While the Albanian government tightened its animal rights laws in November, it is worded as such that it will not apply to stray dogs, cats or other animals on the streets.
Exit consulted with legal advisors who explained that the law refers to domestic animals in the context of pets, not strays. This means that the law, which includes harsh punishments on those who abuse animals, will not apply to Municipalities or state employees who poison, capture, and kill stray dogs.
On November 7, Albanian parliament approved amendments to the Criminal Code. It included increased punishments for those that injure, mistreat, or inflict cruelty on them. Those that are found guilty of any of the above, face between one and two years in prison.
While animal welfare organisations were allegedly involved in the consultation and drafting of the amendments, a legal advisor said that any case regarding the poisoning of stray animals is likely to be rejected due to the terminology used.
“The specific wording of the law means that if we were to file a complaint about mistreatment and poisoning of stray dogs by the Municipality, it would most likely be thrown out to the loophole that a stray dog cannot be considered as a domestic pet.”
Albania has long had problems with animal cruelty, not limited to appalling conditions of domestic pets kept in urban petshops, the captivity of bears and other wild animals in restaurants and “zoos”, and the systemic poisoning and mistreatment of stray dogs by the authorities. In. 2019, activists reported that the Municipality of Tirana killed around 1000 stray dogs in the city.
The Municipality was caught on film using sedative darts, inflicting violence on dogs while trying to capture them, and keeping them in inhumane conditions.
Activists claim the Municipality used to say they had a shelter where they took care of the dogs but now this story has changed.
“After that, they don’t care anymore and they told us ‘you don’t have to search for them any more, they are dead”.
The animal rights organisation added that they were told many were left by the Elbasan-Tirana highway to be hit by car drivers, others were killed deliberately, and others were left where no one will feed them.
Activists were hopeful that the new amendments would provide protection for Albania’s strays but it seems that this is not the case. Members of the public have resorted to fundraising to sterilize, vaccinate, and feed Albania’s strays in a humane attempt to solve the problem.