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Tag: cull

Olbermann on the strays of Sochi

Here, better than any ski jumper, snowboarder, or twizzling ice skater, Keith Olbermann nails it.

His take on the stray dogs being captured and killed at the Olympics in Sochi –  at the same time that pampered pooches are on parade at the Westminster Kennel Club dog show in New York —  provides some contrast, some context, and shows lots of conviction.

Who is really the biological trash, he asks — the dogs being exterminated, or the exterminators?

Struggling to survive in Sochi

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Surely by now you’ve heard about all the inconveniences visiting journalists from the west are facing in Sochi — a town that in its rush to get ready for the Olympics didn’t quite get ready for the Olympics.

As a member of that breed, or at least a former journalist, I can’t help but have empathy for their plight.

They have an important job to do, and how can we expect them to do it when they are facing obstacles like hotel rooms with no Internet,  fallen drapery rods, faulty doorknobs, or tap water so discolored one journalist reported she had to resort to washing her face with Evian?

Life can be so cruel sometimes.

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Sochi’s shortcomings are being blasted all over the Internet — by journalists, by Tweeters, and by tweeting journalists.

Arriving early, and finding the amenities weren’t all they could be, journalists got the ball rolling, bellyaching about conditions and posting their complaints and photos online. Olympics guests picked up the ball, voicing their discontent; and even a few athletes — though they’re less likely than journalists to whine, or so we’d hope — have broadcast the problems they’ve encountered, including one who was forced to punch his way out of the hotel room bathroom he was locked in.

Others arrived to find that their rooms, despite being reserved and paid for, weren’t ready, or weren’t even there, forcing them to wait, bunk with someone else, or seek shelter elsewhere.

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Fortunately, no journalists (to our knowledge) were forced to sleep in stairwells or alleyways.

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Others tweeting their discontent have complained of unappealing food, and menus whose Russian to English translations are sometimes laughably off the mark, which leads us to worry whether journalists are getting the all-important nourishment they need to do their jobs.

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I’m sure there will be much inspiration ahead in the 2014 Olympics, and perhaps even a few things to love about them. For the first few days though, it has been an embarrassment — for Sochi, for Russia, for Putin, and for all those journalists who came across as spoiled Westerners, partly because they are spoiled Westerners, partly because they have the modern-day need to self-broadcast every little bump in the road they encounter.

While most reporters are there to cover the sporting side of it all, and while many have been preoccupied by their lack of creature comforts, some have gotten around to writing about what we think is probably the most shameful Olympic-related story of all. In case you haven’t yet gotten our drift, it’s what the city is doing to stray dogs.

The city of Sochi has hired a pest control company to rid the streets of dogs, another piece in its failed plan to look good for the Olympics. Capturing and killing strays, as if that’s not bad enough, seems all the more cruel when you consider that many of the dogs are homeless because of all the new construction for the Olympics, some of which sent dog-owning families into apartments where dogs aren’t allowed.

Sochi promised it wouldn’t conduct the cull, then it did. The extermination was well underway by the time the media caught on, but eventually it was reported by, among others, the Boston Globe, Radio Free Europe, and, eventually, the New York Times. It took awhile, but the public outrage is, appropriately enough, snowballing now.

When that happens, the silly and tired old question always pops up, ”Does the world care more about dogs than it does humans?” That was pretty much the headline on an op-ed piece in The Guardian about Sochi’s strays this week — silly because  it implies people can’t care, get outraged and fight for both species.

But, to answer it only for myself , yes, I sometimes care more about dogs than humans, depending on the circumstances, depending on the dogs, and the humans, and depending on the hardships at issue. Yes, I care more about a dog being exterminated for no good reason than I do about a TV reporter who has temporarily lost his or her access to hair conditioner.

The inconveniences reporters, guests and athletes might face in Sochi aren’t enough to cast a pall over the entire Olympics.

What’s happening to the dogs is.

(Photos: A dog checks out a trash can across from the Olympic stadium / Twitter; a dog drinks from an icy puddle outside of Sochi / Reuters; dogs and volunteers at a makeshift shelter / The New York Times; dogs napping on the street / Twitter; a starving street dog in Sochi / Getty Images/iStockphoto )

Animal activist detained in Moscow

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A Russian animal rights activist has been detained in central Moscow after he and two others protested the country’s policy of killing stray dogs in Sochi, according to an Associated Press report

Three activists unfurled a banner near Red Square on Saturday that read “Bloody Olympics.”

The banner depicted a puppy covered in blood.

According to the report, a policeman approached and pulled the banner out of the activists’ hands.

One man was detained while the other two fled.

A year before the Sochi Olympics, municipal authorities announced a contract to “catch and dispose” of strays.

Public pressure led authorities to announce they’d dropped the plan — but they didn’t. Companies have been hired to continue killing the dogs throughout the games, which started Friday and end Feb. 23.

(Photo: A stray dog walks past the Olympic rings during the official flag raising ceremony; by Nathan Denette, The Canadian Press / AP photo)

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

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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)

Killing 100 sled dogs gave him nightmares

About 100 dogs were gunned down execution-style in British Columbia when a company that offers sled dog tours apparently decided that, due to a downturn in business, it could no longer afford to maintain them.

The shocking revelation of the mass killing (the industry prefers the term “culling”) surfaced through the British Columbia Worker’s Compensation Board, where a company employee filed a claim saying that killing the dogs, on April 21 and 23 of last year, caused him post-traumatic stress disorder.

The SPCA in British Columbia has launched an investigation into the incident.

“Culling” – or thinning the “herd”  — is apparently not an uncommon practice among sled dog companies, according to the SPCA, either in the U.S. or Canada, where the sled dog tour industry is largely unregulated.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund is offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of anyone engaged in the illegal killing of sled dogs in either country. 

The 100 dogs – used in sled dog tours operated by Outdoor Adventures — were gunned downed while tethered. The employee, acting under the orders of his boss, began shooting dogs as other dogs watched. Some of the dogs panicked and attacked him as he carried out the task, he said.

“By the end he was covered in blood,” the workmen’s compensation review board noted in its Jan. 25 decision, which ruled the employee did develop PTSD in connection with the incident. “When he finished he cleared up the mess, filled in the mass grave and tried to bury the memories as deeply as he could.”

The full report from the board was obtained by The Vancouver Sun.

In addition to sparking an SPCA investigation into allegations of animal cruelty, the report has led to a suspension by Tourism Whistler of reservations for dog sledding excursions by Outdoor Adventures.

Outdoors Adventures, which also offers snowmobiling, snowshoeing and horseback excursions in the Whistler area, said in a statement that there are now no firearms on site and all future euthanizations will be done in a vet’s office.

Marcie Moriarty, head of the British Columbia SPCA cruelty investigations division, said the employee, who was the general manager of Outdoor Adventures, could and should have denied to carry out the orders from his boss.

The employee said he has suffered panic attacks and nightmares since the culling.

“I’ve no doubt he has suffered post traumatic stress but there’s a thing called choice,” said Moriarty. “I absolutely would not have done this and he could have said no … I don’t feel sorry for this guy for one minute.”

“The way this employee describes it — it’s a massacre absolutely … These dogs were killed in front of the other dogs that were all tethered up on the compound.”

The order to kill the sled dogs came after a veterinarian declined to euthanize healthy animals, and some attempts were made to adopt out the dogs, the employee told the review board.

SPCA officials say the incident sheds some needed light on the industry.

“There is a problem with the sled dog industry in general,” Moriarty said. “People see these 20 sled dogs, an idyllic setting with snow in the background and think how great. But what they don’t see is the 200 dogs tethered and sleeping out back, chained to a barrel.”

In Guangzhou, one dog will be the limit

sosImagine authorities knocking on your door — well, we’d hope they’d knock — and informing you that owning more than one dog is against the law, and to choose which one you’d like to keep.

In another two weeks, that will be the situation in Guangzhou, as it already is in Beijing.

Beginning July 1, each household can raise only one dog. The regulation won’t be grandfathered in, so families with two or more dogs will apparently have to decide which one gets to stay, according to an Associated Press report.

“It’s a cruel regulation. These dogs are like family. How can you keep one and get rid of the others?” one owner of two dogs — a terrier mix and a Pekingnese —  told the Associated Press. She declined to give her full name because she feared the police would track her down and seize the dogs.

The regulation appears to be part of an effort to control stray dogs in Guangzhou, a city of 12 million that was once known as Canton. It’s one of the richest cities in China.

Many of those getting pets are first-time pet owners, don’t bother to spay or neuter their animals and end up abandoning them, leading to a large population of strays in Guangzhou, which is preparing to host the Asian Games next year.

People were quick to react to the regulation when it was announced in March, said Mao Mao, who six years ago founded a shelter for stray dogs called Family of the Pet. She said that before March, she would receive only a few calls a month from dog owners who wanted to give up pets. “Since March, every day we get about 10 calls a day,” said the woman, who takes in only strays and advises pet owners how to find new homes for their animals.

“I’m afraid there are going to be many more stray dogs in July when the one-dog regulation becomes effective,” she said.

Many other Chinese cities, including Beijing, have long had one-dog policies. Officials commonly launch mass roundups of dogs when the canine population is deemed too big or infected with rabies and other diseases. In 2006, Beijing authorities caught 29,000 unregistered dogs in one month — a campaign that sparked public anger and protest.dogcullappeal

In the city of Hanzhong, in China’s central Shaanxi province, all dogs found outside homes in areas hit by a rabies outbreak are not being “culled” by ”dog-beating teams” who canvass the area and beat dogs to death on the spot — even those registered by their owners, according to a report in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal.

The cull, which began May 23, is one of the largest in recent years, and has led to some outrage, most of it expressed in anonymous online discussions.

Meanwhile, back in Guangzhou, dog owners aren’t sure if the one-dog policy will be strictly enforced. Often Chinese authorities announce a tough new law, launch a crackdown, then ignore the measure.

(Photos: Scenes from Hanzhong, where dog culling is underway, and leading to demonstrations; courtesy of animalsasia.org)

200 stray dogs killed in Baghdad

Baghdad authorities killed more than 200 stray dogs on Sunday, the opening day of a campaign to cull dog packs roaming the capital city.

The campaign was prompted by a spate of fatal attacks on residents.

Three teams of veterinarians and police officers used poisoned meat and rifles to kill the animals, according to the Associated Press.

Dr. Hassan Chaloub, an official at the veterinary hospital supervising the effort confirmed that the campaign started Sunday in wester Baghdad and will move to the eastern half of the city early next year. He said the capital has no dog shelters.

Thirteen people died in August in the capital after being attacked by dogs, according to Baghdad’s provincial council, which is overseeing the campaign.

Under Saddam Hussein, authorities killed stray dogs in the capital almost every year, but the practice ended with his ouster in 2003. Since then, local officials estimate, the number of strays in Baghdad has grown to more than a thousand.