Staunton, 2 June – In a classic example of how international attention can restrain Russian officials and how the end of such attention frees them to resume what they were doing, an animal rights activist reports that Sochi officials have restarted their campaign to kill homeless animals since Western journalists left following the Olympiad.
Tatyana Leshchenko, one of the leaders of the animal rights movement in the North Caucasus, says that international outrage in the run-up to the Olympiad forced Sochi officials to suspend the killing but “when all the journalists left,” they resumed it and on an even greater scale.
Her comments come as the Russian Federal Assembly is discussing a bill that would provide some additional protections for animals. Leshchenko says that the new law must focus on promoting sterilization of pets. Otherwise, however often officials wipe out homeless animals, new ones will appear. The problem won’t go away.
And these programs are by their nature cruel, she continues. In Sochi since the Olympics, a private firm has been killing 300 to 500 homeless animals each month and collecting a bounty of “about a thousand rubles” (30 US dollars) for each paid for out of taxes collected from the population.
“What is happening now, especially in the private sector, is unbearable,” Leshchenko continues. Those who are engaged in the killings are making profits, and the animals are suffering. And the authorities are not promoting sterilization or punishing those who toss animals into the streets.
Russian laws against animal cruelty “do not work at all,” she says. People get a dog or cat and then throw it in the street when they get tired of it “like an old coat.” And nothing happens. Equally unfortunately, these laws allow anyone to declare an animal aggressive and dangerous, something that opens the way to abuse and mistreatment.
Shelters help but they are not by themselves the answer, Leshchenko insists. In Sochi during the Olympics, one was set up with the help of a private foundation. It soon filled up because people kept “disposing” of cats and dogs. Sterilization is only way, she says, to end this vicious cycle.