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The cull is on in Sochi: Stray dogs are being exterminated by city hosting the Olympics

sochistrays

It’s hardly the first time a city trying to put its best face forward has shown instead how ugly it can be.

Even as the opening ceremony for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi is choreographed — with its heartwarming message of peace, love and brotherhood — the city is trying to purge its streets of stray dogs, poisoning, capturing and killing them so it can project a clean, safe and pleasant image.

Despite publicly backing off from plans to do so last year, the city of Sochi has hired a private company to kill as many of its stray dogs as possible before the games, according to an ABC News report, based on an interview with the owner of the company hired to kill the dogs

Alexei Sorokin, while declining to comment on how many strays have been exterminated so far, was more than willing to talk about the dangers they pose:

“Imagine, if during an Olympic games, a ski jumper landed at 130 kilometres an hour and a dog runs into him when he lands. It would be deadly for both a jumper and for the stray dog,” he said.

Yes, the odds for that happening — landing upon a dog upon completion of a ski jump — have got to be pretty high.

It’s not the first time a city has tried to purge its streets of all things unsightly and embarassing before international attention comes its way.

Stray dogs have been rounded up at previous Olympics, and soccer championships. In America, cities hosting political conventions have corraled their homeless to keep them out of the sight of visitors. And before yesterday’s hardly-worth-the-wait Super Bowl, officials in New York and New Jersey sought to crack down on packs of prostitutes they said were streaming into the area for the big event.

All those things cost money, often taxpayer money, so residents end up footing the bill for a city’s superficial makeover — all so a city can deceive the rest of the world for  a week or two.

That’s what it really is, deception — covering up its real face, putting on enough make-up so we can’t see its pimples, disguising, erasing, incarcerating or restricting the movements of those who might embarass it. Instead of addressing real problems, the city spends money on temporarily covering them up.

Then, to justify it all, they have to spin some more, often turning to fear tactics to do so.

The strays in Sochi might bite people, or might have rabies, or might bump into ski jumpers falling from the sky, officials say. So they’re being “culled,” which means killed, but sounds better. The dogs have broken no laws – other than being unwanted and unloved –  but they’re getting the death penalty anyway.

“I am for the right of people to walk the streets without fear of being attacked by packs of dogs … Dogs must be taken off the streets even if that means putting them to sleep,” said Sorokin, who says he is performing a needed public service. He described his company, which generally uses poisons and traps to rid the streets of dogs, as  the largest of its kind in Russia.

What’s really behind such purgings – whether it’s killing stray dogs, rounding up hookers, or cordoning off the homeless – isn’t civic pride. If it were civic pride, we’d be working on fixing the problem. When we’re working only on the appearance, it’s civic vanity.

Just as stray dogs haven’t suddenly become a bigger problem in Sochi, there’s no proof — despite the pronouncements of city and state officials — that prostitution surges to dangerous proportions during Super Bowls.  There might be more arrests during Super Bowls, but there generally are when law enforcement cracks down.

Even an advocate for victims of trafficking noted last week that New York and New Jersey, by cracking down on prostitution during the Super Bowl, weren’t solving any problems — and maybe were even doing a disservice.

“The annual oversimplification of the issue, in which we conflate all prostitution with trafficking, and then imply that arrest equals solution, does a disservice to year-round efforts to genuinely assist survivors of trafficking — with emergency housing, medical care and other crucial services,” Kate Mogulescu, founder and supervising attorney of the Trafficking Victims Advocacy Project at the Legal Aid Society, wrote in last week’s New York Times.

“When the discussion is dominated by fear-mongering, we fail to meaningfully address the actual causes of human trafficking. Remove the guise of ‘preventing’ human trafficking, and we are left with a cautionary tale of how efforts to clean up the town for a media event rely on criminalizing people, with long-lasting implications for those who are then trapped in the criminal justice system.”

There are better ways to fight crime, conquer homelessness and combat stray dog problems — none of which are quick fixes, none of which are simply cosmetic, all of which involve, as a first step, getting past the mindset expressed by Sorokin in Soshi.

“Let’s call things by their real name,” he said. “These dogs are biological trash.”

(Photo: A stray dog and its puppy outside Sochi; by Alexander Zemlianichenko / Associated Press)

Comments

Comment from Eighteenpaws
Time February 3, 2014 at 9:42 am

I recall reading the same “issue” with dogs during the Olympics in China; of course, the culling there also resulted in meals. I have yet to comprehend how such a gloried, major event can be awarded to places like China and Russia where basic human rights, let alone animal rights, are non-existent. Are these aspects never considered by the Olympics commitee? The “faux” fronts that China and now Russia portray of their regions and habitants are appalling. I am stunned that news shows and other outlets continue to exhalt the Olympics in these places with zero mention of the social conditions. Thanks for your blog on this JW; you are a journalist in rarity here.

Comment from SoulDog
Time February 3, 2014 at 2:12 pm

I will be boycotting the Olympics this year because of this (and I really do love the winter Olympics). I’ll be sending letters to NBC and their sponsors to let them know why I am not watching and why I will be encouraging everybody I know to boycot these Games also.

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