If Sochi is trying to put its best foot forward for the Olympic games, it’s going about it completely wrong. After facing ample criticism for its treatment of gay people, kidnapping wild orcas to be used as entertainment and even carelessly knocking the houses of Sochi residents down, Russia finds itself in hot water once again. This time, officials have authorized the mass extermination of stray dogs in and around Sochi.
While no one can deny that the size of Sochi’s homeless dog population is problematic, the fact that the city has opted to deal with the situation by killing the dogs indiscriminately is heartbreaking. Hired pest companies have been tasked with poisoning the loose pups and disposing of their bodies. One animal activist estimates that 5,000-7,000 dogs have died in the weeks leading up to the Games.
City and Olympic officials are concerned that the stray dogs could bite or otherwise harm the influx of tourists. However, the real impetus for exterminating the canines is that one dog, presumably curious about the noise and looking for some companionship, wandered into an Olympic facility during a dress rehearsal for the Opening Ceremonies. Sochi authorities freaked out over the incident and demanded that more effort be put toward “culling” the animals.
Alexei Sorokin, head of a pest control business who is overseeing the city’s stray dog plan, said, “God forbid something like this happens at the actual opening ceremony. This will be a disgrace for the whole country.”
Why the sight of a dog (which generally makes people happy!) could be considered more disgraceful than passing and enforcing homophobic laws, or killing thousands of dogs, for that matter, is unclear.
Sorokin insists the dogs are euthanized “humanely”, but witness testimony contradicts this assertion:
Yulia Krasova says she witnessed the long, agonizing death of a street dog when she walked out of a movie theater in Sochi two weeks ago. “At first I thought someone beat the dog,” she recalled. “The dog jumped and started running around in circles. Then she fell down and started spitting up… I called the veterinarian. He said there is a 100% guarantee the dog was poisoned.”
When animal activists rallied to prevent slaughtering these dogs, Sochi authorities promised to construct animal shelters to house the dogs instead. So far, however, no such shelters have appeared. Considering that authorities are now remaining mum on where the dogs are going rather than showing evidence of a shelter, it’s pretty safe to assume that they’re continuing with their initial plan of killing the dogs, particularly since witnesses have come forward to report seeing dogs shot with poison darts on the streets.
Currently, the Care2 community has a wildly popular petition calling on President Vladimir Putin to put a stop to this inhumane practice.
Fortunately, Russian animal lovers are also conducting some interventions of their own. Tatiana Zarutsjaya told CBS News she has taken 17 stray dogs into her own home in order to spare their lives. Fellow citizens of Sochi are taking similar measures; they urge the government to try spaying and neutering the strays to control the dog population problem moving forward rather than killing them.
Here’s hoping that good-hearted Sochi residents are able to rescue more of these dogs before pest control companies find them.