As usual, out of habit, I got out of bed and read the paper. The front page of the daily shows an idyllic photograph of Mt Zlatibor, covered in this year’s first snow. I don’t really believe that any reader could be indifferent to this beautiful photograph, not be drawn to picture himself, at least for a moment, sitting right on this mountain, in the heaven of this winter resort, the “pride and honour of Serbia”.
I was lucky enough to have a chance to bring the scene captured by this photograph to life, because I returned from Zlatibor last night, having greeted the first snow of the year.
I graduated two weeks ago from the Economics Faculty of Belgrade University. This is why my girlfriend and I decided to spend five days in an apartment owned by my family on this mountain which has given me so much pleasure and so many wonderful moments every day I have spent there.
However, the unfortunate event I witnessed while I was there is something that we will not and must not be indifferent to, and I will do all in my power to see to it that it never happens again. This is why I turned on my computer first thing this morning – to make an appeal, because I believe that in these not-so-glorious times for our country, when the are stories of murders all over the papers, you are sensitive to what some people consider the less important things.
On my last day at Zlatibor, having woken up at 7.00 a.m., as I did every day there, I was witness to a horrifying event, on Tuesday, November 5.
Along the river walk, near King Aleksandar’s water fountain, I noticed traces of blood. At first I thought that someone must have slipped and injured themselves while getting water. But, following the trail of blood, I noticed a dead dog a few metres away.
A few steps further on, in front of the local post office, I noticed another dead dog. There was no blood, so I thought a car must have run over it, although the centre of Zlatibor is a pedestrian only. But just a few metres further on, at the small junction near the market, things became much clearer: more dead dogs. I remembered that I had seen a young guy with a hunting rifle over his shoulder near the cafes.
Then, on the street leading to the Jugopetrol rest house, I saw a car pull up and a hunter with a rifle getting out of it. He was chasing a dog the size of a large cat which was bounding around a family coming down the hill. I ran to protect the dog from certain death. It put its tail between its legs and hid behind the legs of the family, looking for protection. Having managed to get to the dog before this wicked man’s bullet, I asked him “Are you out of your mind? How would you feel if someone was chasing you with a gun trying to kill you? Who gave you the right to do this?”:
His insolent reply was “Is that your dog? Better take it home with you if you have any sympathy for it!”
I took the dog in my arms and headed for my apartment. I heard a question in English. The people this little dog had been following were foreigners. The man looked at me, puzzled and somewhat frightened, and asked:
“What did he actually want to do?”
“To kill this dog!” I replied.
“Why? It followed us all the way from the hotel. It’s really sweet!”
He asked a few more questions, like whether the hunters had a permit and did the municipality authorise them to do this, before finishing, “Well, yes, there’s no Brigitte Bardot here!”
This whole unpleasant incident took place before the eyes of the horrified locals and children, obviously frightened by it, and tourists. Shop assistants in the nearby kiosks, vendors from the market, children and foreigners cheered the few of us who were trying to protect a number of small dogs, carrying them in our arms as far away from the centre as possible.
Later I asked at the local police station and other local authorities and learnt that these slaughters are organised by hunters’ associations, mainly the Zlatibor Hunter’s Association. The head of this organisation is Dobrosav Bucić and the permits are issued by Cajetina Mayor Radovan Jojić. This happens twice a year.
I would like to ask a few simple questions:
Is there a law that allows civilians to carry and use firearms in the centre of an inhabited place?
Is it possible that someone issues permits (we didn't actually see any) and allows the use of firearms in the middle of a winter tourist resort, right before the eyes of residents, guests, small children and foreigners, as though this were hunting season in some game reserve, and not an urban environment, in fact a town centre on a mountaint which should be the pride and honour of this country's tourist resorts.
Are we a country which is attempting to integrate into developed and civilised Europe? Is this how we demonstrate our civilised behaviour? Do we want the world to know us only by wars and evil, and do we want the few tourists who come here to go home from their summer and winter holidays with tales of savagery?
Dogs are being killed in large numbers in the very centre of Zlatibor, a resort which attrracts large numbers of people. The problem of stray dogs does need to be solved, but not in this monstrous and barbaric manner.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
Please write to Serbian authorities asking for “Humane Animal Welfare Laws”
Office of Prime Minister VOJISLAV KOSTUNICA
Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Management
Serbian Minister of Science and Environmental Protection
Embassy of Serbia and Montenegro