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Posts Tagged ‘Kiev’

I took this pic in subway in Kiev.

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Subway in Kiev, Ukraine, image by reflectionsinapuddle

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stray dogs

Image via Wikipedia

About a year ago, when I visited my parents in Ukraine, I couldn’t help but notice a great number of stray animals on the streets of Ukrainian cities and towns. Everywhere I went, there would be a small pack of stray dogs. And where there were no dogs, cats prevailed. Stray dogs came in all sizes, colours and breeds. Most of them were mutts, but some were pure bred. I saw one gorgeous Dalmatian roaming the streets of my home town. If only I could, I would have taken the dog with me in a heartbeat.

Ukrainian stray dogs are no different from strays in any other country. Skinny, with protruding ribcage, they sustain themselves on garbage, an occasional cat, and food scraps from stores, markets and individual animal lovers. Most people are kind to them. In my parent’s neighbourhood, I saw one elderly woman who delivered food to stray animals every other day like clockwork.

Last Sunday, when I talked to my mom over the phone, she said she was concerned about my seven-year old nephew, who walks every school day by a garbage dump overrun by stray dogs. “Dogs arrive here by trains,” she said. I thought I had misheard her. But then she explained that indeed stray dogs come to town by freight trains that bring coal for a local power plant. When a train arrives and workers open the freight cars, overwhelmed dogs just spill out of the cars and disperse throughout the town.

After talking to my mom, I went online, googled “stray dogs in Ukraine,” and found several articles on the subject. Ukraine, with an estimated stray dog population of 500,000, is co-hosting the high profile 2012 UEFA European Football Championship. Knowing Ukrainian government’s proclivity for cover-ups, I think the number of stray dogs is largely underestimated. I’d say the actual number is probably double or triple what they are reporting. Of course, no one wants to look bad in the eyes of the international community, and stray animals that roam the streets of major Ukrainian cities certainly don’t paint an attractive picture. So the government hired exterminators to shoot or poison free-ranging dogs and cats, and even provided mobile incinerators to burn the bodies. Some witnesses say there were cases when animals were burned alive.

When animal rights activists in Europe learned about this atrocity, they raised a hue and cry and forced the Ukrainian government to adopt a new law, under which stray dogs and cats are not to be killed, but put into shelters. But the problem is Ukrainian cities don’t have adequate animal shelters! (The only shelter in Kiev that I could find on google already houses 600 dogs!) Okay then, they said. Let’s start a program to spay and neuter these animals — to keep their numbers in check — and then release them back into the streets. But where are they going to put up their furry patients? Municipalities have no capacity for animal postoperative care, meaning, heavily drugged dogs would be left to their own devices to survive the first few days following surgery. Needless to say, the sterilization clinics are in short supply.

Some “smart” problem-solvers in Donetsk (a one-million city nearest my home town) found a “creative” solution: they throw stray dogs in freight train cars laden with coal and ship them out of sight – out of mind, making them someone else’s problem. That’s why my home town is overrun by stray dogs. That’s why my mother is so worried about her grandson. That’s why it breaks my heart just to think about it.

So it appears, that the Ukrainian government has no clue as to how to deal with all these unwanted animals — a problem that have been overlooked for many a year. And maybe a decision about Ukraine hosting the 2012 UEFA tournament was a huge mistake. On the other hand, without the high profile event, these problems would never have been put in a spotlight. I really hope they will find some acceptable solution to this quandary, but like many other animal lovers, I fear that after the UEFA tournament, the government will go back to their surreptitious ways and will quietly resume killing the dogs, because no one will be watching.

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