* Teenager takes baton from Bardot to save strays
* Ciulcu wants dogs to be well-treated, not chained
* Concern about strays rekindled by death of boy
By Radu Marinas and Bogdan Cristel
BUCHAREST, April 16 When French film actress
Brigitte Bardot began a campaign to spare the thousands of stray
dogs in Romania's capital from being put down, she did it with a
$150,000 donation scheme.
A similar campaign is being waged by Ana-Maria Ciulcu, a
13-year-old schoolgirl with braces on her teeth who uses
Facebook to appeal to dog lovers all over Europe - and to make
sure the dogs go to the right homes.
"I like to know that my dogs will be spoiled, and will be
allowed to sit on the sofa ... so one of my first questions
would be: 'Are you going to chain him?'," Ciulcu told Reuters.
Ciulcu was a baby when Bardot started her sterilisation
campaign in 2001. Now she speaks fluent German and has a grasp
of the Internet, and she's used both to rescue 150 strays and
ship them to Germany, Austria and Belgium since September.
But Bucharest's state-funded wards now hold 2,800 dogs, and
2,000 dogs have been euthanised in the past two months,
according to Romania's Authority for Animal Surveillance and
Protection. Foreign citizens, mainly German and British, have
directly adopted about 30 dogs since September, ASPA Director
Razvan Bancescu told Reuters.
Some 60,000 strays roam Bucharest. Last year, a
four-year-old boy died after he was mauled by a stray beside a
Bucharest park. Street protests demanded something be done about
the dogs. The authorities began enforcing the euthanasia rules,
which enable city halls to put down dogs caught in public spaces
if they are not adopted within two weeks.
The strays are thought to be a legacy of the dictator
Nicolae Ceausescu's decision to bulldoze Bucharest's historic
centre in the 1980s to make way for a gargantuan "House of the
People". Thousands of guard dogs were abandoned by residents who
had been forcibly relocated into small apartments.
SPURRED TO ACTION
Ciulcu collects strays on the street. They go to a temporary
private shelter, or to the backyard of her home on the capital's
outskirts. She has a veterinarian vaccinate them and give them
microchip identification tags and eventually gets international
passports for them.
All costs, from medicines, vaccines and neutering to
identification chips and passports, are covered by Ana-Maria's
family - about 150 euros ($210) per dog. Transporting the
animals to their destinations is covered by the new owner.
She spends up to about two hours a day selecting owners from
among thousands of would-be pet owners who visit her page
(www.facebook.com/anamaria.ciulcu). Few Romanians are among
"Romanians generally want to adopt only a pure breed," she
Ciulcu, who wants to become a doctor, believes keeping
animals together in state-funded shelters is not a solution,
just an extermination plan. Until she takes up her medical
studies, her ambition is to save as many dogs as she can.
"Dogs can't live packed together," she said. "They need
($1 = 3.2342 Romanian lei)
($1 = 0.7234 Euros)
(Editing by Michael Roddy and Larry King)