Stray Dogs in Romania: Are They Still a Problem?

In the past, Romania managed to become (in)famous worldwide thanks to its stray dog problem (among other things, of course). It wasn’t uncommon to see groups of stray dogs roaming the streets and even attacking pedestrians.

This “fame” was earned at least a couple decades ago so now, after all this time, we’re right to ask the question again. Does Romania still have a stray dog problem?

There are a lot of people who think or worry that Romania might be a country where packs of stray dogs still roam the streets and are ready to attack anybody who crosses their path.

This is fortunately not the case for most of the country. Today, we’ll get a bit more in depth with this and talk about stray dogs in Romania.

Does Romania Have a Lot of Stray Dogs?

stray dogs in Romania

Fortunately, there aren’t many stray dogs left in the country. Some cities will have more than others, but generally, the situation is under control and you can spend a week in the country without seeing any strays.

No matter if we’re talking about dogs in Bucharest, some other major city or smaller towns, the perception of the public seems to be the same: there’s way too many of them wandering the streets, being violent and attacking passers by.

In reality, things are much different (and improving on an yearly basis). Although Romania hasn’t completely managed to deal with this problem, things are much better now than they were decades ago when, in some areas, it really was dangerous to walk because of these dogs who could get violent

I remember that in my home town, there were some regions that everybody knew and avoided, because the dogs took over.

It was so bad that even now, so many years after, I am still afraid of going jogging in the largest park in the city because that is where the dogs used to hang out. I haven’t seen any in years, but the trauma remains.

The same can be said about most parts of Romania, especially the ones that tourists are most likely to visit: chances are minimal that you’ll run into a stray and there’s even less of chance of seeing a pack of them.

Stray Dogs in Romania

This means that Romania and stray dogs are slowly starting to make peace. In the larger cities, the stray dogs have been reduced to a bare minimum. (And are slowly starting to be replaced by cats – but this is the topic for another article).

And most of the smaller cities are in a similar situation: many of the stray dogs have been neutered and tagged, although there are still enough roaming the streets, with some areas being worse than others.

But generally, you should no longer worry about being attacked by stray dogs in Romania.

Many measures have been taken along the years to combat the increasing numbers of strays in the country and most cities have dealt with the problem nicely.

You can still see a stray dog here and there, usually dogs that are fed by either the homeless or people living in the apartment blocks nearby.

Even fewer of the already few strays are actually dangerous: most of them are just miserable because they lack proper housing and care, but are otherwise friendly and happy to see humans around. I haven’t had a stray bark at me or try to attack me in over 10 years – maybe more.

It is true, there is still a lack of education in the country – combined with a lack of funds to properly take care of the poor dogs in Romania – which means that some particular areas have more strays than others.

This usually goes for the poorer neighborhoods or cities where people who no longer afford taking care of their dogs simply throw them out on the streets… which is definitely sad and hopefully improving on an yearly basis.

Many people still don’t afford to have their dogs taken to the vet – or they don’t want to – and end up with too many puppies to handle and eventually release them on the streets.

stray dogs and cats

But these practices are also slowing down, fortunately, helping to keep the overall numbers low. The authorities are starting to take measures also, making neutering mandatory and raising the fines for those who release puppies on the streets.

However, the family that moved to Brasov from the US told me in an interview that one of the things that bothered them the most there were stray dogs. So they definitely exist in Brasov, just as they still do in small numbers in other cities.

But in most cases, they are not violent. Sure, they will bark and protect their “Territory” especially if you are walking your dog in their neighborhood, but they are no longer attacking other people.

Because in most occasions, these stray dogs in Romania are not 100% homeless. Many of them have an owner, but are allowed to roam free outside.

I remember when I was young, my family had a dog who spent most of the day outside actually: he was leaving the house in the morning and returning in the afternoon. He usually let us know he’s back by scratching the door to the yard until somebody left him in.

This was considered normal just a few decades ago! I am not sure what was the point of this, to be honest, but this was how things went back then.

However, this practice has mostly died as well since dog catchers are more active in Romania than they were a couple decades ago, and people more educated and caring with their pets.

It’s also worth noting that, for example, a Brazilian who spent a few months in Romania noted that he saw no stray dogs in Bucharest during his stay.

I wouldn’t personally go as far as saying that, but I do agree that compared to my youth, there are almost no strays left around.

Sure, seeing one here, one there, roaming the streets, might still be considered too much by most people, but at least the packs that some are worried they might see are generally gone.

During a quick visit to a nearby small town called Vanju Mare (exploring the area around our village house in Oltenia), I saw the largest group of dogs I have seen in many years.

Probably 6-7 dogs were just chilling in front of an apartment building, completely ignoring all passers by. You can check out my video below if you want to see a bit of the city (as well as the strays):

Actually, one of them was so happy to see us that she came over, wiggling her tail and begging for attention.

I believe that these were dogs that people in the area fed, so they were friendly… but still without a home. They weren’t tagged and one of them seemed to have puppies, which was even sadder.

But on the other hand, Vanju Mare is far from being considered a place tourists would visit. I haven’t been there before and I would’ve never went there unless we had this village house nearby.

So let’s move to Constanta! This is our home for the past few months and I have to say that I was surprised to see more strays here than in other cities I have visited.

I don’t see them very often, but on two occasions, in two different areas – once around the beach and once close to the city center – I actually saw packs of maybe 7-8 dogs roaming around.

While they were not violent… it’s still scary to see that. So the problem still exists and I would say, based on personal experience, that in some cities it is worse than in others. But overall, things are much better than 10 or 20 years ago.

Conclusion

So in the end, most of the areas in Romanian cities are pretty safe when it comes to stray dogs. You will rarely see one and I doubt that there are many chances of seeing the packs that were famous a while ago.

The very poor areas of a city – or its outskirts – as well as smaller towns are most likely to house more of these dogs, but even here they are not aggressive in most occasions, just miserable and sad.

Romania - Are Stray Dogs a Problem

However, as a safety measure, I recommend trying to keep the distance if you see a stray while in Romania: you never know when a friendly-looking one decides to start acting tough! Better be safe than sorry!

But I must say it again: there are big chances that you will see no stray dogs during a shorter stay in Romania, especially if you stick to the central or the more touristic areas of a city.

Now, over to you. Have you been to Romania? Saw any strays or, most importantly, had any problems with them? Share your experiences with our readers below.

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19 thoughts on “Stray Dogs in Romania: Are They Still a Problem?”

  1. I have dogs but l am really afraid of stray dogs, especially when l am walking my dogs. Thank god you don’t see them often. Neither do we. In Nigeria, it’s as you describe, one here or there who belong to people but just go out all day to return in the evening. I’m glad they are tackling the problem, it can be scary, especially if you have kids. I would definitely cross the street :-).

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    • Yes, the problem is indeed that the stray dogs who exist are not very friendly towards other people’s pets, especially if they’re not from the area… but this is happily less and less of a problem now.

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  2. I’m in Bucharest right now and saw one dog that could have been a stray. None here to speak of. I’ll check for any in Timisoara and Brasov next week but haven’t ever noticed them before.

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  3. Having been to Bucharest in 2013 and currently living here I can safely say stray dogs are not an issue in most neighborhoods especially compared to 2013 when they started taking measures to diminish the stray dog populations. On the outskirts of Bucharest you can still find a few and some of the poorer blocks seem to have owners that let their dogs roam around a majority of the time.

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  4. I had a few unpleasant run-ins with stray dogs in parks in Bucharest back in the early 2000s (last time I went was in 2003). It got so that I was reluctant to go into parks. For instance, it was quite frightening to see this big dog run towards me from afar while barking. They tell you not to run but it was very difficult to resist. Fortunately, he stopped at about 10 yards and just barked at me. I slowly walked sideways to him, never letting him out of my sight. A German I was with in the small town where we often stayed was roaming around some meadow trying to get reception for his cell phone when a shepherd’s dog sneaked up behind him and bit him in the calf, drawing blood. He came to me and told me, as their translator, to do something about it. I asked him what he wanted me to do, suck the rabies out of his leg, go to the police, demand compensation? I finally did get the shepherd to stop by and apologize. I would strongly recommend people be careful if they are walking in the countryside. I once announced to the Romanian family I was staying with that I wanted to walk to a nearby town. They wouldn’t let me go unless I took a big stick they gave me. They said just seeing a stick would make the dogs leave me alone. It’s good to hear times have changed and the dog problem is now under control. It annoyed me to no end how Brigitte Bardot was harassing Romania about it’s early efforts to round up the stray dogs.

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    • That is true, in villages you do feel safer if you have sticks with you because dogs do roam free. When I get out in our village, I make sure to do the same even though I had no problems so far.

      And yes, I remember the parks which provided a home for stray dogs. I hated that and for a long time I completely avoided getting into any kind of park. But yes, things have changed, fortunately and I am able to enjoy the beautiful parks 🙂

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  5. The facts stated in this article are not my experience at all. I’ve spend 2 weeks in Iasi, Tecuci, and Arad and in all thee of these cities I saw countless, countless stray dogs and cats. My heart keeps breaking for them – I wish I could do something to help them. Interestingly, when I bought dog and cat food for them, or even meat from the store they reused to eat it.

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    • They look horrible because there’s nobody to groom them, but they are in most cases very well fed 🙂 You’re not the only one who feels bad for them and tries to feed them…

      I don’t know about Tecuci and Iasi, but I’ve been in Arad 4 times in the past two years and I haven’t seen a single stray dog during the time. I’ll get there again by the end of July and I’ll pay a closer look. Maybe some areas of the city have them and some don’t.

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  6. I live in a small city in western Romania and stray dogs are still a big problem, not in the sense of attacking humans or forming packs though, most of them are no threat to humans, instead they are chased around by the very humans who should be protecting and feeding them!! People don’t spay their animals and unwanted puppies/dogs are abandoned all the time. It’s really a sad situation, my heart breaks every day seeing these hungry and very friendly poor dogs trying to approach people to beg for some food and often all they get are yells and are being chased away 🙁 People need to be educated and be responsible, if you can’t afford to keep a dog, spay them and offer them the care they deserve (yes including taking them to the vet and paying for their medical problems) then do not have a dog!!!

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    • Actually this very morning fed an abandoned hungry maybe 2-3 months old puppy. The saddest part is that you have no humane shelter to call or to take to these abandoned doggies 🙁

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  7. I have just done some hiking in various mountains and natural parks of Romania, and at several occasions I actually feared for my life. Packs of 10 dogs or so often come running in the middle of nowhere, barking, surrounding you, growling furiously, looking for an opening to attack. Unlike brown bears and wolves, these dogs are a real threat to hikers, especially if you are alone, several other hikers and guides had the same opinion. Of course dogs can attack people, they do all over the world, often with fatal outcome. In addition these dog packs could cause changes to the ecosystem by hunting other prays. Why shoot a brown bear just for trespassing into a populated area, but sympathize and tolerate dogs showing such extreme aggression and domination behavior against humans? Makes no sense.

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    • You obviously haven’t seen or know what happens to these poor dogs.
      And it’s authorities who kill bears not the public. I would kill no animal. Like most people I’m not cruel to any of them but we can’t decide what authorities do in each country with each animal. I feel empathy for ALL of them.

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  8. During my last visit to Romania in August of 2018, I definitely noticed a lot less dogs. In my visits in 2005, 2008, 2010, and 2011, there were definitely dogs everywhere. And it didn’t matter what city. Brasov, Sibiu, Bucharest (not as much in Cluj-Napoca though), stray dogs were there. They pretty much left me and my friends (or family) alone, except in 2011. While coming back from paddle boating at night at Herastrau Park, a dog decided to follow me and my friend. This dog would not leave. No matter how long we walked, or what corner we took. He kept following. It didn’t bark or get aggressive, but no matter where we walked, it followed. He looked rather haggard too. The only way we got away from it was by getting on a public bus. We were relieved once the doors shut, and the bus pulled away. I don’t even remember if we took the next stop to get off or not. All I remember was getting on and breathing a sigh of relief to be away from the dog! I’m glad he wasn’t aggressive, or things could have gone badly. I started noticing the decrease in stray dogs around 2014. It has definitely improved since then.

    Brian

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  9. I am here for a couple of years and we see stray dogs. They’re mostly harmless. I’m also here w my dog and have been approached a few times but nothing bad happens. That said, my co-worker and I recently rescued a stray dog who is very sick and bringing to a animal hospital. He plans to to adopt and take the animal back to his country if she survives. She’s a very sweet dog. We believe that given her temperament she was owned by someone. So sad to see her neglected and we hope to give her a better life or at least some comfort in the event she’s too sick to fight on.

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  10. It is now 2022 and we still have many, many dogs coming into our country (U.K.) after being rescued.
    It breaks my heart.
    Can I ask, are there many around Zarnesti and brasov? And the surrounding areas? I’m not worried for my safety I’m just worried about how much it will upset me. Do they get hit by traffic? Are people cruel to them? I don’t want to plan a trip that will leave me traumatised. I’d really appreciate reply to this please.

    Reply

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