Zorka and one of her pups in Volgograd, RF
Article by: Dmitriy Voltchek
The shelter is overcrowded; there are now 179 dogs, and new strays are systematically turned away.
“This is an industrial city; homeless dogs find shelter in factories and construction sites. We feed and care for these animals; we have a schedule and visit them every morning. We use our funds to sterilize them; we buy them collars; we make tags with inscriptions “I’m sterilized and vaccinated” and we note our phone numbers.” says volunteer Nadia Sergeeva.
But, that’s how it used to be… Only one of these stray dogs has survived, and only because it was tied up. In December, there were seven to eight dogs and all of them were wearing a collar. The security guards say they usually hear a loud squeal, run out and see the dogs being loaded into a vehicle.
In June 2018, Volgograd will host four World Cup games, and the city has begun to prepare for the arrival of football stars and fans. In 2017, 12 million rubles were allocated to solve the problem related to stray animals. The tender was won by the Volgograd Municipal Kennel, which is managed by Konstantin Epifanov. All negotiations with the Kennel’s management about dogs cared for by Fund volunteers from the Dino Shelter have failed.
“They took our dogs away, and we were informed that the animals had been killed. They told us that the dogs weren’t wearing collars. Maybe one or two had torn off their tags while playing, but all seven?! We addressed the Prosecutor’s Office, and received a reply saying that there’d been no violations. You should’ve heard how the director of the Kennel talked to us! After all, he got 12 million rubles, and this violence will probably continue. I feel that I can’t protect these animals anymore. I’ve heard it’ll get worse just before the World Cup, but things are so bad now that I really don’t see how it could get any worse!” says Nadia Sergeeva indignantly.
World Cup games will be held in eleven cities of the Russian Federation, where authorities have decided to exterminate stray animals in advance, not only dogs, but also cats. The programme was launched when Vitaliy Mutko, the “hero” of Russia’s doping scandal, was Minister of Sports. In early 2018, the State Duma Committee on Ecology and Environmental Protection asked the new minister, Pavel Kolobkov, to spare the animals.
“They take 6-9,000 rubles for the murder of one dog. With this sum, it’s quite possible to safely capture, vaccinate, sterilize, and keep the animals in a kennel. This is an issue related to our country’s reputation, as we are not savages to massively kill animals in the streets, throw their bloody corpses in cars and drive around the city looking for more victims.” says the head of the committee, Vladimir Burmatov.
But, Burmatov was too late. Animals are being massacred, and it’s happening the same way as in 2014, when Russia was preparing for the Winter Olympics in Sochi. A scandal shook the international community when Russian authorities began exterminating stray animals in Sochi. Gunmen from the Basya Company were officially ordered to kill stray dogs with air guns, using poisons such as Adilin-super and Ditilin. The dogs were fully conscious and in agony when they died from suffocation, while the killers received 500 rubles for each corpse. Today, according to Vladimir Burmatov, the price per animal has risen…
“In 2018, eleven Russian cities will be drowning in the blood of homeless animals. Why are SO MANY being killed? Because both officials and public employees, besides their frenzied desire to kill, hunt and destroy life, are convinced that stray animals will bother the athletes and fans, that these animals will spoil the “greatest tourist attraction ever”! They dream of a sterilized plastic world without fauna and flora, grass on lawns, a world without animals and birds; they believe that animals don’t have rights, and certainly not the right to live!” writes BloodyFifaRussia2018.
When asked why such violence and cruelty are being used, officials have a ready answer:
“We can’t allow dogs to bite and harm football fans who might sue FIFA and demand compensation.”
But, not only is FIFA afraid of fines and angry fans, but also this so-called threat is a perfect way to siphon off money from the budget. The head of the Foundation for Urban Animal Protection, Ekaterina Dmitrieva, has studied the public procurement website and estimated that in regions where championship matches and training bases are located more than 100 million rubles will be spent on exterminating dogs and cats. Some places, such as Volgograd and Astrakhan, speak of “animal euthanasia”, while other cities call it “mercy killing” or “animal disposal”.
“I’ve come up with a total amount of 110 million rubles – about 1.5 million euros – which will be distributed among eleven World Cup host cities and training bases. For example, 32 million were allocated to Ekaterinburg, which is an enormous sum! We know very well that there aren’t five million stray dogs running around Ekaterinburg, so why have 2,000 rubles per dog been allocated for their “disposal”. This money could be used to sterilize, vaccinate and shelter the dogs, but they prefer to kill them.” says Ekaterina Dmitrieva.
Andrei Timeskov, journalist and head of the Animal Humane Fund “Dobry Mir” (Kind World) is convinced that the authorities in St. Petersburg are using people who kill dogs for pleasure – the so-called dog hunters. Timeskov has been threatened several times, and on January 5, a group of dog hunters blew up his mailbox.
“We could’ve resolved the situation with homeless animals in the past five to six years, but it’s not profitable for anyone. More and more puppies must be born so that more and more budget funds can be allocated for their murder!” asserts Ekaterina Dmitrieva.
Private pets are often included in this killing network in order to pump up statistics and profits.
“We need to find out more about state procurement rules. For example, they say that identification marks, such as collars, tags, etc. aren’t real signs of private property.” says Ekaterina Dmitrieva.
On January 11, the Russian government instructed the host regions to organize temporary shelters for homeless animals. The Duma committee underlines that Russia must “avoid measures that might provoke negative reactions in the media and be regarded as cruel treatment of animals.”
However, the truth cannot be hidden, and even in Mexico the media has already written about the extermination of dogs in Russia. On their Facebook page, Italian animal lovers suggest signing a Petition against the cruel measures and actions launched by the Russian Ministry of Sports.
Ekaterina Dmitrieva does not believe that the killing of animals will be stopped.
“I’ve written letters to everyone, and I’ve begged them to cancel these tenders, but of course I don’t get any answers, because there are no clear procedures for canceling tenders.”
Animal protection organizations in Russia have reported to FIFA about the extermination of dogs in the host cities and received a standard terse reply:
“Over the past weeks, we have received letters and e-mails similar to yours calling our attention to the animal rights of dogs and other animals in Russia. We share your concerns about the issue you describe and share your compassion for the animals. We are in contact with our respective counterparts in Russia to raise awareness about this issue… However, we are sure you will understand that due to our other numerous ongoing and planned activities in connection with FIFA’s competitions, including the earmarked finances for these, we are not able to support your cause more actively.”
BloodyFIFARussia2018 has launched a Petition calling for the World Cup to be transferred to a country where animals have specific rights, at least the right to life. Other petitions have also been launched by concerned citizens in other countries.
Meanwhile, the Volgograd Municipal Kennel, which won the 12-million-ruble tender, is ready to recruit new employees: hunters of stray animals with a salary amounting to 18-25,000 rubles.
“This is an all-Russian slaughter campaign! Our society has been divided into two strata – the wanted and unwanted, and we all know in which category homeless animals have been placed!” concludes Ekaterina Dmitrieva.