Croatia may be overburdened with far too many laws. Some of them could be ditched amid sighs of relief or even cheers. Two spring to mind very quickly. One: car windows must be shut when the car is empty. Shouldn't the owner be allowed to choose whether to let some air in when the sun is baking, even at the risk of thieves taking advantage? It's surely a personal risk that doesn't require State intervention. Two: dogs are not allowed in cafes and restaurants, even in outside areas. Why can't the cafe or restaurant owner decide whether animals are allowed in public areas which don't threaten hygienic service? The 'logic' that a dog hair might get into someone's coffee is too silly - it must surely be easier for human hair to fall down into a cup than for dog hair to jump up to it?
Yet, without wishing to add extra burdens to the legislation, we feel there is - perhaps - a law missing. Dog owners are not obliged to provide their pets with collars or identifying tags. In the United Kingdom, by law a dog must have a collar with a label giving the name of the owner and a contact telephone number. The dog's name should not be included, on the grounds that knowing the dog's name would make it easier for a thief to befriend and abduct it. In Croatia, not so long ago, dogs carried a special tag showing they were vaccinated, which was at least a sign that they belonged to responsible owners. Now, dogs have to be micro-chipped. It is a good system which provides a source of information on dogs and owners nationwide. The downside is that to identify an owner the chip has to be read by a veterinarian. On Hvar, the only veterinary surgery is on the outskirts of Stari Grad, on the road leading towards Rudine.
What if your dog goes missing?
In the early summer of 2016 there have been several cases of dogs going missing from their owners. In two instances, the lost dogs had no collars. This complicates the situation. It creates the impression that the dog might have been abandoned by its owner - something which, sadly, is done at times, whether by local people or visitors to the island. A collar-less dog is harder for someone to take in hand, whether to remove the dog from dangerous situations or to take it to the veterinarian to see if it is micro-chipped.
When a dog is newly arrived on the island for a holiday with its owners, there is of course little chance of it finding its way back to them when it has wandered far enough away. Once the dog is lost, the owner should put out an appeal flyer with pictures and a contact phone number, so that anyone who sees the dog can let them know where it is. There are public notice boards in Hvar's towns and villages, and the local tourist boards will also willingly post such flyers on their boards. Some hotel, cafe and restaurant owners and workers are animal lovers who will take the trouble to publicize details of the missing pet. Of course, the veterinary surgery should be notified and given a flyer.
What if you find a lost dog?
If you are worried about a dog which is roaming around, there are several factors to bear in mind. If the dog looks well fed, it probably has an owner, especially if it has a collar. If it is skin and bones, and has no collar, it probably doesn't. If it is a hunting dog and is out barking in the fields or woodlands, it may have been let out by its owner and got lost or distracted after a training run. Local dogs who have good homes generally find their way home after a while. It is often worth asking local people if they know anything about the roaming dog. Sometimes you will get a reassuring answer.
If you are seriously worried, you can contact the local veterinarian. Many people contact Eco Hvar, and we do our best to help. There is a law against allowing dogs to roam freely in towns and villages, but there is no regular system for rounding up strays on the island. If you can take the dog to the vet to check for a micro-chip, so much the better. However, if it has no micro-chip, the question arises as to what happens next, as the vets are not registered for taking in strays.
Every year, dogs are abandoned on Hvar, big or small, puppies or adults, hunting dogs or (former) pets. On an individual basis, I have saved as many dogs as I could, and have mourned many more which I coukldn't help. In the absence of an official system for dealing humanely and efficiently with stray animals, I have become the 'go-to' person when people want to help these poor creatures, while sometimes those who want to dump a dog or cat leave them 'conveniently' near my home. The Town Warden came to inspect my dogs a few years ago, summoned by a dog-hating neighbour. Having found everything in order according to the relevant laws, he called me a week or two later to ask me to take in a stray which was wandering around Jelsa. Similarly, the local vets have been known to direct stray dogs in my direction. Eco Hvar was formed to try to provide a solution to the problem.
The situation has been much improved with the opening of the No-Kill Animal Shelter 'Animalis Centrum in Kaštel Sučurac just outside Split, founded and run by veterinarian Dr. Vesna Filipović. Now, we have established a working system through which dogs abandoned on Hvar can be cared for here until there is space in the Kaštela Shelter. From the Shelter, they have a good chance of finding homes on the mainland or abroad, especially in Germany, thanks to an excellent working relationship with some German animal welfare charities. When the dogs are homed, photographs are sent to the Shelter showing their new conditions.
Caring for unwanted animals costs money, for food, micro-chipping, inoculations, sterilizations, anti-parasitic treatments and any incidental medical expenses. Both Eco Hvar and Animalis Centrum depend primarily on donations. Our two voluntary organizations are now working very closely together to create more capacity for helping unwanted animals in our region. Contributions are warmly welcomed!
© Vivian Grisogono 2016
Veterinary Surgery Stari Grad: telephone 00 385 (0) 21 880022
Zaklada za Zaštitu Životinja (Animal Protection Foundation, umbrella for the Animalis Centrum Shelter), OIB 05786330179.
Donations: Splitskabanka IBAN: HR9324070001100371229; SWIFT VHR2X
Account name: ZAKLADA ZA ZAŠTITU ZIVOTINJA
Address of account holder: Kukuljevićeva 1, 21000 Split, Croatia
Eco Hvar details for donations: Privredna Banka Zagreb, IBAN: HR37 2340 0091 1106 0678 6; SWIFT CODE: PBZGHR2X
Account name: ECO HVAR
Address of account holder: Pitve 93, 21465 Jelsa, Croatia