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Dogs Face Death in Wake of Winter Olympics: One Shelter’s Race to Save Hundreds

One Shelter’s Race to Save Hundreds

The Winter Olympics are right around the corner and in the final hours, Sochi is still struggling to prepare its city for the occasion. In addition to reports of poor living conditions and a complete lack of tourism, Russia’s multi-billion dollar exploit is under further scrutiny for the unscrupulous tactics being used to control Sochi’s canine population.

Currently, there are thousands of stray dogs roaming the streets of Sochi; they are in the venues, wandering into residences, and puttering about town. The abundance of strays is purportedly causing problems with the upcoming events and posing a threat to public safety. So, to resolve the problem, the Russian government has contracted an exterminator to catch and euthanize them.

Though the Sochi government has always implemented a cull program, the massive influx of dogs into the city is a recent effect of the construction for the Olympic Games. “When a big construction project is underway, dogs and puppies always appear whom the builders feed. Now the builders have left, but unfortunately the dogs remain.” said Dmitri Peskov, Spokesman for Vladimir Putin.

Peskov’s response indicated that he was aware that the dogs are a problem and that the abundance of strays currently in Sochi could be attributed to the Games. However, this explanation conveniently ignores the fact that many of these dogs were abandoned because of the destruction of Russian homes to make way for Olympic venues.

Appalling Behavior

Though euthanizing these dogs is already something most animal rights advocates finds off-putting, the action is made worse by the surrounding circumstances. For example, though responses from Russian officials deny claims of abuse- there is no agency ensuring that the dogs are being put down humanely. Reports from those involved in the affairs claim that dogs are being gassed, shot and killed in a variety of inhumane ways. This news is made particularly upsetting because of Russia’s obstinate refusal of help from International organizations.

Both the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW)’s and Humane Society International offered to assist with controlling the animal population by providing both vaccinations and sterilizations en masse. These offers to help Sochi began a full year before the Olympic Events began and were completely ignored by Olympic officials. Both organizations have publicly announced their efforts and voiced their disapproval of Russia’s actions.

At this point, however, it is appears to be too late for Sochi to resolve the problem with humane methods. The Olympic Games are already underway and the suggested techniques to curtail population size work over years- not days. To convey the urgency of the problem, the exterminator in charge of removing the dogs cited an incident in which a stray dog wandered into Fisht Stadium during the rehearsal for the opening ceremony.

"God forbid something like [that should happen] at the actual ceremony. [That would be] a disgrace for the whole country," the exterminator told the Associated Press. Because of this, the notion of spaying or neutering these dogs to reduce their numbers has been dismissed. Now, the only hope for these dogs lies in the efforts of caring individuals.

Private Efforts

The spotlight brought by the Olympics is illuminating the indecency of this policy to both other countries and the local denizens. Now, they’re finally taking action to alter Sochi’s cull policy in favor of more humane practices of neutering and spaying animals. However, those working to save the dogs have few resources and little time.

Though one Russian billionaire, Oleg Deripaska is financing the effort, only one charity is working to organize these funds towards the goal of saving the dogs. Volnoe Delo, the charity, is scouring the area for stray dogs and capturing them in a small cart. The dogs are then brought back to the shelter all the way at the outskirts of the city. The shelter is caring for more than 80 animals, a number that is constantly increasing as the cart brings in more dogs.

Though Deripaska has provided a stable source of funding for the shelter, time constraints and human resources are limiting factors. Volunteers were told earlier this week that they will have until today to clear out the streets before remaining strays would be shot. This means that, unfortunately, hundreds of dogs will likely be put down in the coming days.

Volnoe Delo is still struggling to find families willing to adopt the pets while they try to allocate the funds given by Deripaska to purchase food, medicine, collars and crates. Though puppies stand a decent chance of being adopted, many of the pets are simple unwanted by most Russians. This is because the strays that litter the streets are generally mutts; whereas Russians prefer popular pure breeds.

Though Russia’s policies regarding pet population control need serious alterations, Sochi is surprisingly representative of the world. The Humane Society reports that in the United States, 2.7 million dogs are euthanized each year. So, although Russia’s tactics are far from ideal, perhaps we shouldn't be quick to judge until we can manage the strays in our own country. Let us know what you think about their behavior and euthanizing pets in general in the comment section.