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)