In February, just ahead of the 2014 Winter Olympics opening ceremony, DogTime.com told you about the dire situation for stray dogs in Sochi, Russia, who were being rounded up and euthanized in a mass extermination effort organized by government officials in the Black Sea resort city.
Soon after news of the massive culling effort broke, animal advocates mobilized in a desperate effort to pull these homeless animals from the streets of the Olympic village. Makeshift animal shelters started popping up on the outskirts of the city, including Povodog, a shelter funded by Russian billionaire Oleg V. Deripaska.
Deripaska says he’s always had a soft spot for animals.
“My first dog I found in the street of my village, the tiny village [where I grew up]. It was a very close friend for almost five years,” he told the BBC last month.
So far, Povodog has rescued more than 200 dogs and has found good homes for 50 of those.
Visitors to Sochi — including Olympic athletes — signed up in droves, hoping to adopt some of these formerly doomed strays.
U.S. skier Gus Kenworthy famously made headlines when he decided to adopt a litter of puppies and their mother. Kenworthy’s friend, Robin Macdonald, stayed behind in Russia to coordinate transport efforts. The road to rescuing Kenworthy’s pups was not an easy one, and Macdonald did not return to the states with the dogs for nearly a month.
“We encountered some government roadblocks when we were there. A politician kind of claimed the dogs were theirs, and they didn’t want to release them for whatever reason,” Macdonald told the TODAY Show during an appearance in mid-March. “They were kind of kept away from me for the duration that I was there. We were fighting [along] with Humane Society International to really get them proper treatment and get them to care.”
“It took so long, and two of the dogs unfortunately did pass away,” Macdonald added.
“They’re very sweet,” Kenworthy says. “They’re very comfortable around people. They’re very docile. They’re more than happy to be held and played with.”
While many people will likely visit the shelter hoping for a chance to bring home one of the Sochi dogs, Washington Animal Rescue League CEO Bob Ramin tells The Moscow Times that the Russian dogs will also draw attention to the many other homeless pets currently waiting for a home at the facility.
“That’s really going to be great, because people are going to come and want to see the Sochi animals, but we are going to say, ‘Look at everybody else here that needs a home,’” Ramin explains.
Animal advocacy group Humane Society International (HSI), who is partnering with several of the Russian animal shelters to save Sochi strays, hopes that other countries will take note and make efforts to help homeless animals.
“For us, these dogs are wonderful ambassadors for the street-dog issue that exists around the world,” HSI’s Director of Companion Animals and Engagement Kelly O’Meara tells Reuters.com.
Over the next two weeks or so, the dogs will receive veterinary examinations and will start the socialization process. If all goes as planned, they will be placed up for adoption soon after.
“They’re the sweetest, most interactive, very friendly dogs, very adoptable that just happen to be unfortunate enough to be living on the street,” O’Meara tells CNN.
More Sochi dogs are set to arrive in the United States over the coming weeks.