Print Edition - 2018-06-06 | The Guardian
Russia is killing stray dogs
- As World Cup approaches, street dogs are being ruthlessly eliminated
Jun 6, 2018-
With two weeks to go until the World Cup kicks off in Russia, death squads are targeting undesirables in the street. In what local authorities describe as an attempt to make Russia more media- and visitor-friendly, horrifying executions are taking place. However, the great purge is aimed not at man but at man’s best friend – they are coming for the dogs.Russia’s street dogs are perhaps more lovable than most. They have drawn admiration for their intelligence and resilience. Many of them commute into the cities each morning on the trains. They know to get on the train’s front or back carriage for the least crowded journey, and they know where to get off for the best food. When they beg for food as a pack, they move their youngest and cutest member to the front, knowing this will melt the hearts of passers-by. On busy streets, they’ve even learned to obey traffic lights and cross when it’s safe, trotting alongside pedestrians.
These are the sweet, abandoned creatures who are being exterminated in the name of the beautiful game. Many are killed with poisoned food. This sneaky form of violence condemns the animals to slow and painful deaths, usually with convulsions as they choke on their own vomit before eventually collapsing. Other hunters use poisoned darts or blowguns for their killings. Lives silently snuffed out because they don’t fit the image the authorities want to present.
Officials deny that euthanasia is their official policy, claiming the focus is to move dogs into shelters. But Open Cages and local campaign groups insist the slaughter is continuing. Social media in Russia has become awash with photos and videos of convulsing or dead dogs. It all feels horribly reminiscent of 2014, when stray dogs were rounded up and killed in Sochi ahead of Russia’s Winter Olympics. The private pest control company hired for the mass slaughter there referred to dogs as “biological trash”. An animal rights group described scenes of “mass poisonings and shootings”.
Ahead of the World Cup, Russian parliament member Vladimir Burmatov visited a shelter in Yekaterinburg and discovered a “very painful” scene, with “malnourished dogs and conditions that you couldn’t even call satisfactory”. He said a “large quantity” of the shelter’s dogs were being unnecessarily put to sleep. There is a £1.20 budget for each killing, which suggests how compassionate the process is likely to be. After all, the shelter is run not by animal welfare experts, but a rubbish collection and disposal firm.
Stray dogs are certainly a big issue in Russia. There are approximately 2m strays in the country’s 11 World Cup host cities. But killing them is surely not the answer. The most effective solution to the problem might be a long-term policy of spay and neuter. A more immediate approach for dogs currently on Russian streets would be proper investment in suitable shelters for them. God knows, the World Cup brings in enough cash to football’s governing body, Fifa, that they could chip in a few million.
As well as pressing Russian authorities to immediately halt the killings, Fifa should insert an animal welfare clause into the host contract for all future tournaments, including the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, a country with its own strays.
Perhaps some World Cup stars will step up to the plate, too? Lionel Messi, Mesut Ozil and Harry Kane often post photos of them posing with their dogs. In this money-spinning game, the influence of these superstars is immense. Here’s their chance to show they really love dogs.
Published: 06-06-2018 07:07