VIENNA - Bulgaria's prime minister on Tuesday condemned a rare Bulgarian custom known as "dog spinning", meant to ward off evil spirits but seen by animal rights activists as animal abuse.
"Prime Minister Boyko Borisov condemned the barbaric dog ritual of 'trichane' in the region of Strandja," the government said in a statement.
"He discussed ways to end such animal abuse today with the prosecutor general Boris Velchev and called for sanctions," it added.
As part of the ritual, a rope is coiled around a dog's chest and twisted so that the animal is suspended in the air. As the rope unwinds, the dog spins out of control before dropping into a river.
This is meant to chase away evil spirits ahead of spring, but the dogs, disoriented after their fall, sometimes drown.
The ritual is mostly limited to a small region of southeast Bulgaria.
Bulgarian media reported recently receiving messages from animal protection groups protesting against this practice, which is carried out annually on March 6.
Bulgaria's parliament recently approved on a first reading a penal code amendment to criminalize animal abuse, under threat of serious fines and up to five years in prison.
The current law only calls for minor fines for animal abuse.
Image: Alex Yosifov / via Flickr