Sochi’s stray dogs are facing a competition of their own during the 2014 Olympics – to live or be killed. The city of Sochi has contracted to have thousands of stray dogs euthanized, an action roundly condemned by animal activists.
According to MSN on Wednesday, animal lovers and animal rights advocates are now removing stray dogs and “smuggling” them out of the city before they are rounded up for mass euthanasia.
MSN describes one such activist, named “Alexei.”
“Alexei stops in his tracks as he sees a half-breed Labrador snooping around at a cafe's back door. The dog comes obediently on his whistle. Alexei strokes it and in one swift movement takes it in his arms like a newborn baby.
Rushing past surprised passers-by, Alexei carries the equally-surprised dog to his car parked round the corner and places it gently on the back seat.”
Alexei is but one example of a growing movement of individuals, organized via social media and prompted over outcry about the “mercy killings” of stray dogs, that have rounded up animals wandering the streets and either taken them in or brought them to animal shelters.
Alexei's wife, Dina Fillipova, says that it’s not their love of dogs that are moving her and her husband to action, it’s a realization that compassion is needed at a time when few have it.
“I like dogs but that's not the point,” Fillipova says. “You know, even if you don't like children and don't want to have one, when you see a baby lying on the street bleeding or find out about maniacs hunting for children, you would want to do something to help.”
The International Olympic Committee has responded to the allegations that the city ordered thousands of strays exterminated by stating that no “healthy” dogs are being killed in Sochi, a report that those on the streets decry as being absolutely untrue.
USA Today ran an article on Monday detailing how to adopt a stray dog from Sochi.
Humane Society International director Kelly O'Meara said that the stray dog story has touched many, who have stepped forward and asked how they can help.
“I think it's a situation where everyone's hearing about the very sad and terrible means of killing these dogs and people are feeling a bit helpless in what they can do,” O'Meara said. “This is a life-or-death situation for many of them that are being seen in and around Sochi, and that's why people are sort of jumping in and asking how they can help.”
Stray animals are not the only “blight” that the city has targeted. Hundreds were forcibly evicted from their homes in the months prior to the games, some of them under duress of gunpoint – a story that officials in Sochi have worked very hard to keep holed and cornered.