Pet abuse on the rise in Sweden: agency

Hundreds of cats being kept in a small apartment, lame horses kept unwatered and battered and bruised pooches - the number of pet-owners losing their right to keep animals on the grounds of abuse is increasing steadily in Sweden.

Pet abuse on the rise in Sweden: agency

“I don’t actually think that the animals are being treated worse, but more cases of negligence are discovered and the control system seems to work better,” said Björn Dahlén at the animal welfare unit of the Swedish Board of Agriculture (Jordbruksverket) to news agency TT.

In 2005, 124 Swedes were issued with a pet ban and last year that number had increased to 192. If the trend continues in 2011, over 200 people will loose their right to keep pets this year.

Maltreatment and negligence are only two of the many reasons why pet-owners loose their animals and are prohibited to acquire new ones.

The increasing problem caused Stockholm police to form a special animal protection unit three months ago.

“We started this group because we knew there was a need for it but we never realised that the problem would be this large,” said Håkan Andersson, who heads the group, to newspaper Borås Tidning.

At the moment the unit is ten strong, a number that will increase with another three officers this autumn.

“Most of the people we deal with are really not in any condition to keep animals at all, because of substance abuse or mental disorders, and when it goes as far as someone reporting them, the animals are usually in pretty bad shape,“ said Andersson.

County councils assumed control of animal protection checks in 2009. Last year 240 people were working with animal rights and over 12,000 inspections were carried out.

In 60 percent of the cases the inspection is carried out after a report of maltreatment has been received from the public, according to Björn Dahlén.

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Touching photo project reveals love between Stockholmers and their pets

When Michelle Job, a photographer and blogger from India, relocated to Stockholm one of the first things that caught her eye was people's close relationship with their pets in Sweden.

Touching photo project reveals love between Stockholmers and their pets
Max the dog, his owner Ashok and Ronia. Photo: Michelle Job

The difference between the role of pets in India and Sweden struck her immediately.

Even in capital city Stockholm, she found that many brought their pets with them to work, on public transport, to restaurants – even to special pet play parks and day cares. They were treated as family members.

“Many aspects in Sweden were and are new to me. One such thing that caught my attention are the numerous pets I come across each day and how much they are valued and respected. I was suddenly urged to document the stories of these pets and their relationship with their owners,” Job tells The Local.

The sudden inspiration made her launch the “Pet Love Photo Project” to try to capture the special bond shared between pets and their owners in Stockholm. And what started as a tentative Facebook post asking people to share their stories has now turned into an ambitious online photo journalism collection.

It includes a range of different people and pets – so far only dogs – sharing their own stories. 

For example Alfie, a rescue dog who was picked up in Switzerland and has now spent six years travelling the world together with his owner Flavie.

IN PICTURES: Check out more pictures of Stockholmers and their pets here

High five! Flavie and Alfie. Photo: Michelle Job

Or Max, an affectionate Dachshund who belongs to Ashok, the owner of the Chaikhana Tea House in Stockholm's Old Town, and has what you would almost call a sixth sense. Ever-the-charmer, he has also befriended Ashok's friend Ronia, and always stands by the phone and wags his tail whenever she calls.

“I felt these are love stories that often go unspoken and unheard. These could also be potential stories of hope, courage, strength and survival. I wanted to bring out these love stories through my photographs and words – these little stories that showcase the spirit of Stockholm,” says Job.

READ ALSO: More Swedes prefer dogs to cats, study shows

Ronia and Max. Photo: Michelle Job

She says the project has also changed the way she views the animals herself.

“As a mum of two little girls, I have always been pre-occupied with them. I had never given pets a serious thought until I started this project,” she says.

“When I began to interview pet owners about their pets and photograph them, my perspective changed completely. I could no longer see them as 'mere animals'. In fact, the more I heard about their bond, the canines began to appear more and more human and humane to me.”

“They were an integral part of these families and individuals I spoke to. The mutual love and support the owners and pets share are like any human relationship – deep and intense. I realized these creatures contain so much emotion, affection and integrity – so much that this world would be a better place if all humans shared the same.”

Check out more pictures of Stockholmers and their pets here.

To share your own story with Michelle Job, or read the Pet Love stories, click here.

READ ALSO: 'Sweden has given me so much freedom to be a photographer'

Michelle Job is a photographer and blogger. Photo: Private