The city of Prijedor has been financing the work of a dog shelter/asylum, located at the local landfill, for 13 years, but it is hiding from the public the contract signed with the joint-stock company “Komunalne usluge” (translation: Communal Services), which runs the shelter, as well as financial reports on the money spent. Without these documents, it is not possible to determine how much public money was spent on the asylum or how it was further distributed. In the meantime, the shelter has been the target of public criticism since its establishment, due to the poor conditions in which dogs live.
Writes: Vanja Stokić
It is not known how many dogs have passed through the asylum at the landfill of the City of Prijedor since 2009, because records on the dogs brought and killed are not available to the public. This information is not disclosed to journalists or non-governmental organizations, although there is an obligation under the Freedom of Access to Information Act. Therefore, animal protection associations suspect that the records do not exist at all, although it is the obligation of “Komunalne usluga” according to the Law on Animal Protection and Welfare. The eTrafika portal requested records from “Komunalne usluge”, classified by municipalities with which this company has signed an agreement on the removal and care of stray dogs. We did not receive an answer. Separate reports on the operations of public utility companies, published on the official website of the City of Prijedor, state the number of 5,712 dogs, but without more detailed records, for the period from 2014 to 2018.
“Komunalne usluge” was founded by the City of Prijedor in 1961 and since then they have changed several forms of organization. The city of Prijedor owns more than 70 per cent of this company. Last year, Dalibor Grabež took the place of the director of “Komunalne usluge”, instead of the retired Milanko Duje.
With the arrival of the new director, an agreement on cooperation was signed with the Association for the Protection of Animals “Spas” from Prijedor, which has taken care of more than 5,000 abandoned dogs in the past nine years and has its own shelter for dogs since 2020. From August 2021 to March 2022, “Spas” took over more than 600 dogs from “Komunalne usluge”.
“Since we are doing them a favour by taking dogs from them every day, not at the end of the month, they do not spend money on food and veterinary care, the agreement was to repair the houses and provide adequate conditions for dogs to stay in their shelter, and to give them more food. We also provided between 100 and 150 kg of food per month. None of that has changed. Only one provision has been complied with, that dogs are not euthanized“, says Ina Ritan, president of the “Spas” association.
In “Komunalne usluge”, they say that they are continuously working on improving the conditions in which the dogs live. They are even announcing the construction of a new asylum, with a much larger capacity than the current one.
“We have to say that we received a positive answer, and we have already completed some of the procedures, and the rest of the procedures are underway with the competent departments in order to obtain all the necessary documentation. We also want to inform you that we have started with the construction of houses, boxes and other elements that will be an integral part of the new asylum. We hope that we will complete the necessary documentation as soon as possible and start construction work on the new location, and thus create high quality and modern conditions for the stay of abandoned dogs in the shelter. We will inform the public about all further activities in a timely manner through the media”, they state in their response to eTrafika, without specifying what the new location is, considering that the current asylum is located in a landfill.
Agreements with other municipalities
In addition to the City of Prijedor, “Komunalne usluge” has concluded agreements with neighbouring municipalities on the care of abandoned dogs. There are Kostajnica, Novi Grad, Kozarska Dubica and Mrkonjić Grad, whose contracts are in the possession of eTrafika. These municipalities did not have a problem sharing this information.
“Considering that there is no adequate record of collected dogs (photography, microchip, etc.), all these dogs are maintained at the expense of the budget of the City of Prijedor. They started offering other municipalities to take care of dogs from their municipalities as well, although they do not have conditions for dogs picked up on the territory of the City of Prijedor. The dogs in their shelter spent the whole autumn and winter in houses without floors, without adequate protection, on wet soil full of urine and faeces. Many dogs have lost their lives due to illness, and attacks by other dogs because they are not provided with adequate living conditions. Although we provided them with straw for the winter, we found straw only once when we came to visit “, says Ina Ritan in the Complaint on the work of the dog shelter “Komunalne usluge”, sent to the Republic Veterinary Inspection in March this year.
The inspectorate is asked to inspect the shelter as soon as possible and implement the necessary measures. Ritan warns that the shelter violates the Law on Protection and Welfare of Animals, as well as the Rulebook on the conditions that must be met by animal shelters.
“The shelter is a fenced area of 100 m2 in which there are three ruined pavilions of dog houses, which do not have floors or provide any protection from the weather in which dogs are housed. The facility itself is built so that the base does not have adequate drains or drainage, so water, urine and faeces remain on the surface and dogs are constantly in it. The houses do not have floors or have a small part of the floor that is underwater, faeces and urine, and dogs hide from the rain on them. Due to the condition of the facility, dogs are constantly exposed to various diseases, viruses and parasites. In addition to the condition of the facility, it is not maintained in such a condition, which promotes the spread of infection and disease. We have witnessed on several occasions that corpses are not removed from the boxes, so we found dead bodies in the phase of disintegration in the houses, and other dogs are lying next to them“, it is stated in the letter in the possession of eTrafika.
The shelter in Kurevo consists of two smaller parts, boxes with partitions and a wooden floor. For them, the association “Spas” states that they are the biggest source of infection in the shelter because there is a wooden floor in them, which absorbs faeces and urine.
“According to the appearance of the dogs found in the shelter, one gets the impression that the dogs are not fed enough and regularly, and they do not spend as much time as prescribed by law, because in addition to physical neglect, thinness, disease and weakness, animals are extremely traumatized and it is evident that they survived terrible pain. Dogs are placed in a common box regardless of their size, physical strength, physiognomy, degree of socialization, gender and age, which leads to constant conflicts, injuries and killings. On several occasions we found butchered dogs, half-eaten, parts of dog bodies in a box, gnawed dog heads and documented it with photographs and submitted the complaint to the director of “Komunalne usluge” a.d. The result was that they began removing corpses, but the dogs remained injured and traumatized“, it is written in the Complaint of the association “Spas”.
“Komunalne usluge” did not answer eTrafika’s questions about the number and manner of killing dogs, as well as the manner of disposing of corpses.
The health status of dogs is also debatable. Ina Ritan states that 90 per cent of the dogs taken from the Shelter are malnourished and have health problems. According to him, all dogs are infected with corona, giardia and parvovirus, and are full of internal and external parasites.
“A large number of dogs have chronic pancreatitis, one of the main causes of which is starvation and exhaustion of the organism. After taking over, everyone is provided with adequate veterinary care, they are cleaned of internal and external parasites, after 7-10 days they are vaccinated against infectious diseases, and they are microchipped and veterinary processed. If the dog is sick and injured, he is automatically placed in the veterinary clinic for 24-hour treatment. The costs of veterinary care, cleaning from internal and external parasites, vaccination and treatment are borne by our association“, notes Ritan.
According to the Rulebook on the Establishment and Conditions that Animal Shelters Must Meet, staff must stay in the shelter for at least four hours a day. The a.d. “Komunalne usluge” did not answer us how many people are employed in the shelter, what are their working hours and job descriptions.
“On three occasions, we asked the City Administration to provide us with the Decision on the establishment of a shelter for dogs ‘Komunalne usluge’ and a copy of the Agreement reached between the City of Prijedor and ‘Komunalne usluge’ a.d., but we did not receive a response. Which brings us into doubt that this shelter has been operating illegally and illegally for 13 years without adequate documentation. Thousands of animals have been tortured, exposed to suffering, pain and anxiety, over a million KM have gone through ‘Komunalne usluge’ a.d. for the purpose of caring for abandoned dogs, and animals are being illegally abused and killed. It is time to put an end to the reputation of the city of Prijedor owning one of the most notorious kennels in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and to turn to a future where all laws are respected, including the Law on Animal Protection and Welfare”, the “Spas” Association said.
The eTrafika editorial office asked “Komunalne usluge” to submit a construction and use permit for the facilities where the dogs are housed, but this request was not answered. We have been informed that everything is according to the law.
“The company ‘Komunalne usluge’ AD Prijedor is registered in the competent court to perform activities in the field of hygiene service as well as to manage the shelter for abandoned dogs / strays, and has the appropriate documentation issued by the local government unit. The shelter for abandoned dogs / strays is entered in the register of shelters with the competent Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Management”, it is stated in the response of “Komunalne usluge”.
Where are the financial statements?
At the end of March 2022, the Association “Spas” asked the City of Prijedor to submit financial reports on the funds spent on the work of the Shelter for Dogs “Komunalne usluge” and hygiene services within “Komunalne usluge”, to see how citizens’ money was spent. Not even two months later, no reports were submitted. The eTrafika editorial office also requested these reports from the City of Prijedor and from the utility company “Komunalne usluge”, but without success.
From the City of Prijedor not even a copy of the contract with “Komunalne usluge” was received, as requested several times by the Association “Spas”, for the needs of this text and the editorial office of eTrafika.
“Regarding the financing of the hygienic service, the company “Komunalne usluge” AD Prijedor through the public procurement procedure in the negotiated procedure every year applies for the provision of these services in the city of Prijedor within the common communal consumption program, and regarding the procurement of means of work, equipment and food, we realize them in accordance with the applicable legal regulations governing operations and public procurement procedures in public companies as well as in accordance with the general acts of ‘Komunalne usluge’ AD Prijedor”, we were told in “Komunalne usluge”.
From 2018 until the end of 2021, the City of Prijedor awarded “Komunalne usluge” three million KM, excluding VAT, through negotiation procedures without publishing a procurement notice. This amount includes cleaning of the city and suburbs, maintenance of greenery and city cemeteries, hygienic service, maintenance of horizontal signalization, emergency work and general utility services. It is not known how much money was allocated specifically for the work of the hygienic service and asylum.