While the World Cup has proven an exciting event for international sports fans, local stray dogs in Brazil, the country hosting the competition, aren’t nearly as content. Animal activists allege that officials in the country are gathering and killing homeless dogs in an effort to clean up during one of the world’s most watched events.
To be clear, Brazilian government officials are denying that any such actions are occurring. Nonetheless, there have been a number of eyewitness accounts, particularly from people in the city of Recife, that swear they saw stray dogs being rounded up from the streets. If, as witnesses say, the dogs are being taken away, the fact that the government is not demonstrating temporary housing for the animals would indicate that the dogs are being put down.
“Especially when we have big events… if they see a dog on the streets, they do not rescue, treat, and adopt… they just kill them,” said Kalynara Melo, head of the Committee of Adoption and Liberty of Animals.
Not many Brazilians would agree with the practice of culling dogs. Notably, the strays in Brazilian cities are generally well regarded by residents. Rather than viewed as pests, they are referred to as “community dogs” and given food and affection.
If this is Brazil’s attempt to “clean up the streets,” officials are misguided in thinking that eradicating stray animals will improve its reputation. With rampant poverty surrounding the stadiums, as well as massive protests shedding light on the country’s injustices, Brazil would have been better served addressing some of these issues prior to the World Cup if it wanted to better its public image.
The alleged rounding up and killing of dogs isn’t just unethical – it also defies Brazilian law. Legally, animal agencies may spay and neuter healthy cats and dogs, but they cannot kill them – the animals must be returned to the streets. Therefore, it’s no surprise that authorities aren’t taking responsibility for the disappearing animals: it’s not only controversial behavior, it’s criminal.
If this story sounds familiar, that’s because Russia went through a similar kerfuffle earlier this year in conjunction with the Sochi Olympics. By many accounts, Sochi officials poisoned thousands of street dogs indiscriminately so that tourists would not have potentially unwanted run-ins with the homeless pups.
“Unfortunately, it’s no uncommon for street dogs and cats to be killed before big international sporting events as a knee-jerk reaction to preparing cities for the global spotlight,” said Wendy Higgins, a representative for Humane Society International. Unable to resist making a soccer reference, she added, “We want to shine that global spotlight on these missing dogs and urge Brazilin authorities to give animal cruelty the red card.”
Like in Sochi, the canine controversy in Brazil has inspired some animal lovers to adopt some of the displaced dogs in an effort to protect them. The BBC has a video featuring two cute strays who found a new home with a Brazilian soccer enthusiast.
Still, these dogs are the exception to the rule. Many Brazilian pups are still vulnerable to being culled. Please sign this petition to tell the Brazilian government to treat stray dogs in a more humane fashion.