Since the beginning of this year, the problem with stray dogs has become very acute. In Yakutsk, Tver, Ufa, and Arkhangelsk, they bit people to death, including two children of six and seven years old.
Despite the fact that Sochi is a resort city, and a safe one compared to other Russian cities, the problem with stray dogs still exists in the city. There are many stray dogs in Sochi, not only in the vast band of “sleeper” neighbourhoods but also in the very city centre. Sometimes, it becomes scary to wait for a bus at a public transport stop or to approach your house because of aggressive feral dogs roaming in packs.
Recently, in the yard of a residential complex, a local resident shot and killed a dog that tried to attack him. This caused conflicting opinions among his neighbours. Parents with little kids prudently refrained from heated discussions. The killed dog was one of the large pack that keeps the whole district in fear. The pack of dogs came to this street from a nearby private house after the death of an elderly woman who was the owner of these dogs.
Vlada Revonenko, Candidate of Agricultural Sciences, a zoo engineer, dog trainer, head coach of the Sochi’s Paralympic equestrian team, told what to do to avoid the tragic incidents caused by the attacks of stray dogs on people, and even more so on small children.
- You have eight dogs and you help find homes for homeless animals, so you really understand the problems related to stray dogs.
- Boxes with puppies or kittens are regularly dropped at my doorsteps, and I try to find the best homes for these animals. It is easier with kittens, but it is very difficult to find a home for mongrels, because no one needs them.
- You are against being called an “animal rights activist”. Why?
- Often the so-called animal rights activists put the life of stray dogs before the life of humans, which is totally absurd. According to the Constitution of the Russian Federation, our citizens have the right to a safe environment. The animal rights activists claim that stray dogs are completely harmless. In the daytime, they really rarely attack people in a crowd. But on deserted streets and in the evening, their behaviour changes radically, and they fiercely protect their feeding grounds. The stories that “breeders” (who breed many dogs for sale keeping them in bad conditions) are to blame for this situation do not stand up to criticism. Unfortunately, even they do not breed stray mongrel dogs, they cannot sell them to anyone. They do not immediately get rid of the dogs unsold as they try to sell them cheaper. There are very few purebred dogs on the streets and usually, they are lost dogs, “losties”.
- Where do you think homeless animals come from?
- Do not believe the people screaming that they were all abandoned by their former owners. No one would take them and then abandon them. These dogs appeared because of industrial zones, markets, shopping centres and, to a much lesser extent, the private sector.
- The problem of stray dogs in Sochi did not appear overnight. How has this problem been addressed before?
- According to the statistics of the past years, five thousand dogs were picked up and put to sleep annually in Sochi. Under the new law, they are no longer picked up and put to sleep. Unreasonable humanity. The number of dogs in the city is huge, and there will be even more stray dogs. There are many attacks on people and pets.
- Now, on the basis of the Department for Environmental Protection, Forestry, Agriculture and Industry, the Sochi administration plans to create a department for the treatment of animals having no owners. After the conclusion of a municipal contract, the contractor will carry out work on catching, vaccinating, sterilizing, marking stray dogs and returning non-aggressive animals to their former habitats. What is your opinion about such a move made by the local authorities, how effective can it be?
- They are just pretending they are doing something important. In fact, nothing will change. There is no dog pound in the city that is ready to accept at least the dogs that are really aggressive. The Sochi dogs’ home is overcrowded. There are twenty hungry dogs kept in each cage, which will never be taken by anyone. In Sochi alone, the animal shelter should be for 5,000 dogs with the possibility to keep 5,000 dogs annually for ten years, this is the average dog’s life expectancy. [Sochi animal shelters are mainly for about 400 dogs, and there are so many stray dogs in the city that they should be for 5,000 dogs. - edit.] The support of one dog per day costs 300 roubles, excluding veterinary care, services of a dog handler, and so on. Subsidized regions cannot afford such a burden. The animal rights activists do not offer any specific solutions to this problem, except for the construction of shelters to keep the dogs all their life.
- How, in your opinion, can the problem of stray dogs be effectively solved?
- First, some amendments to the law are required allowing the regions to carry out culling of stray dogs without returning them to the streets. This means that a return to the previous system is required - the culling of all homeless dogs, followed by humane euthanasia (this is several times cheaper than their sterilization and chipping). It is possible to use a Western option accepted in the countries of North America and Europe that includes culling the stray dogs and keeping them for about two weeks at a temporary dogs’ shelter, and then all unclaimed animals are subject to euthanasia. The second option includes widely publicized state programmes for free castration/sterilization of privately-owned animals. The third option is a programme of state control over animals in industrial areas. All dogs living in an industrial area should have a certificate, a standard enclosure for day care, money should be allocated to support them, an employee responsible for them should be appointed, and all non-pedigree dogs should be castrated. A fine should be paid for any other stray dogs, and such dogs should be culled.
- Can you tell us in detail about fines?
- As for the fines for abandoned animals, the idea is fair, but it is extremely difficult to control. Most of the pedigree dogs are chipped and tattooed with a number. But there is no single base on chips. It turns out that in 99.9 percent of cases, it is impossible to find the owner by a dog’s chip. And one more thing. Usually, mongrel puppies are dropped at bus stops and dumps, they are not ‘born with chips’. Therefore, it is almost impossible to track who brought them there.
- Why is it dangerous to feed stray dogs?
- Feeding them won’t help. On the contrary, this will make their behaviour more aggressive. Of course, they recognize those who bring them food. But not everyone can bring the food. Besides, stray dogs are rarely hungry, just try to give them some food and you will see. Feeding stray dogs should be prohibited under threat of a fine, because feeding them helps increase their number. I love dogs very much and feel sorry for the stray dogs, they are not guilty of anything, but the streets must be free from them, otherwise there will be more and more people killed by them. In addition, euthanasia is more humane than the dogs’ life on the street - in the mud, suffering from diseases, fighting with other dogs, and getting under car or truck wheels. Every dog should have a home, an owner and a full bowl of food.
- From January 1, 2022, the Russian enterprises using animals for cultural and entertainment purposes must have a license. According to the Southern Interregional Directorate of the Rosselkhoznadzor (Russian Federal Service for Veterinary and Phytosanitary Surveillance), 69 such organizations are registered in the Krasnodar Territory, 24 out of them have a license, and 11 out of 25 organizations in Sochi have it. Scheduled inspections are not carried out now, the enterprises are checked upon an application for a license. What is your opinion about such a document?
- The license was made so that each enterprise working with animals used for cultural and entertainment purposes could prove that it had all the conditions for keeping animals such as light, water supply, ventilation, heating, cages and enclosures for each type of animal according to special requirements. By the way, I designed the stable at the Sochi State Circus. There are also feeding and reporting requirements. I hope that dolphinariums will also be licensed, and our children and grandchildren will be able to see real dolphins, communicate with them, and not just see dolphins in the picture.
What is the licensing for? At first glance, it is intended to ensure that the animals are well kept. But in fact, this idea was supported in order to remove trained animals from our lives, no matter how absurd it may seem. This is the aim of the non-profit organization PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals - an American organization that positions its activities as fighting for animal rights) that finances these projects. PETA is an organization making a living off of international economic blackmail, it is the successor to Greenpeace. One of the areas of its activity are animals. Real animal rights activists are pawns in the games of this organization. No matter how high they hold their picket signs and tell lies to people about cruelty at the circuses, people love both the circus and the wonderful trained animals. I can give very few examples of the inadequate care of animals at the circuses - this is not the case at regular circuses and circus tents. These animals are very expensive. They must be grown, trained properly, and they must look beautiful. Do the circuses spend money and time so that to play away a precious animal’s health in a stinking cage? This is nonsense. Besides, training has moved so far forward.
- As for street photographers with animals called “animal abusers”, they are not officially registered, not registered with the tax authorities, and therefore, they are not controlled. What’s your opinion about them?
- There are a lot of absurd rumours about the notorious “animal abusers”- this term is very popular among the so-called animal rights activists. In fact, there are very few animal abusers.