Bulgaria has taken the first steps towards the establishment of an animal welfare police service. By a decree of the Minister of the Interior, each regional police department will assign 2 policemen who will be specialized in investigating animal-related crimes. This was announced last Thursday at a press-conference in Bulgarian parliament by Mr. Emil Radev, MEP and member the Intergroup on the Welfare and Conservation of Animals. A further agreement between the Interior Ministry and the Ministry of Agriculture and Food will also be signed in connection with the establishment of the unit, since the Animal Protection Act is within the jurisdiction of the agricultural authority.
Mr. Radev was confident that the specialized units will help speed up the process of investigation of crimes against animals. Currently less than 20% of all registered crimes against animals since 2011 have been resolved, according to official statistics. The animal welfare police officers will undergo trainings, organized together with animal welfare charities.
FOUR PAWS, who have been campaigning actively for a specialized unit for investigation of animal-related crimes, welcome the launching of the animal welfare police in Bulgaria. According to Yavor Gechev, Head of Communications of FOUR PAWS Bulgaria, the establishment of animal welfare police is important not only for the protection of the animals, but also for the development of civic society in this country, as there is a close link between cruelty to animals and crimes against people. The organization is ready to provide assistance to the Bulgarian authorities with the training of the new unit by organizing seminars and inviting guest lecturers from countries where similar units already exist.
Within this new animal police, Bulgaria became the fourth European country, and third EU Country to have such a dedicated police.
Such a dedicated unit has existed in the Netherlands since 2011: “The Animal Cops” with a dedicated hotline to report abuses. Since this date, the Netherlands has had a special office to deal with several animal welfare issues including animal cruelty, animal negligence, illegal trade and zoophilia.
In 2014, The Belgium region Wallonia has improved its system by creating a special animal unit and by creating an online formulary to report animal abuse.
This year, in Norway, the country’s government has announced plans to set up a police force for animals. As a pilot project, the police will be tested for three years, and if the results are conclusive, the project might become more permanent.
We can also mention Italy which has a dedicated police "Corpo Forestale dello Stato" responsible for enforcing poaching laws, safeguarding protected animal species and preventing forest fires. But it doesn't concern all animals.
The creation of animal police is not only helping the animals, but also has positive impacts on prevention of violence toward humans. Therefore we hope that in a near future more countries will follow this good example and stop to consider animal crimes as secondary.