The Olympic Games promote international competition, but also cooperation and respect among individuals and nations. As billions of people tune in to the Olympics, they typically have a swelling of patriotism for their own country and its athletes, but at the same time they experience feelings of greater tolerance and appreciation for all peoples of the world.
However, as the Winter Games launch in Sochi, there’s a backstory that threatens to mar this global spectacle. A form of animal cleansing is taking place on the streets of Sochi as the games get underway. Authorities there have undertaken the mass killing of street dogs in a horribly misguided effort to “beautify and sanitize” Sochi as they welcome athletes and visitors from all over the world to their city.
Despite promises from the Sochi government that street culling of dogs would not be part of preparations for the Olympics, it has reneged and hired a private "killing" company that is currently hunting and poisoning the dogs its spokespersons call "biological trash."
The number of dogs to be slaughtered is unknown, but according to news reports, the company was told to kill "as many as possible" before the opening ceremony.
Humane Society International has long rejected mass culling as unethical and ineffective. Instead, HSI works around the world to humanely address street dog populations and problems. For nearly two decades, we’ve successfully implemented spay/neuter/vaccination programs. Working with governments and communities, our initiatives incorporate mass animal sterilization, vaccination and community education.
And last year, when word about a possible cull first started to spread, we offered to conduct such a program in Sochi. While we received no response to the offer, we were heartened that authorities said they’d not go down the path of mass killing. It’s really sad that they decided to do so after all.
Russia dedicated $50 billion to ensure the success of the games. If even a fraction of those funds had been allocated to addressing the street dog issue in Sochi in a humane and sustainable manner, this cruel and short-sighted scheme could have been avoided – and the nation could have engendered goodwill, not moral condemnation.
If this is to be Sochi’s opening act, this year’s Olympics will be tarnished. It is my sincere hope is that President Vladimir Putin will hear the global pleas to stop the cull, and work with us to provide a better life for the dogs of Sochi, to ensure the safety of its citizens and visitors, and to earn its place among the dozens of communities worldwide that have chosen to do their very best for animals and people alike.