There are a lot of loose ends to tie up before Sochi’s opening ceremony on Friday. Broken door handles need to be fixed; water needs to be turned on; hotels need to be built. And while many of the shortcomings are no doubt frustrating for visitors and athletes and perhaps humorous for those watching from afar, none have been as heartbreaking as the news that 2,000 of the city’s stray dogs need to be exterminated.
Russia has no spay or neuter laws binding people to the responsible care of their dogs or cats and abandoning a pet seems to be as common as changing into a different pair of shoes.
“Russia, in general, has irresponsible dog owners who, when they get bored of their home pet experiment, kick them out on the street,” Alexei Sorokin, director general of pest control firm Basya Services told ABCNews. “So parks are dumping grounds for unwanted dogs. We end up with many stray dogs who pose a threat to (the) population.”
Sorokin’s company has a contract to exterminate the Sochi strays, who are seen as a public-safety and health risk and which Sorokin himself calls “biological trash.” Although Sorokin would not tell MSN or ABCNews how the dogs would be put down, reports of poisonings have been coming from Sochi since December.
Several animal rights organizations have tried to intervene and offer assistance. The International Fund for Animal Welfare reports that they have repeatedly offered their services to the Environment Department of the Sochi 2014 Olympics Organizing Committee.
“We knew that Sochi officials were feeling time pressure in the lead up to the Games, so we explicitly offered assistance almost a year ago — yet our offers have been met with resounding silence,” said Kate Atema, director of IFAW’s Companion Animal Program explains on their website.
Kelly O’Meara, director of companion animals and engagement for Humane Society International, told Time that last summer, Humane Society International offered to help Olympic organizers set up a mass-vaccination-and-sterilization program, but that Olympic officials did not respond.
Eliminating strays is not new to cities that host the Olympics. Before the summer Games came to Beijing in 2008, some 200,000 stray cats had to be dealt with. Greeks faced a similar problem before the 2004 Games.
Unfortunately, it takes the eyes of the world on one corner of a country to compel it to deal with — albeit improperly – the overpopulation of strays. Where are the social policies that prevent these culls in the first place?
And if you think the United States is without fault, think again. Although we have not had to deal with a massive extermination before an Olympic Games, about 2.7 million healthy, adoptable cats and dogs — that’s one every 11 seconds — are euthanized each year in the United States, according to the Humane Society.
A volunteer feeds some stray dogs ahead of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics on Feb. 5, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. Credit: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images