By: Joel Alderman
This is not a pleasant story. In fact, it is rather horrible. But it is timely; and I truly believe it needs to be written and absorbed by those who own or just have a warm feeling for dogs.
There is a very dark side to the Winter Olympics which are now going on in Russia’s Sochi, a side which is gradually coming to light.
It seems that Sochi, as in many parts of the world, has a large population of stray dogs. Many had been abandoned by people who were dispossessed from their homes to make way for new construction for the Olympics. Others were born on the streets, with no owners. They roam around, looking for food, shelter and warmth. They reproduce, and manage to survive for a while. Most of the residents of Sochi apparently are used to the situation and are rather oblivious to all the canines about them.
But the closer the Olympics came to opening, the Russian hosts were worried that the animals might be an intrusion on the games, the athletes, their friends and families, and other visitors from various countries who were coming to follow their favorites. So what should be done about the dog problem?
The solution was simple.
Hire a private exterminating company to do the dirty work.
So last October, the authorities started a campaign to rid Sochi of those innocent “undesirables.” It involved not only killing them, but doing so in a painful, inhumane way.
Poison them. Let them suffer while dying!
Finally, after about 5,000 had been done away with, Russian citizens, individually and in newly formed groups, had begun efforts to try and save some of the rest.
Shelters were built and adoption mechanisms were put into effect. The results were good, but negligible considering how many there were that were still vulnerable.
Even now, as the Winter Games are in progress, there are reports that stray dogs are still being done away with. As the cheering for the athletes gets louder, the sounds of barking dogs grows quieter.
Is this all in the name of sports? I don’t see how it can be.
Rather, it is in the name of business. The Olympics brings a lot of money to the host city and country. What are thousands of dogs compared to all those Russian rubles?
“In recent months, residents of Sochi have reported seeing dogs shot with poisoned darts, then tossed into waiting trucks,” wrote David M. Herszenhorn in this New York Times article.(1)
A Russian animal rights activist said that about 300 dogs a month were being killed in Sochi, and that they were being shot with a chemical that causes them to suffocate.
This is Michael Vick multiplied by the thousands.
Is it in the Olympic spirit? Hardly. In ancient days wars were stopped so the Olympics could take place. Now, in the 21st century, war has been declared and intensified, that is, war against the canines, also for the sake of the Olympics.
Frankly, the news of the dog killings has made me lose any interest in the winter Olympics I might have had, which I must admit, except for hockey, wasn’t too great to begin with.
“They’re beautiful dogs. These dogs are friendly and interactive dogs,” Kelly O’Meara, director of companion animals and engagement for the Humane Society International (HSI) told the New York Daily News.(2)
Heroic efforts by some Russian people have been going on against overwhelming odds. Dina Filipina quit her construction management job in Sochi to help rescue efforts because she cared more for dogs than buildings.
Igor Airapetyan drives from Moscow to Sochi and back with a car full of rescued dogs.
Nadezhda Mayboroda, a 39-year old teacher, opened her own shelter on the Sochi outskirts with more than 100 dogs. She has received financial support from Oleg Deripaska, a wealthy Russian businessman who was involved in Olympics construction.
Nina Stoyanovski is a volunteer at the shelter because as she told the Washington Post, “I can’t bear to see them die.”(3)
People such as Filippova, Airapetyan, Mayboroda, Deripaska and Stoyanovski will never be as well known as the athletes competing in the Winter Olympics. Their names are difficult for us to remember or even pronounce. But they must be considered champions and real winners as much, if not more, than those men and women who are skating, skiing, sledding and shooting pucks in the very Games that have caused this sickening activity to take place.
Here in this country, Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States, pointed out that “Russia dedicated $50 billion to ensure the success of the games.”
“If even a fraction of those funds had been allocated to addressing the street dog issue in Sochi in a humane and sustainable manner, this cruel and short-sighted scheme could have been avoided — and the nation could have engendered goodwill, not moral condemnation,” Pacelle told Yahoo! News. (4)
Meanwhile gratifying reports are coming in of athletes who have adopted some of the dogs, and are planning to take them back to their countries, including the USA..
Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, is supposedly a dog lover. Where is he in all this?
Probably enjoying the games in the company of Yume, his two year-old Akita, a Labrador named Komi, and Buffy, a Bulgarian Shepherd.(5)
How fortunate for those three privileged dogs that Putin did not leave them on the streets of Sochi!
1. Herszenhorn, David M. (2014, Feb. 5), Racing to Save the Stray Dogs of Sochi. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/06/sports/olympics/racing-to-save-dogs-roaming-around-sochi.html
2. Walsh, Michael. (2014, Feb. 10). Thousands of stray dogs in Sochi saved from pre-Olympics killings need homes. New York Daily News. Retrieved from http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/olympics/thousands-stray-dogs-sochi-saved-pre-olympics-killings-homes-article-1.1608976#ixzz2tKUo9Fpo
3. Englund, Will. (2014, Feb. 12) Russian volunteers smuggle Sochi strays to a new life far from Olympics host city. Washington Post. Retrieved from http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/olympics/russian-volunteers-smuggle-sochi-strays-to-new-life-far-from-olympics-
4. Pacelle, Wayne. (2014, Feb. 11) Sochi Mass Killing Street Dogs in Olympics ‘Cleaning’ (Op-Ed) Yahoo! News LiveScience.com. Retrieved from http://news.yahoo.com/sochi-mass-killing-street-dogs-olympics-39-cleansing-233000090.html
5. Radiamid, Kirit (2014, Feb. 8). Amid Uproar Over Stray Cull, Putin Brought His Own Dog to Sochi. ABC NEWS.