The Russian city of Sochi campaigned hard to get the nod for the Winter 2014 Olympics. They made a lot of promises and most of them have been broken. Hey…who cares about the bad hotel rooms…what should you expect in Russia where you can take a spare tire on an in-country airline flight and cabbage is one of the five major food groups. However, outrage over their senseless slaughter of thousands of street dogs due to their own negligence for not spaying and neutering their pets is sickening and deserves the criticism it’s receiving worldwide.
Sochi received 50 billion dollars to prepare for the Olympics. Despite promises to build a dog shelter with some of that money, they did not. Instead as early as last summer they began exterminating dogs. Last fall the slaughter of the estimated 2000 street dogs began with the government hiring extermination companies to shoot the dogs with a chemical dart that suffocates them to death. Other dogs have been shot.
A large percentage of these dogs are running loose as a direct result of Sochi winning the Olympic bid. In order to construct the facilities for the games, many houses were purchased and demolished to make for construction. The former owners were relocated to apartments in town where dogs were not allowed. They were just left behind to fend for themselves. None of the billions of dollars was used to build a shelter, help the dogs or another effort to insure their well-being. Instead the government used some of the money to hire the dog assassins.
A group of brave people in Sochi have stepped up to help rescue the dogs. A group of about 30 women volunteers has been catching strays and bringing them to a shelter for medical attention, spaying/neutering and trying to place them in homes. You have to admire such fearless dedication against all odds of an oppressive government and the glitter of the games.
A makeshift shelter is being hastily put together with funds from a Russian billionaire who funded many of the projects to get the city ready for the games. While I admire Mr. Deripaska for his last minute attempt to save the dogs, I must ask; “Why wasn’t the shelter built as promised originally?” He gave $15,000.00 to get the shelter started and it is on land donated by the government. He will give an additional $50,000.00 per year for operations which will most likely surely be woefully inadequate.
President Vladimir V. Putin has been courting the world press in recent weeks trying to make Russia and Sochi in particular look like a Bastian of kindness with a welcoming spirit. The Humane Society International, an advocacy group based in Washington, wrote to Mr. Putin and urged him to prevent the killing of dogs. The Russian president claims to be a dog lover and has been photographed numerous times with his black Labrador, Koni. However he has left the dogs of Sochi to be slaughtered.
Think of what a statement for animal rights and human kindness it would make for even one Olympian to step out of the game in protest of this savage massacre of dogs that have done nothing wrong. They were once part of a family and now they are at loose on their own seeking what any human would…food and shelter. The makeshift shelter is slightly better than the streets, but the dogs are safe here. It’s a conglomeration of fences with dog houses inside. A “dog rescue” golf cart is now scouring the Olympic campus, picking up the animals and delivering them to the shelter on the outskirts of the city. Last report was that about 80 dogs are there and are safe. Compare that to the figures being reported of how many dogs were killed.
This dog cruelty right in the spotlight of the world Olympic stage has tainted the Olympics for many dog advocates and those of us who love animals. It’s hard to concentrate on the performances knowing outside the starlight stadium dogs are suffering cruel deaths all because of money and power and ignorance. Next time someone hands out 50 billion dollars maybe they should get some reliable reassurances exactly what the money will be spent for. And maybe, they need to know beyond the shadow of a doubt that no lives will be senselessly taken out just for the glory of a game.