Animal rights activists in Moscow are outraged by a controversial plan that would see the capital’s stray dogs rounded up and sent to a new shelter more than 200 kilometres away from the capital.
“Eco” animal charity is home to almost 2,000 dogs. Among this furry crowd, some stand out and are everyone’s darlings.
“We call him Izium, or Raisins, because he’s so sweet-natured and lovable,” Vera Petrosyan, head of Eco, told RT. “When he arrived here, he had problems with one of his paws and he’s too old to be successfully operated on. But no matter what problems they have, all these dogs deserve our love.”
Eco is one of Moscow’s 12 public dog shelters. Together, they house some 12,000 animals. The number of strays still at large in the city is much higher though. According to estimates by animal rights activists, there are about 30,000 dogs roaming the streets of Moscow. Despite the efforts of the city authorities to control the population of strays, their number is not going down.
Things may change soon, though, as Moscow officials have come up with a plan to rid the capital of homeless dogs by rounding them up and sending them to a large camp to be built in the Yaroslavl region, about 250 kilometers north-east of the city.
The idea has come as a shock to animal rights campaigners.
“If we have stray dogs in Moscow’s streets, it’s because Muscovites themselves abandon their pets or let them breed uncontrollably,” Vera Petrosyan told RT. “And it’s the lack of animal rights laws that is to blame. Shifting the problem out of Moscow won’t solve it. What we need is the necessary laws and more shelters to be built in Moscow itself.”
Last week, animal rights activists lined up outside the presidential administration building to submit signed petitions denouncing the move.
Dog lovers, including a range of Russian celebrities, have been campaigning since February for the city authorities to scrap the plan. Moscow officials have so far not given any clear response, and the project’s critics say the move would be deadly for the animals.
“Even in many of Moscow’s public shelters conditions are often appalling,” animal rights activist Valentina Lebedeva told RT. “The shelters are under-financed and it’s hard to control how the animals are fed and taken care of. So if the dogs are moved even further away from Moscow, will volunteers and those who want to adopt a dog get there? The animals may just die and we won’t know about it.”
Until some decision is taken, the fate of Izium and thousands more dogs like him hangs in the balance.