The Matei Bals hospital which handles infectious diseases has treated 9,760 people for dog bites in the first eight months of the year, of which a quarter were children, according to spokesman Catalin Apostolescu.

The controversy has reached such a fever pitch that Brigitte Bardot, the French screen siren-turned-outspoken animal rights activist, has stepped into the debate. "I am extremely shocked to find that revenge, which has no place here, will be taken on all the dogs in Romania, even the gentle ones," Bardot said in an open letter to Basescu, published on her foundation's site.