OIE launched its first one-year communication campaign dedicated to the fight against the increasing number of stray dogs. This initiative is targeted at Balkan countries, where the control of this canine population causes serious problems for both humans and animals. Its objective: to significantly limit dog abandonment on the streets, as this is known to be the main source of stray dogs in these countries.
In many countries around the world, stray dogs still represent a huge burden for society. These animals play an important role in the transmission of zoonotic diseases (including rabies), pollution (e.g. faeces and noise), risks to human health through biting or traffic accidents and risks to other dogs and other domestic animal species, wildlife and livestock.
Aware of this problem, in 2009 the OIE adopted a full chapter dedicated to stray dog population control (part of the Welfare section in the OIE Terrestrial Animal Health Code).
This May 2016, the OIE took one further step towards tackling this issue and launches the ‘Be his hero’ campaign in Balkan countries.
[The countries that make up the Balkans today include Greece, Albania, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Romania, rump Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro), and Bosnia. Geographically, “European Turkey,” a small region around Istanbul, is located in the Balkans.]
Tackling abandonment to reduce the number of stray dogs
The target audiences of this campaign are future and current dog owners in the Balkans, including both adults and children. Indeed, ‘Stray dog’ is mainly a societal issue mostly due to inappropriate human behaviour, while educational and awareness-raising activities are part of the long-term solution.
Under the ‘Be his hero’ slogan, this campaign channels positive messages encouraging responsible dog owners practises with a view to notably limiting dog abandonment on the streets, known to be the main source of stray dogs in Balkan countries.
The OIE has prepared a dedicated Awareness Campaign Package that includes the campaign logo, poster, leaflet, questionnaire for responsible dog acquisition, web banner, template Facebook page, sample scripts for radio spots, press release, and a specialised kit for schools, including stickers, a game book for children, and a PowerPoint presentation specifically designed for teachers.
An initiative of the OIE Platform on Animal Welfare for Europe
Two years ago, stray dogs were identified by the OIE Platform on Animal Welfare for Europe as one of the three priority topics of action, leading to the launch of regional initiatives on stray dog population control in the Balkans and West Eurasia, in the interests of both dogs (animal welfare aspects) and the wider community (public security and health aspects).
At the kick-off meeting of the initiative for the Balkans in June 2014, eleven countries and territories agreed to start complying with the OIE Chapter 7.7 of the OIE Terrestrial Animal Health Code on stray dog population control by 2025, acknowledging that this objective is also contributing to implementing the OIE-WHO Global framework on the elimination of dog-mediated rabies.
Among the several lines of actions proposed to meet this important deadline, the OIE decided to include a regional awareness campaign on stray dogs, with a view to filling in identified gaps in the public’s education and awareness, and thanks to the support of the European Union, World Animal Protection (WAP) and the Regional Centre for Animal Welfare in the Balkans (RAWC).
The national Veterinary Authorities, key players of the campaign
The national Veterinary Authority in each participating country, specifically the OIE Delegate assisted of the national focal points assigned to animal welfare and communication, are considered as the leaders and main implementers of the campaign at national level.
The Veterinary Authority will be responsible for liaising with intermediaries in the campaign implementation, including local authorities, private veterinarians, pet shops, schools, non-governmental organisations and journalists, with a clear understanding to the respective roles played by each one. Other national authorities, such as Ministries of Health, Education, Tourism and Environment, are also encouraged to participate.
With a view to helping national Veterinary Services in this initiative, a booklet titled ‘How to run as successful campaign’ was prepared by the OIE to serve as a companion document to the abovementioned campaign materials, providing them with structural guidelines for preparing, deploying and evaluating their respective national Campaign.
The OIE will also be involved ‘downstream’, in order to assess the campaign effectiveness after one year, based on a list of criteria that will be measured before and after the campaign, with the objective of serving other campaigns.