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Tag: deception

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


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)

Atlanta TV news “investigates” HSUS

The news report above is one that critics of the Humane Society of the United States want you to see — so much so that they’ve launched a campaign to get it placed on as many websites as possible.

It appears here not as part of that campaign, and not because it’s good investigative reporting — actually it’s pretty shoddy. But since critics are characterizing the “bombshell” video’s removal from both the WSB-TV Channel 2 news website and YouTube as part of some nefarious, freedom-of-speech-infringing conspiracy, we thought we’d post it here.

That way you can see for yourself there’s not much to it. The Humane Society of the United States operates independently of local shelters that have “humane society” in their names. Some members of the public don’t know that. The report asks the question, is the HSUS deceiving people when it seeks donations to do its national level work — primarily lobbying, enforcement of animal cruelty laws and public education?

If HSUS said it was regularly funding local shelters, yes, it would be. But it doesn’t say that, and the kind of work they do (not to mention better investigative reporting than some local TV stations) is posted for everyone to see on the HSUS website.

The Atlanta TV station says it called 20 area shelters and found none of them received funding from the HSUS. That, and finding HSUS critics to interview, appears to be the extent of the investigation. Could the HSUS help local shelters more? Sure. Is it their mission? No. It’s not the umbrella organization for local humane societies, just as the the ASPCA is not the provider for local SPCAs.

The YouTube version of the report is no longer available due to a copyright claim by WSB-TV, an ABC affiliate.

Maker of Vick dog chew toy sued by Florida

The maker of the Michael Vick chew toy for dogs — or one of them, anyway — has been sued by the state attorney general’s office, which alleges the company claimed animal charities would benefit from the toy’s sale, but never donated a cent.

Attorney General Bill McCollum filed a lawsuit alleging toy seller Jaime Salcedo and his Jacksonville, Florida, company, Showbiz Promotions LLC, misled consumers with claims that proceeds from the dog toys would go to animal shelters

The company also produced a doll modeled after Caylee Anthony, a 2-year-old Florida girl whose mother is awaiting trial on charges of murdering her and hiding her body in the woods. The company said profits from the sale of the dolls would benefit the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

McCollum said the company donated only $10 to the children’s group and none to animal shelters, according to a Reuters report

“Any company that intentionally misleads innocent consumers to believe they are contributing to worthy charitable causes is absolutely reprehensible,” McCollum said in a news release. “It is disgusting that a company would exploit a tragic situation for personal gain.”

He said the state began investigating the Internet sales company last year after receiving more than 200 complaints about the dog chew toys.

Showbiz Promotions suspended sales of the Caylee doll in January because of public outrage. 

When I last wrote about the toy, two companies were making them — the guys who came up with the idea had split up and gone their separate, but similar ways. Darren Usher was producing what he called The Official Michael Vick Dog Chew Toy, while Salcedo operated

Here’s the ad still running on the latter website:

Dogsitter’s deceit exposed

When a British kennel operator found a visiting border collie dead, she panicked, buried his carcass in a nearby field and called his owner to say the dog had run away.

Jessica Valpied, 24, owner of 24-7 Petcare in Guernsey, apparently feared the death of a client’s dog would ruin her business and reputation: She won the National Pet sitter of the Year Award at Crufts in 2006.

Valpied was fined £400 by magistrates — an outrageously light punishment according to the dog’s owner, Michael Van den Bossche, who left the dog at the kennel when he went on a vacation in France.

Valpied reported the ‘missing’ pet to the Guernsey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and even orchestrated a high-profile publicity campaign to find him. She swore her employees to secrecy, and told them to pretend to search for the dog by walking around the area, calling the animal’s name, and whistling for it, according to an article in The Telegraph.

Van den Bossche, 45, who specializes in obesity surgery, also put up posters, made appeals on the radio, and placed an advertisement in a local newspaper.

But Valpied’s deception was uncovered when two junior members of her staff told their parents, who contacted police. The dog was apparently killed at the kennel by two other dogs who entered his pen.

Valpied said she claimed the dog, named Arte, had run away because she did not want her staff to get into trouble or for the killer dogs to be put down.

“It was a cruel and evil thing to do,” said Van den Bossche. “”This sort of thing should never happen again. We have been told lies and stories have been concocted. To lie to that extent is just awful.”

Valpied was awarded the Crufts honour in 2006 by beating 2,600 entrants who provide sitting, feeding, grooming and walking services for dogs and other pets.

Her website reads, in part: “The welfare of animals is always paramount in my life and goes far beyond the boundaries of business.”