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The Sochi solution - good, bad or indifferent?

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The Olympics coverage has ended. No more inspiring stories of victory or defeat. No more funny accounts of hotel mishaps. The one story which has continued is the coverage of the dogs of Sochi.

Worldwide outrage about the mass slaughter of stray dogs led to action. Well off dog loving Russians set up temporary shelters and rounded up dogs, bringing them to safely, In addition, a number of Olympic athletes vowed to adopt and rescue some of the puppies.

That action raised a number of concerns. Can an Olympic skier out competing, traveling and training actually do justice to raising a puppy? Isn't that sort of like an impulse purchase? They had no desire to own a dog until a cute puppy appeared? Yes, the puppy was potentially in dire straits but a puppy becomes a dog and is a lifelong, many years commitment. Not a momentary good deed and hopefully not a publicity stunt.

Disease potential was a serious concern. The rate for rabies is higher in Sochi than most of Russia. The same is true for Leptospirosis. Both of those are zoonotic disease that can spread from pets to people. Rabies is almost 100% fatal though Leptospirosis can be treated. There are also canine disease such as parvo and distemper that tend to be found in stray dog populations everywhere. There are some rules about importing dogs but some athletes were searching for ways around them and the potential quarantines required.

Still, for individual puppies, finding an Olympic athlete "sponsor" was the ticket out and a chance for a better life. The ASPCA jumped on the PR bandwagon with Olympic athletes pushing adoptions. At least one pup who made it to the United States came with illnesses. "Sochi" is being treated for parvo and distemper with funding provided by the Heigl Foundation. For that pup, making it to the US could literally be a life saver.

Response in the US has been mixed. No one wants to see a cute puppy abandoned. On the other hand, there are puppies and dogs languishing in US shelters who are hoping for forever homes as well. Is it worth potentially bringing serious contagious diseases to bring these pups back? What about ill pups who won't have the funding of a foundation backing them to pay vet bills?

On the whole it waits to be seen if the flood of Sochi adoptions and stray dog awareness turns out to be a plus or a minus for homeless dogs.



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