Sochi crews 'cleaning the city' of stray dogs with poison, traps
Published Wednesday, January 29, 2014 10:52AM EST
Last Updated Thursday, January 30, 2014 6:45AM EST
It is hard to come into another country, another society and judge. Yet, this is what we all do. I try, when I travel, to imagine living in the community, in the neighbourhood I am working in.
How would I react to the same issues I am experiencing for the first time? How would I judge these actions?
Sochi is so similar to many other places I have been: the driving, the eating, the commerce, the government. But in very subtle ways it is different.
One difference that has really started to bother me is the stray animals. There is so much more that I am learning as I ask more questions.
Every year, just in this municipality, thousands of dog and cats are killed. They are shot, poisoned, even beaten to death with shovels or stabbed with knives. They are hit, kicked and just generally abused.
Some of these animals were people’s pets. Dogs or cats that once lived in a home, then for some reason, released into the city.
The other animals are products of the streets. Litter after litter are born. No food, no medicine, no sterilization. Spaying or neutering these animals is expensive. So, most Russians here don’t do it.
Yesterday, I spoke with two women who spend their days trying to catch these animals. They then get them healthy: fed, cleaned, vaccinated and sterilized. After that, they find them new homes with families across the country. And they do this for no money. They are volunteers.
In a year and a half, they have saved more than 800 animals.
“For Olympic Guests…this is for you!”
But for each one they save, 10 more are killed.
You see, they are racing against the government. Last year, officials announced the city would be killing 2,000 stray dogs in Sochi.
The reason: ”to keep the tourists and Olympic visitors safe.”
The reaction to the announced cull was swift – condemnation from the SPCA and anger from people across Russia and many other countries. So, the killings were cancelled.
But they weren’t really.
A company has been hired to continue “cleaning the city.” Every night between 1 and 6 a.m., traps are set, poison put out and animals are killed.
What’s the answer?
Animal rights groups have demanded a shelter be built. The government first said no, but it now seems to be considering allowing a private company to run a shelter. Not surprisingly, that’s the same company it hired to kill the dogs during the night.
Many feel there is only one answer – because of a lack of sterilization, most predict even once all the stray dogs are killed the problem will return, and within a year, the numbers would be right back up.
So maybe the Russians could learn something from Bob Barker: “Have your pets spayed and neutered.” And instead of paying companies to murder these animals, the government could put that money to lowering the cost of “controlling the pet population.”