Over the years some interesting stories about stray dogs in Russia have been passed around the internet. There are students earning PhDs by studying these dogs. If you watch the video you'll see well fed, some overfed, relaxed community members and citizens well aware of the plight of the dogs, willing to help and coexist. From a distance, we can fall prey to two errors. First, judging before researching, so I hope this video helps a little with that. Second, once we've been told that animals, especially companions in our culture, are suffering somewhere far away, we feel helpless and will send money to anyone professing to have a solution.
So the stray dogs in Sochi during these Winter Olympics are a hot topic. Our beloved Russian purebreds make those of us with Borzoi even more likely to get involved in this particular cause. I'm not saying you shouldn't help but be sure that help is needed and that the support you decide to give is helpful because in the video, it appears that these dogs are at home. This is where and how they live and they are successful.
Imagine being grabbed by a stranger and put into a packing crate then into a jet airliner for hours when you don't know why or what your outcome is to be. Of course, it may be worth it to traumatize an animal in this way if the outcome is so much better than before that you can justify the act. But can we?
Life in the United States for the average dog means staying home alone in a house while your humans work. These Russian dogs don't rely on humans and they are not accustomed to being locked indoors for hours at a time. If they react to lock up by chewing through walls or howling, they will end up in shelters here after their long journey to rescue.
Shelters in the United States are currently euthanizing half the dogs they receive for exactly these issues. Dogs who are friendly and healthy and can stay in a cage all day, are easy to find homes for. Dogs who have anxiety about close confinement do not fare as well. And dog who are returned to the shelter for damaging the house or escaping the yard frequently, are challenging to find homes for.
And then there's the health issues. The dogs in the video look healthy. Russia has a problem with rabid dogs. The only test for rabies requires death so the brain can be examined. Luckily, when a dog attacks due to Rabies, he will die within ten days of the onset of symptoms that make him attack. So we can quarantine dogs who bite for a short observation period to determine if a person is at risk from the bite. Most of us mistakenly believe this means the dog didn't have Rabies but that's not true. It can take 6 months to a year for a dog with Rabies to become sick. Only at the end of the illness do the symptoms cause the dog to lose his mine and attack. So all dogs who may have been exposed to Rabies are isolated for 6 months before they can be cleared. Isolated. In a cage with no friends and only one vaccinated human caretaker permitted.
So we can vaccinate Russian dogs 30 days before "rescue" and meet the import requirements. But this does nothing to prevent Rabid dogs from being sent to this country. Puppies need not even be vaccinated to be imported.
As a career animal rescuer, I do not think Rabies risk is a cause for abandoning all animal care. I have been vaccinated. I vaccinate my horses (not legally required) and I held a permit to handle Rabies vector species for over two decades. But I think the Rabies risk combined with the knowledge that the dogs may not want to come to the United States for a suburban experience is reason enough to get more information before kidnapping the dogs of Sochi.
I also have grave concerns about finding rescue groups that can handle the project. So here are some examples already presented publicly to consider.
Director of a Georgia shelter charges people $100.00 to guarantee their unwanted dog will not be euthanized. Then she euthanizes those dogs anyway. The ASPCA financially awarded her shelter for reporting a great improvement in her ability to save dogs.
A rescue from out of state delivers a rabid puppy to a family in Vermont with proof of Rabies vaccination. The rescue representatives later said that was a mistake, not because the dog actually had Rabies but because the puppy was legally too young to receive a vaccination for Rabies.
So if we decide the dogs in Sochi need help they are not getting in their own land, we need to carefully consider what kind of help and who is qualified to deliver it before we mail a check.