A private company has been contracted to rid the streets of Sochi’s stray dogs, and they are allegedly using some pretty inhumane methods to do so. Dogs are being captured and brought to the outskirts of the city, where they are being shot, stabbed, suffocated, beaten to death, or poisoned. While the plan to kill strays was initially cancelled, The Moscow Times reports, area residents began to find dog corpses in Sochi late last year.
While many Russian government officials support the mass culling, calling the homeless animals everything from a safety issue to, as director general for the company charged with disposing of the dogs Alexei Sorokin says, “biological trash,” there are others who are working tirelessly to bring these poor pets to safety — before it’s too late.
Oligarch Oleg V. Deripaska, who has a net worth estimated at around $8.5 billion and is one of the most influential businessmen in Russia, has stepped up in a desperate effort to save these street dogs from systematic slaughter. Deripaska has put his money behind a rescue effort on behalf of a charity called Volnoe Delo.
Rescue coordinator Olga Melnikova and her crew are working around the clock to transport dogs to a temporary shelter funded by Deripaska.
“We were told, ‘Either you take all the dogs from the Olympic Village or we will shoot them,’” Melnikova tells the New York Times. “On Monday we were told we have until Thursday.”
The shelter, nicknamed PovoDog (a play on the Russian word for “leash”), is made up of a series of outdoor doghouses and makeshift cages that have been set up on the fringes of Sochi. So far, Deripaska has provided $15,000 to PovoDog, and he’s already vowed to give $50,000 a year to help pay for shelter operations. A golf cart is driving around the Olympic site today, with rescuers picking up as many strays as possible.
As of Wednesday, at least 80 dogs and puppies are being housed at PovoDog, and many of them seem quite friendly. Shelter volunteers from Sochi believe most of the rescued dogs were once family pets, pets who were abandoned when their families’ homes were demolished to make way for Olympic venues.
Just how many strays will be saved before Friday’s Opening Ceremony is unclear. One thing is certain — there are a lot of animals and only a little time left.