The city of Sochi, the Russian host of the 2014 Winter Olympics, has angered animal rights activists by announcing that it plans to exterminate all of the city’s nearly 2000 stray animals in a pre-Olympic purge.
Sochi is no stranger to negative publicity. Between construction delays of hotels and venues, wide scale political corruption, and city/nationwide homophobia, Sochi has found itself in several unflattering news headlines over the past 12 months.
Now the city has hired a company that they use for animal control on a regular basis to round up and eliminate all stray animals in the city at a cost of 1,700,000 Russian rubles or about $48,000 U.S. dollars.
Stray animals have long been a problem in Sochi, and in fact all of Russia. Pets are rarely neutered
and routinely abandoned in Russia, allowing them to breed freely while they feed on garbage and scraps from locals. The company used to eliminate the strays of Sochi routinely has a two-man crew in the city that culls approximately 300 dogs per month.
The number of wild dogs in Sochi is said to number in the thousands. Many run in packs, especially near the Olympic venues, where they are fed by construction workers. Officials have expressed fear of dog bites and other interactions occurring between strays and visitors or athletes during events. One dog recently managed to find its way into the Olympic Stadium during a practice session of the opening ceremony.
It’s unclear at this point how the “catch-and-dispose” operation is actually being carried out, either by poison or shooting. Locals report that the dogs are being shot in off hours such as early morning or just before sunset.
Animal rights activists have protested the catch-and-kill contract since it was introduced last year. An agreement to build shelters was reached but never enacted, although the City of Sochi announced that a shelter was opened on Monday.
Sochi plans to continue its eradication plan throughout the Olympic games, and we will update this trending story as more news becomes available.