The Dark Side of Sochi – Stray Dogs Euthanized En Masse

The lucky ones rescued in the nick of time.
The lucky ones rescued in the nick of time.

By Linda M. Lowson, Esq.

In this age of transparency and accountability, negative issues can’t hide for long. And so it has been reported by all the major news media: We have a dark and gruesome cloud hanging over the traditional celebratory atmosphere of the Sochi Olympic Games—the brutal mass extermination of stray dogs in Sochi.

Thousands of dogs have been killed. Despite promising there wouldn’t be a street cull in preparation for the Olympic Games, the Sochi local government hired a private exterminating company to kill “as many as possible” for the Olympic Games, referring to the dogs as “biological trash.” The International Olympic Committee has done nothing to stop it.

These innocent animals are shot with poisoned darts that cause them to suffocate, and then thrown into waiting trucks to be disposed of as garbage, at a cost of $25 to $35 per dog. Many of the strays were pets, or the offspring of pets, abandoned by families whose homes with yards were demolished over the past few years to make way for the Olympic venues. The stray population also increased due to being fed by construction workers in the Olympics construction projects.

Despite the global outrage and negative media publicity, the killing goes on. A few dogs have been spared, in a rescue effort on behalf of a charity called Volnoe Delo (“Good Will”), who was told, “Either you take all the dogs from the Olympic Village, or we will shoot them.” The charity is being funded by Oleg V. Deripaska, one of Russia’s billionaire oligarchs, and one of the major investors in the Sochi Games, who paid for several huge projects. His modest $15,000 contribution has been used to construct a shantytown of doghouses on the outskirts of Sochi that now houses about 200 dogs. He also pledged $50,000 per year for operations.

The Sochi Olympics are costing Russia an estimated $51 billion, four times higher than the $12 billion cost Russia originally projected in 2007, and more than all the previous Olympic Games combined. Sochi’s government budgeted a paltry $54,000 “to catch and dispose of” the strays, according to the official Russian website for open tenders. This amount could have funded the cost of several modest dog shelters for hundreds of dogs. Is it comprehensible that the Russian government cannot spend $200,000–0.004 percent of the total cost of the Olympics—for proper dog shelters and a sterilization/vaccination program, not only to save the stray dogs and effectively address the problem, but also to save the image and reputation of Russia that Putin has strived to cultivate, that of a civilized and welcoming country?

This mass animal killing is not a new issue, but this time it is receiving significantly more media attention and global outrage. Some may remember that both the Athens and Beijing Olympics caught bad press for their handling of the local stray animal populations. In 2004, the Greek authorities ordered the poisoning of 15,000 stray dogs ahead of the Olympic Games in Athens, desperate to show the world that their country is “modern and civilized.” Of course it showed just the opposite. On a more egregious and insidious scale, in 2008, for the Beijing Olympics, China’s leaders convinced Beijing inhabitants that cats were a serious urban health risk, and ordered a cull of an estimated 500,000 cats, an extreme measure by communist leaders to ensure that the capital city appeared clean, green and welcoming during the Olympics. This time, the animals were thrown into overcrowded shelters with no food or water, and left to suffer a slow, agonizing death.

The real paradox and senselessness of this unspeakable brutality is that this kind of “extermination” does not solve the problem, even in the short-term, and does nothing to address the long-term problem. Humane Society International (HSI) and other well-known and well-funded animal welfare organizations have worked with thousands of organizations and governmental agencies worldwide to address this issue in a scientific, humane and cost-effective way–using mass dog sterilization and vaccination programs that very successfully control the stray population and eliminate rabies risk, over both the short term and long term.

The Russian government knew this expert assistance was easily available and could have collaborated with HSI or other organizations, with the cost potentially funded in whole or in part by private donations. Why do the Russian and Sochi governments refuse to take a moderate, proactive approach?

Worse, will we see a repeat in Rio de Janeiro in 2016?

The time to act is now. What is at stake are the integrity and respect of the Olympic Games, the lives of thousands of innocent dogs and cats, and the dignity of the human spirit, very large stakes indeed. The International Olympic Committee and Rio de Janeiro’s governmental officials need to hear from all concerned citizens.

Linda M. Lowson, Esq., is CEO and Chief Counsel for the Global ESG Regulatory Academy.

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4 responses

    1. Yeah that’s a great argument. “C’mon guys we’re all doing it, I mean its just killing thousands of animals that we failed to take care of to begin with for no reason other than, we want to look good in front of the camera(in Sochi’s case anyway)”

      Personally I think we should grow up and start being responsible for our actions.

      Also I think its funny that you say “Grow up and write about the games”. Now I realized these are the Olympics, but um aren’t they just, how did you put it, um “games”? I think that’s sort of a contradiction, personally.

      1. Bravo Brent Sitterly! It’s a very sad commentary on humanity that too many others share Walter’s callous attitude toward the lives of sentient beings. Because we kill thousands of perfectly healthy dogs and cats in this country too, does not make it right or acceptable for it to happen here or anywhere else. Further, the fact that it is largely preventable if humans demonstrated compassion and responsibility makes it that much more despicable. I say grow up and consider that this planet is home to many other lives….not just humans.

    2. YEAH Walter ……..kill and kill and kill
      it serves humanity well
      it serves life well
      you know it is not that far of a slippery slope……..
      if you can’t kill a stray animal…… sure as hell ain’t gonna kill a person
      if you can kill an innocent animal without hesitation……and further justify it….well you are not that far away from a murderer..
      think what you will………
      there is a value in life no matter how small or large………
      the fact that you are more worried about sport games than life is truly pathetic.
      I have empathy for your ignorance.
      I am also a former pro athlete and life is more important to me than any games….hey that is one of the reasons that Olympic athletes are so special…..they have heart and soul and could not walk by suffering dogs in Sochi each day without doing something………
      That is why you are never going to be anything special………..b/c you have no heart. Heart is what makes Olympic athletes winners. Heart is what makes people amazing.
      Have a great life………..

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