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Moscow faces stray dog problem

Published time: August 18, 2007 11:25
Edited time: August 18, 2007 11:25

Saturday marks International Homeless Animals Day. Thousands of homeless dogs are causing problems in Moscow – many people have complained of being bitten by the animals which roam the city's streets and parks. Attempts to tackle the issue thro

Moscow has nearly 30,000 stray dogs, and they are everywhere. Nearly 20,000 people reported being bitten by homeless dogs last year, while the real figure is likely much higher.

The city authorities spend millions of dollars each year to dealing with street dogs.

Shops and breeders often get rid of those animals that have grown too old to be sold as pets. And licensing of both owners and sellers is sporadic.

'The authorities in Russia don’t monitor animal breeding. There are no restrictions in the breeding business. What is a stray animal? It’s an effect of over-production. The area around the pet market is teeming with abandoned animals,

Irina Novozhilina, an animals’ rights expert

Other homeless animals are pets, “let go” by their owners. So, the abandoned, the unsold, and the genuinely lost all join up on Moscow's streets.

Until five years ago, stray dogs were often caught and exterminated. But within months new ones would take their place. Now, the authorities have decided that sterilisation is more humane and effective. But it only works if enough dogs undergo the procedure. Only a fifth of Moscow's strays are sterilised at any one time.

For many, animal sanctuaries are the happy ending for a vagrant's journey. Not only do they keep dogs off the streets, but here they get another chance to find a new host family.

The surroundings at the Affectionate Animal Shelter are austere, but the quality of life is immeasurably better. Yet in the cycle of pet homelessness, there is a limit to what even the sanctuaries can do.