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Sochi rescuers race to save strays from exterminators

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A Feb. 5 New York Times article by David Herszenhorn brings hope to the thousands of stray dogs in Sochi hoping to evade the poisoned darts of government-hired exterminators.

According to the article, a Russian billionaire has funded an emergency shelter to house the strays animal rescuers find in Sochi in hopes of adopting them to visiting athletes and fans. It is being called PovoDog, a play on the Russian word povodok, which means leash.

Tatyana Leshchenko, an animal rights advocate quoted in the article, said about 300 dogs a month were being killed in Sochi. “It’s very cruel,” Ms. Leshchenko said, adding that the dogs were being shot with a chemical that causes them to suffocate. Before Friday’s opening ceremony, Russian authorities expect to have the streets cleared of all strays.

“We were told, ‘Either you take all the dogs from the Olympic Village or we will shoot them,’ ” said Olga Melnikova, who is coordinating the rescue effort on behalf of a charity called Good Will, which is financed by Oleg V. Deripaska, one of Russia’s billionaire oligarchs.

“On Monday we were told we have until Thursday,” Ms. Melnikova said.

A volunteer quoted in a Feb. 5 Boston Globe article estimates that between 5,000 and 7,000 dogs have been killed in the current cull, a figure no one in City Hall was available to confirm or deny.

According to the New York Times article, many of the strays were pets, or the offspring of pets, abandoned by families whose homes with yards were demolished over the past few years to make way for the Olympic venues and who were compensated with new apartments in taller buildings, where keeping a pet is often viewed as undesirable.

For the article, Aleksei Sorokin, the director general of a pest control business, Basya Services, confirmed that his company has been hired to catch and kill strays, telling local journalists the work was necessary.

On Monday, Humane Society International, an advocacy group based in Washington, wrote to Mr. Putin and urged him to prevent the killing of dogs, noting that the Russian president is also a dog lover. Mr. Putin has been photographed numerous times with his black Labrador, Koni.

What the shelter needs most is food, veterinary medicines and other supplies, including dog shelters and collars.

All of the dogs entering the shelter receive medical treatment, including vaccinations. All of them will be eligible for adoption, even to fans attending the Olympics. For their sake, let's hope that the visiting athletes and fans have hearts as big as their hopes for Olympic gold.

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