Moscovites having soft spot for stray animals feel shocked at some steps taken by the government of Moscow preparing to host the Eurovision song contest in the capital.
Before the city authorities made provisions for the oncoming gala-event, the population of strays in the city has been controlled by means of sterilization: following their sterilization and vaccination strays have been returned to their former precincts -- to factory yards, garage sites or simply to the localities where they have been fed and elementary tended for by compassionate residents.
Immediately upon securing the bid to host this year’s Eurovision in Moscow, The Mayor of Moscow announced that the city is launching a new humane stray abatement program, whereby public city funds shall be allocated to build 15 mega-shelters which will collect all stray animals from the city’s streets and factories. In 2009, nearly three billion rubbles (around USD 95 mln.) have been earmarked by the city for the purpose of maintaining stray animals.
Initially, Moscovites have been very happy with this. But, upon seeing the way in which these good intentions have been brought to bear in practice, felt anguished and deeply disappointed.
Hastily, without due training and from incidental amoral persons, there have been formed unprofessional animal catchers’ units, which in plain sight of citizens and kids went on the rampage by cruelly securing the possession of harmless, sterilized and vaccinated dogs and senselessly aiming at them shots charged with internationally-banned curare-poisons or beating them up -- even to the point of bloodletting and death. Many of the animals thus secured never reached their destination shelters. Some people concerned with the fate of strays they patronized and fed over years went in search of them and saw first-hand how shockingly dismal were the conditions in these so-called shelters. As at present, the city has only one shelter in official operation. Other shelters are unfinished and can’t legally operate. Nonetheless, starting with June 2008 captured animals have been herded into these unfinished shelters -- lacking water supply and electricity and with serious design shortcomings that breach all the rules for the upkeep of the animals that the government itself has set down in its documents.
Various pretexts have been used not to admit people inside the shelters, and those who gained admission were often unable to account for the animals they went in search of. Other animals being observed inside are kept in gruesome conditions: they were seen dying from infections, lack of water and food.
Old habits die hard, and to account for these deplorable developments it suffices to say that the management of 4 mega-shelters is assigned in charge of “Vitus+” -- with huge amounts of city funding attached. The managers of this body — Mssrs. Bygaev, Djigaev and Krasnovski – have placed themselves in bad odour with animal welfare groups many of which regard their persons as the City’s Knackers-in-chief. They openly lent their support to various inhumane stray abatement programs and existed under the wing of these programs. Formerly, they oversaw the elimination of strays by means of suffocation in gas chambers, then, they reinvented their shingle and proceeded to camouflage their activities under the guise of participation in stray sterilization programs. Cooperating with the city on such sterilization programs, the practical takeaway was 157 tonnes of animal corpses received from them by the city in 2005, 60,5 tonnes – in 2006, and 17,5 tonnes in 2008. In our conviction, this daylight perversion of duty is hardly possible without open financial mutuality with some city bureaucrats associated with the program –which went a long way toward securing them current favours and the management franchise over some new shelters. Moreover, in order to gain and secure their lucrative franchises they resorted to harassing other bidders out of the city auction by open threats of bodily damage -- playing the fear-of-life card after the fashion of common-and-garden variety highwaymen.
As at present, animal welfare groups receive most complaints against “Vitus+”, followed by some other organizations such as “Liga” and “Movet”.
Another eye-brow raising aspect of this story is the contradiction between the amount of funds allocated for the upkeep of these mega-shelters and the results delivered on the receiving end. There are multiple indications that the money simply disappear -- as might be expected where the deployment of such complex city program is entrusted to people who are mostly motivated by feelings other than those stemming from love toward animals.
This all produced an unwholesome situation where Moscow residents appalled by it seek the redress by writing letters to various departments of the Moscow City Government; take to the streets in order to demonstrate in rallies against such hypocritical policy of back-handedly institutionalized cruelty to animals. Witnesses to the cruelty make submissions to the City Police and Prosecutor’s office with direct evidence of animal murders and all forms of other cruel treatment afoot, with suspicions of the city budget embezzlement etc., in return they receive the replies that there is no ‘corpus delicti’. The City Government and all its affiliated structures pretend that Muscovites are happy with the stray animal control program, while Mass media is engaged to project the same line and fails to report on the true state of events.
The balance of opinion is outraged at this program, whereas the city authorities make themselves free from blame by responding that they are driven to act so on the ‘demands of residents’—a small bunch of hate-prone individuals that, whether on their own account or at the behest of others, lobby hard and leave diverse track record that exaggerates all the threats likely to arise from the city strays. To justify its actions, The City Government makes references to false information alleging the increasing number of bites and assaults by strays, and invoking the spectre of rabies. At the same time the city statistics presented by competent authorities on demands from the Moscow Duma deputies records for the last year no cases of rabies caused by Moscow’s homeless dogs or cats. The Government of Moscow avers that the city residents are vocal in their complaints against stray dogs, while the predominant number of complaints received in truth concerns the stray control program now underway in Moscow.
Moscow and Russia aspire to their status as civilized and well-run parts of the world. However, the problem of stray animals in the city is an indicative environmental barometer against which such claims can be assessed. On this score, there has been observed a torrent of monstrosities. To this day the country and the city lack any pointed laws protecting animals from cruel treatment and violence.
We perceive that we can be accused of misrepresenting the situation, but all the statements made in this letter are corroborated by videoed facts, official dispatches and written declarations of witnesses. We are also grateful to the recent Swedish television crew for highlighting the matter and making their first-hand investigation of it, as well as to countless other local independent journalists moved to take up the subject.
Moscow is bracing for the Eurovision contest and many other international events in that league which may follow it if everything is done in the transparent and top-notch fashion. It is to be hoped that all such preparations will cease to resemble the character of Potemkin villages and become real catalysts for good improvements -- helping to remove the existing aberrations on the body public of the city. With a measure of honesty on behalf of the city administrators, there is still a time to come fair and square in this and many other respects, take and deliver on new resolutions. Merely papering over the cracks is bound to let them out often at the most inconvenient of moments.