Many were appalled to hear that officials in Sochi have ordered the poisoning and killing of stray dogs to clear them out of the Olympic Village and surrounding competition venues. One group of activists is doing something about it.
An animal shelter backed by Russian billionaire Oleg V. Deripaska has been rounding up stray dogs around Sochi and taking them to a makeshift shelter outside the city.
“We were told, ‘You take all the dogs from the Olympic Village or we will shoot them,'” Olga Melnikova, the coordinator of the rescue effort, told The New York Times. “… On Monday we were told we have until Thursday.”
Tatyana Leshchenko, an animal rights activist in Sochi, estimated that 300 strays have been killed each month since extermination — and rescue — efforts began in October, according to the Times. The shelter is reportedly housing 80 animals.
Dmitri S. Peskov, a spokesman for Russian president Vladimir Putin, acknowledged that a large number of stray animals call Sochi home, especially in the wake of the massive construction projects necessary to host the Olympics.
“It is true that there are stray dogs in Sochi, more stray dogs than in other cities,” Peskov said in an interview with with Kommersant FM radio Wednesday. “The explanation is quite simple. When a big construction project is underway, dogs and puppies always appear whom the builders feed. Now the builders have left, but unfortunately, the dogs remain.”
A spokesman for the International Olympic Committee, however, said it “would be absolutely wrong to say that any healthy dogs will be destroyed.”
Deripaska, who also is one of the Sochi Olympics’ major investors, reportedly donated $15,000 to fund the construction of the shelter and plans to contribute an additional $50,000 each year.
Photo via Twitter/@PetsforPatriots