Bucharest: Stray dogs crossing at crosswalks are being used by the Romanian traffic police in a new safety campaign to convince pedestrians to be more careful.
"If they can do it, then everyone can do it -- cross on pedestrian crossings!", says the short TV spot while showing several stray dogs using zebra and pelican crossings.
The dogs were filmed in several Romanian cities. "They send us an extraordinary message showing that animals can respect important safety rules", Lucian Dinita, Romania's traffic police chief, told AFP.
The example of stray dogs could prove crucial in a country where 360 people died last year because of "pedestrian lack of discipline", according to the police.
More than 1,200 were injured for the same reason. "I was shocked when I realised how many people died in road accidents just because they did not cross on crosswalks", Semida Duriga, the director of Next Advertising agency, told AFP.
Duriga was the one who conceived the campaign. "I thought of what you often see in Bucharest: dogs crossing at crosswalks or waiting for traffic lights to turn red for cars before crossing", she added.
"These stray dogs did not get education on traffic safety but they instinctively perceive that to do so is safer", Duriga explained.
Some 40,000 homeless canines live in Bucharest alongside a human population of two million, according to authorities and animal rights groups.
Their numbers started proliferating in the 1980s when then communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu had some of Bucharest's oldest residential districts razed and replaced with apartment blocks, causing many owners to part with their pets.
Despite a massive euthanasia campaign between 2001 and 2007, stray dogs remained part of daily life in Romania. Many are fed and even vaccinated by animal rights groups and dog lovers.
Last year, Romania's constitutional court ruled against a bill allowing local authorities to put down stray dogs.