number 150

Shortly after his election as mayor of Tirana Edi Rama was surprised to discover a box of dogs' ear in his office. This was how the city authorities dealt with the street dogs. Once a year armed teams were dispatched round the city, neighbourhood by neighbourhood, to kill the dogs. The dogs' ears were cut off and submitted to the city by the shooters in order to claim their bounty.

One year, some time before we arrived in the country, they tried a more humane catch, neuter, release (CNR) solution. Dogs that were part of the programme were given green ear tags with a number. Bella was number 150. She must have been very young at the time because it was clear she had never had pups.

The details of how and why this one off scheme took place, like much else from those years in Tirana, are hazy, but as far as we know it was the result of private funding. And as far as we know it was never repeated. The following year the city returned to the practice of shooting. We will never know for sure, but perhaps the generosity of those funders saved Bella's life.

These days the city claims to run a CNR scheme with the Veterinary Faculty at the University though there are still some critics who believe that many of the dogs that are rounded up are killed. I like to believe that some progress is being made. Our vet in Tirana, Dr Haxhi Allmuca, who treated the street dogs we brought to him, was appointed head of the Veterinary Institute just as we were leaving in 2007. He seemed a genuinely compassionate and caring man and I would like to think that he has been a force for good in changing attitudes.

This picture was taken on 12 November 2005.


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