When the Olympic games launched in Russia a few weeks ago, there were horrifying stories about the animal cleansing that was taking place on the streets of Sochi. According to animal welfare groups, authorities were mass killing street dogs in an effort to “beautify” their city as they welcomed athletes and visitors from around the world. The number of dogs slaughtered is unknown, estimates say there are probably thousands; private companies who were hired to take care of the dogs were told to “kill as many as possible.”
No one is arguing about the overpopulation of stray dogs in Sochi. But the government could have done something more humane to address the problem. According to the Humane Society of the United States: “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.”
Aside from being inhumane, mass killings through poisoning or shooting are ineffective for long-term population control. Andrew Rowan, chief executive officer of Humane Society International, advocates mass sterilization, vaccination, and community education to solve the problem of strays.
Animal rights groups in Sochi have been trying to help the dogs by getting them fed, cleaned, vaccinated, spayed or neutered, and into new homes. Now Olympic athletes are doing their part by either adopting dogs or tweeting pictures of themselves with the dogs in an effort to same them. American slopestyle skiing silver medalist Gus Kenworthy first tweeted pictures of himself with a stray dog a few weeks ago. According to USA Today, he is pushing back his return to the U.S. to adopt a family of stray puppies and their mother. He found them at the base of the mountain near the Extreme Park.
U.S. hockey players David Backes and Kevin Shattenkirk are also posing with dogs who they say are friendly, even though they are portrayed as rabid animals that are dangerous.
U.S. snowboard cross racer Lindsey Jacobellis and U.S. hockey goalie Ryan Miller have also tweeted pictures of themselves with the stray dogs in Sochi.
How You Can Help
Donate to the cause. The best and most realistic thing that people can do to help the stray dogs of Sochi is to donate to a worthy group. Humane Society International lists several groups that need donations:
Adopt a Sochi dog. Less practical, but doable for some, is adopting a dog from Sochi. For more information, visit: http://www.hsi.org/issues/street_dog/factsheets/adopting-transporting-pets-internationally.html
Take action. The International Olympic Committee, which is responsible for promoting “a positive legacy from the Olympic Games to the host cities and host countries,” did nothing to stop this cruelty. To ensure that this doesn’t happen at the Olympics again, sign a petition. For more information, visit: https://e-activist.com/ea-action/action?ea.client.id=104&ea.campaign.id=25535&ea.tracking.id=website
Spay or neuter your pet. The overwhelming problem of animal overpopulation is the responsibility of everyone who owns a pet. Ensure that your pet is not adding to the problem by having him spayed or neutered. For more on the benefits of spaying and neutering, see last week’s column: http://independent.com/news/2014/feb/14/help-reduce-pet-overbreeding/
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