07/25/05 Inspections are Sham or Non-Existing
Animal Friends demands drastic changes in the work of Veterinary Inspections and the resignation of incompetent officials
In Croatia, veterinary inspections mostly act merely as passive observers, often even supporting those who commit crimes against animals or take part in them.
Their inspectors lack basic knowledge of the Animal Welfare Act and the ways in which this law is violated. The most recent example is the so-called "the beagles affair" at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in Zagreb, when Zeljko Devcic, veterinary inspector in charge, failed to take notice of a number of abuses, stating that the dogs were kept in conditions stipulated by the ordinance and that he did not observe any negligence in the way dogs were kept?!? (The list of abuses can be viewed in the Demand for Resignation from Duty of Inspector Zeljko Devcic, which the Animal Friends forwarded to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Management, see the enclosure to this memorandum).
Incompetence and lack of professionalism in veterinary inspectors can also be observed in the case of visiting circus Gärtner, which features animal acts and is on tour in a number of Croatian towns. It is significant that the veterinary inspection of Porec disallowed the circus to perform with five of their animals, since they lacked proper medical documentation (Glas Istre, January 27, 2005), but in all the other towns where the circus had already performed, inspectors never noticed this violation of the Animal Welfare Act, although Animal Friends has sent reports to the inspections of all towns where the circus was to perform.
The Gärtner circus presents a constant threat for the citizens through the presence of wild animals in public, since it advertises itself almost everywhere by means of elephant parades, which is an outright violation of the Animal Welfare Act. This practice is prohibited by Article 23 of the Animal Welfare Act, since wild animals in the town centre may pose a threat for the citizens as a result of constant stress and oppression to which they are subjected, climatic conditions which may not suit them, and inadequate treatment. Violators of Article 23 and Article 24 of the Animal Welfare Act should be liable to a fine between 2,500 and 5,000 Croatian kuna. Despite the fact that the Gärtner circus has promoted its performances in a number of Croatian towns by parading elephants through the streets, veterinary inspectors have not reacted in a single instance! After the recent parade of elephants in the town of Kasteli, the veterinary inspector in charge, Mrs. Plamenka Kovac, stated that it was an issue of minor importance and that the elephants may have in fact been better off in taking a walk. She had seen some elephants walking on the beach on TV and rather liked it. When the Animal Friends' activists pointed out that the elephants' parades violate the Animal Welfare Act, she replied that she had to study the law first?!?
Reacting to citizens' complaints, Animal Friends has submitted several charges for inadequate treatment of dogs (keeping on short chains, subjection to unfavourable weather, deprivation of food and water, maltreatment and killing) to the veterinary inspection, but they have not resulted in a single report of the inspectors.
Since animal abuse can be sanctioned only on the basis of an inspector's report, we may doubt the efficiency and competence of Croatian veterinary inspections, whose professional and moral duty is to react whenever the law is violated. After the disclosure of illegal experiments performed on beagle dogs at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in Zagreb, in which case the veterinary inspection could not observe any abuses despite abundant evidence, we have all reasons to presume that numerous other violations of the Animal Welfare Act have been overlooked. Animal Friends can only assume what terrible abuses may have taken place before the disclosure - if the inspectors claimed that all was regular and in accordance with the Animal Welfare Act in that particular case, it is questionable how the inspectors did their job in previous cases, on which the public has not yet been informed. After this bitter lesson, we suspect with horror that the situation is hardly better in other institutions of the sort, where animals are still sacrificed on the "altar of science."
Therefore, we would like to call attention to the urgency of establishing an Ethical Committee, which would comprise experts from the fields of veterinary medicine, human medicine, biology, pharmacology, and animal technology, but also representatives of organisations active in the field of animal welfare and the protection of animal rights, in order to put an end on the abuse, maltreatment, and torture of animals. We appeal to the Croatian public and the institutions in charge to demand urgent modifications in the Animal Welfare Act, which will prevent such arbitrary and cruel treatment of animals and impose severe penalties for violation.