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Tag: extermination

Strays swept up before World Cup in Russia

russianstrays

Animal rights activists fear history will will repeat itself in Russia as cities hosting the World Cup attempt to purge their streets of stray dogs — just as Sochi did prior to the 2014 Winter Olympics.

Earlier this year, Russia’s deputy prime minister, Vitaly Mutko, met with animal rights activist to discuss their fears that stray dogs would be exterminated ahead of the event. He pledged to stop all cruelty, and said new shelters for strays would be built.

But activists say the effort by cities to put their best face forward during the event is continuing to result in culls in which the lives of strays are ended via methods less than humane.

“If you put it in plain Russian, they said ‘sod off, we’re going to carry on killing’,” Yekaterina Dmitriyeva, the head of the Foundation for the Protection of Urban Animals, told The Guardian.

The Guardian reported that there are about two million strays in Russia’s 11 World Cup host cities and it has been estimated that local authorities will spend up to £119 million on catching, caging, sterilizing and euthanizing animals this year.

Activists say they fear the private companies the government contracts with to carry out the sweeps will resort to shooting and poisoning strays — both of which were reported in the weeks leading up to the Olympics.

In protest, some Olympic athletes adopted Sochi dogs and took them back to their respective countries.

In addition, local animal lovers opened makeshift shelters to try and house all the collected strays and help them avoid being euthanized.

In many Russian cities, large numbers of strays peacefully co-exist with human populations, living off their handouts and even riding the subways.

“Russia’s street dogs are perhaps more lovable than most. They have drawn admiration for their intelligence and resilience,” Chas Newkey-Burden, UK author and journalist, wrote in a commentary piece in this week’s Guardian.

“Many of them commute into the cities each morning on the trains. They know to get on the train’s front or back carriage for the least crowded journey, and they know where to get off for the best food. When they beg for food as a pack, they move their youngest and cutest member to the front, knowing this will melt the hearts of passers-by. On busy streets, they’ve even learned to obey traffic lights and cross when it’s safe, trotting alongside pedestrians.

“These are the sweet, abandoned creatures who are being exterminated in the name of the beautiful game … Lives silently snuffed out because they don’t fit the image the authorities want to present.”

Officials say their focus is to move dogs into shelters. But those are so crowed that euthanasia becomes the easiest option.

Russian parliament member Vladimir Burmatov recently visited a shelter in Yekaterinburg and discovered a “very painful” scene, with “malnourished dogs and conditions that you couldn’t even call satisfactory.”

The shelter is run by a rubbish collection and disposal firm.

Newkey-Burden urged soccer stars to follow the example of Olympic athletes who went home with dogs from Sochi.

“In this money-spinning game, the influence of these superstars is immense. Here’s their chance to show they really love dogs.”

(Photo: From The Telegraph)

Dogs and Ebola: Looking for answers

bubbledog

You’d think in a world preparing for Ebola — especially in a country as sophisticated, dog-crazy and health-oriented as ours — someone would have given it at least a moment’s thought.

You’d think — between all the agencies and organizations, protocols and precautions; between the National Institutes for Health, the Centers for Disease Control and the American Veterinary Medical Association — someone somewhere would have stood up and said, hey, what about our dogs?

Instead, with Ebola’s spread to countries outside Africa, public health officials find themselves scratching their heads and — even though there’s no proof yet that dogs can transmit the disease — considering options as drastic as incarceration and extermination for the pets of humans diagnosed with Ebola.

Caution, of course, is good, but planning would have been better.

Excalibur was the first one to come to light. The large mixed-breed dog belonged to a nurse in Madrid who contracted the disease from Spain’s first Ebola patient. Her dog, over the family’s objections, was killed and incinerated nearly immediately upon the order of government officials.

America, or at least Dallas, took a more compassionate approach when a local nurse was determined to have contracted Ebola from a patient being treated in a hospital there. Bentley, her Cavalier King Charles spaniel, was moved into a quarantined area at a decommissioned Naval base, where he’s being tended to by hazardous material crews in full protective garb.

bentley3

Bentley

The question arises, and should have arisen long ago: What are we going to do with the pets of Ebola victims?

Will we turn to extermination, as the number of cases, and our fears, increase?

Will we keep them isolated in crates, bubbles or decommissioned military bases?

For how long? At what costs? Under whose supervision? And is it even necessary?

No one knows the answers to any of those questions, and the fear and uncertainty that ignorance leads to is bound to take us to some bad places, if it hasn’t already.

In an ideal world, we’d have studies to turn to — proving, one way or the other, whether dogs can contract and transmit the virus. We’d be testing them, as we do humans, before quarantining them, or at least before releasing them from that quarantine. We’d know how long, if at all, they need to be sequestered and monitored.

Instead, we’re playing a messy game of catch-up, and the argument can be made that it’s because we were wearing blinders.

Even in this supposed era of increased awareness about the health issues that cross species lines, our planet seems to once again have gotten caught up in the view that only humans matter.

Perhaps too it could be argued that, among many in America, some strange disease in Africa didn’t strike us as a big concern, or as an opportunity to learn and prepare for what might be coming. (Maybe we humans don’t like to look at the big picture when the big picture is too big, and too scary.)

What is abundantly clear is that no one, up until now, gave much thought to how Ebola might affect our dogs — if not the disease itself, at least the fear of it.

No one knows whether dogs can get the full-fledged virus. One study during the 2001-02 Ebola outbreak in Gabon showed some exposed dogs carried signs of infection, and had an immune response — but that’s not the same as getting the disease.

“Studies have shown that dogs can have an immune response to Ebola, but there have been no reports of pet dogs or cats becoming sick with Ebola or of passing the disease to other animals or people,” said Kristen Nordlund, a CDC health-communications specialist.

“In a situation where there is a dog or cat in the home of an Ebola patient, CDC recommends public-health officials evaluate the animal’s risk of exposure,” she added.

Given dogs are present in nearly half of American homes, given many of them share our beds and lick our faces, we’d like to see the CDC recommending something more than “risk evaluation.”

excalibur2

Excalibur

Between the lack of knowledge, and the lack of a clear-cut recommended response when it comes to the pets of Ebola victims, public fears will only snowball as questions go unanswered.

Why, given all our physiological similarities, can’t the dogs of Ebola patients be tested like humans are to confirm if they’ve been exposed? And if, as limited study suggests, dogs can have the virus without getting sick and dying, might there be something worth further studying in that?

“We know that you and your clients are looking for answers, and we’re working to get information for you,” the American Veterinary Medical Association says on its website.

“The AVMA is collaborating with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and USDA along with other agencies and experts and is tapping into the broad expertise of our member veterinarians to develop information for our members and the public. We will strive to ensure that veterinarians have a prominent voice as these issues are discussed and decided in the U.S.”

Up until now, the CDC has taken the line that the risk of Ebola to pets is low. Its website also says there is little risk of an Ebola outbreak in the U.S.

“The risk of an Ebola outbreak affecting multiple people in the United States is very low,” says a question and answer fact sheet on the CDC website.. “Therefore, the risk to pets is also very low, as they would have to come into contact with blood and body fluids of a person with Ebola. Even in areas in Africa where Ebola is present, there have been no reports of dogs and cats becoming sick with Ebola.”

And yet Excalibur is dead and Bentley is being treated as hazardous material, and with each new case there will be new fears and ripples.

In Madrid, a dog that often played with Excalibur was surrendered to a shelter by his owners because of fears he might have contracted the disease.

tronco

Tronco

Tronco was dropped off by his owners at the Spanish animal charity Escuela Canina Esga in Madrid, according to the New York Post.

“They were parents with young children and they just were not prepared to take the risk and so [they] handed him over to us,” said manager Esga Juan Esteban. “We did everything we could to reassure them that it was probably OK, but of course we couldn’t guarantee that the animal didn’t have Ebola, and so they were adamant that they didn’t want him any longer.”

The shelter, in its effort (successful) to find Tronco a new home, used only photos of him as a pup — so that, once he was adopted, he wouldn’t be recognized in public as a dog who once played with a dog whose owner has Ebola.

(Top photo: The image of Soviet Space dog Belka is from the distant past, but might we see something like it in the near future?)

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?

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)

Bucharest voters to decide fate of stray dogs

bucharest

The tens of thousands of stray dogs that roam the streets of Bucharest would be captured and killed under a plan proposed by the city just days after the fatal mauling of a four-year-old boy.

But first they will give voters a say — a referendum is scheduled for Oct. 6.

After the fatal mauling of a boy playing with his brother in a park, Romanian President Traian Basescu called on the government of Prime Minister Victor Ponta to pass a law that would allow for stray dogs to be killed.

“Humans are above dogs,” Ponta said.

Mayor Sorin Oprescu, in announcing the referendum, said, “We will do what Bucharest’s people want, exactly what they want.”

The controversial plan has divided Bucharest, a city of 2 million people.

bucharest2An estimated 40,000 to 64,000 stray dogs roam its streets — some peacefully minding their own business, some begging, trespassing, rifling through garbage and, sometimes, attacking humans.

In recent years, a Bucharest woman was killed by a pack of strays, and a Japanese tourist died after a stray severed an artery in his leg.

But it was the killing of a boy earlier this month that has brought the debate over strays to a fever pitch. Hundreds have demonstrated both for and against the proposed measure and have vowed to continue rallying, according to the Associated Press.

Those who see the dogs as a threat and nuisance say — ironic as it sounds — that exterminating the strays will make for a more civilized society.

“We want a civilized capital, we don’t want a jungle,” said Adina Suiu, a 27-year-old hairdresser. “I will vote for them to be euthanized. I drive a car most of the time, but when I walk around my neighborhood, I am always looking over my shoulder. If we don’t stop them now, we will be taken over by dogs.”

Burgeoning stray dog populations are a problem in several countries in the former Eastern Bloc. In Ukraine, authorities in Kiev were accused of poisoning strays as they prepared to host the Euro 2012 soccer championships. In the Kosovar capital of Pristina, officials gunned down nearly 200 strays in a three week “culling” campaign.

Vier Pfoten, an animal welfare group, says the solution isn’t killing strays but sterilizing them. The group has sterilized 10,400 dogs in Bucharest since 2001, but says a far more massive effort is needed to control the canine population.

Bucharest’s stray dog problem became more acute in the communist era when former Communist leader Nicolae Ceausescu razed large swaths of the city. Residents, forcibly moved into high-rise apartment buildings, had to abandon their dogs.

“When the great demolitions came, many houses were knocked down and owners moved to apartments and could not take dogs with them,” Livia Campoeru, a spokeswoman for Vier Pfoten said. “People are irresponsible, they abandon their dogs, and there is a natural multiplication.”

Among those speaking out against the mass extermination is Brigitte Bardot, the French actress and animal rights activist. “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,”  she wrote in an open letter to Basescu.

(Photo:  Top photo by Eugen Visan, Associated Press; bottom photo by Vadim Ghirda, Associated Press)

For dogs, slaughter continues in Baghdad

“While human beings in Iraq were killing each other in huge numbers, they ignored the dogs, which in turn multiplied at an alarming rate,” the New York Times reported last week.

Now stray dogs are such a menace that municipal workers are hunting them down and slaughtering them — about 10,000 in Baghdad just since December.

“With fewer bombs going off and hardly any bodies being dumped anymore, the dogs are perhaps the biggest problem on the filthy and rubble-strewn streets of Baghdad. Packs of strays scare schoolchildren and people who get up at dawn to go to work. They gather at open-air butcher shops where customers choose their meat from flocks of live sheep.

“Some people believe that the dogs spread disease, not a difficult case to make in a society that generally shuns dogs as pets, believing them to be contrary to Islamic edicts on personal cleanliness.

“Thus a relative peace has changed priorities, and not just in Baghdad. The holy Shiite city of Karbala was so overwhelmed with stray dogs last year that officials there offered 6,000 dinars ($5.30) for each animal caught and handed over to the municipality. The dogs were shot and buried en masse.”

In Baghdad, dogs are killed with rotten raw meat laced with strychnine. On the outskirts of town, articularly around the city’s sprawling garbage dumps, the dogs are shot. By the time the cmapgin ends this month, perhaps 20,000 dogs will have been exterminated, said Shaker Fraiyeh of the ministry’s veterinary services company.

“Our work may be against animal rights, but there is a more important issue, public health,” said Dr. Fraiyeh, a veterinarian in his 30s.

Abdul-Karim Ismail, a veterinarian with the state-owned company dealing with the dogs, said building and maintaining animal shelters and introducing spay/neuter programs to control Baghdad’s dog population are considered too costly and complicated in a nation where people had so many more pressing needs.

Some stray dogs have been fortunate enough to find new homes outside Iraq. S.P.C.A. International, a Washington-based charity, began “Operation Baghdad Pups” in 2007 to help American soldiers adopt and take home stray dogs they befriended while serving in Iraq.