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Stray dogs: Is Russia as Russia-like as everyone thinks?

By Steve Friedland
On February 12, 2014

As the Olympics endure and the world continually recognizes Vladimir Putin's tragic facade of a friendly, stable Russia especially bred for the games, dogs on the streets of Sochi are evaporating by the thousands. While this is only becoming world news now, the slaughter's been in the making for a while, dating as far back as last spring. In April, Sochi authorities were, according to The Independent, offering upwards of 1.7 million rubles ($49,300 USD) to groups willing to eradicate 2000 dogs and cats between 2013 and 2015. Documents were recently released to CNN regarding the city of Sochi agreeing to pay a local pest control firm called Basia Services for less than 1/16th of the price at 99,450 rubles in May ($2,800 USD). Efforts to kill the strays have been noted since October. Quoth the owner of the firm, Alexei Sorokin, "These dogs are biological trash." Don't get me wrong, it tugs at my heartstrings, but I think we need to think about this as objectively as we can, and that, unfortunately, may require us extending the slightest inklings of sympathy to Russia and the disciples of Basia; in order to get it done, we have to better understand the cognitive disconnect between us and them.
The question which permeates our minds so ardently is "How can they live with themselves as they murder innocent animals en masse?" The International Olympic Committee maintains that only sick dogs are being killed while the healthy ones are being sent to a "sanctuary" upon capture, with spokesman Mark Adams saying, "It would be absolutely wrong to say that any healthy dog is being destroyed." If there were hordes of rabies-infested varmints running amok through the streets of Sochi, thousands of Olympic attendees - athletes, diplomats, civilians - run the risk of getting bitten and dying. We sometimes forget that dogs are essentially domesticated wolves. Besides, Russia is not the only country committing dog holocausts because of the threats they pose; countries such as Indonesia, Egypt, Malaysia and Kenya also have long-running stray extermination programs. Much of it has already garnered the attention of organizations like PETA, who have since enacted things like the "Urge Egypt to Stop Cruel Cull of Dogs!" campaign. This isn't new, but I think it's overwhelmingly easy to feel sympathy for the animals. We raise dogs as pets. We give them souls.
Something else to consider is the lack of animal control policies present in Russia: the whopping presence of stray dogs in Sochi and the rest of the country is obviously attributed to the fact that there are absolutely no laws requiring spaying or neutering in pets. This is the opposite of the United States, where cities like Los Angeles have created relatively punitive laws (community service and fines of up to 40 hours and $500, respectively) which require the neutering and spaying of pets before the pets are four months old and how most states don't allow adoption from a shelter without sterilization. While not every animal shelter in the United States glistens like a Mr. Clean commercial and has courtyards for everyone to play in, I think it's safe to infer that they're in better shape than the ones being overrun in Sochi, where shelter workers were literally told by authorities (as told to the New York Times), "Either you take all the dogs from the Olympic Village or we will shoot them."
So, regardless of any prior pseudo-justification, what they're doing in Sochi is terrible. Whether sick or healthy, dogs are not dying humanely; they're shot and often poisoned with strychnine-laced meat, which results in convulsions and severe pain and can take up an hour to kill the animal. Sochi natives like Yulia Krasova have corroborated this to sources like CNN, additionally filming videos of the poisoned dogs on their cell phones. Sad as it is, though, it isn't cost effective to euthanize all of the strays. If we take the 2,000 dogs Sochi planned to eliminate in 2 years and assume the rates for pet euthanasia in the United States (on average, between $50-200, according to are relatively the same in Russia, that's $100,000 USD on the lenient side, which turns out to be the equivalent of $3,479,633.79 rubles; more than the 1.7 million proposed. It breaks my heart, but if Sochi wants to accomplish what it feels compelled to do with as little money as possible, this is the way to do it.  

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