s minimum wage – for every stray dog they take.

An estimated 4,000 stray dogs roam the city’s streets, with animal rights groups saying the numbers are the result of uncontrolled breeding and abandonment.

While some of them are tagged and appear quite placid, others have made walking in the capital intimidating and dangerous, with big dogs snarling at passers-by.

Last summer, a two-year-old child was bitten on the face by a stray dog in Mother Teresa Square, right in the heart of the city.

Many people have reported being menaced or chased by strays.

Pack of dogs in Pristina
Pack of dogs in Pristina - ERMAL META/AFP

“Keeping a dog is costly and not everyone has the money,” Mr Rama, who was born in Pristina but moved to Britain aged 16 and trained as an architect, told the Agence France-Presse news agency. “That is why we are helping families that adopt strays.”

Authorities have begun rounding up the street dogs, with the mayor saying that they “will continue every day until we remove them all”.

The strays will be sent to large shelters where they will be vaccinated, sterilised and prepared for adoption.

With €2 million a year at the council’s disposal to address the issue, “we can seriously expect to solve the problem...if the calculation of the number of stray dogs in the capital is correct”, the mayor said.

One of the first people to take up the offer was Sami Haxhaj, a 52-year-old mechanic. He took the bold decision to adopt 10 strays and has built a row of kennels for them at his home in a village west of Pristina. “I want to do something for them. I am happy that I provided them with a roof over their heads and enough food and space,” he said.

But the project has come in for criticism.

Opponents say that strays are used to living on the street, can be dangerous and may not adapt well to living in a home.

Sami Haxhaj, who has adopted 10 strays and built kennels for them
Sami Haxhaj, who has adopted 10 strays and built kennels for them - ARMEND NIMANI/AFP

Corralling them in shelters as they await adoption will result in the spread of diseases and could result in the dogs becoming aggressive towards each other over food, animal rights campaigners say.

Only a tiny proportion of locals are interested in adopting the strays, a survey by an animal welfare organisation suggests.

Many residents live in apartments unsuitable for a large, boisterous stray that is accustomed to roaming the city.

Families in Kosovo receive just €10 a month per child in state support. Some Kosovars say it is not right that people who adopt a dog should be paid €50 a month, or five times the amount that parents receive for a child.

“We must be drowning in cash to give money for dogs,” said Mirsad Balaj, a 65-year-old local man. “All dogs should be sterilised so they don’t breed anymore or the entire state budget will be going to the dogs.”

Elza Ramadani, the head of the Animal Rights Foundation, a local organisation, said officials should instead tackle the roots of the problem, namely “uncontrolled breeding and the abandoning of dogs by a large number of people”.