Activists use Euro 2012 to worsen Ukraine’s stray dog problem
DOGS in the Ukraine are being killed in readiness for Euro 2012. Well, so say the animal rights activists. Mykola Zlochevsky, the country’s environment minister, told a cabinet meeting – and the world’s media:
“Today I am publicly turning to all city mayors – let us stop the deaths of those poor stray animals for half a year and build shelters together.”
His woolly directive is aimed at appeasing campaginer, like the British animal protection group Naturewatch, whose representativers met with Zlochevsky’s department. Says John Ruane, the head of Naturewatch:
“This is a fantastic victory for Ukraine, its citizens and its animals.”
Do you suppose the Ukrainian citizens plagued by stray dogs are delighted? Do you suppose they will stop killing the dogs, and use money to build the strays a home with food and water instead? Mr Ruan’s words smack of the educating missionary bestowing light upon the grateful barbarian.
Mykola Zlochevsk is no fool. While the story is hot he has reacted publicly. But in practical terms, his words are hollow, a sop to the EU and Western sensibilities.
The Sun reproted on the matter last November:
A GRISLY jumble of dogs lies dead — slaughtered in the name of football. This horrific photo was taken at an animal “shelter” in the Ukraine, joint host of the Euro 2012 tournament.
Authorities have ordered thousands of stray dogs and cats to be rounded up so the streets look spick and span for visiting foreign teams and supporters.
And investigators found that, rather than being rehomed, thousands have been shot or poisoned.
It has been claimed their coats are made into furry caps and their bones ground up for animal feed.
Aren’t those Ukranians awful. But the people are doing what they feel they must. A 2010 UN report noted:
Dog bites are the most frequent animal bites in Kharkiv. In 2010, 2 340 animal bites have been registered, 1 926 caused by dogs (1 288 – by strays), 367 by cats (58 only by strays), and 58 by other animals.
In Kiev – the country’s biggest city – the UN reported on “frequent complaints by people about aggressive stray dogs, especially stray dog packs”.
The number of cases of stray dog bites increased by 19%, despite the decrease in total dog bites (1 248 cases for 5 months in 2009, compared to 1 369 cases for the same period in 2008). The number of people who required the anti-rabies vaccination increased by 54%. In the first 3 months of 2010, 744 dog bite cases were registered: 236 caused by owned dogs, and 497 by free-ranging.
So. What to do with the stray dogs?
Before 1995 (in Soviet Ukraine, before the enactment of Ukrainian state independency, and in the first years of independent Ukrainian state), the annual registration of pet animals was mandatory as per municipal regulations . This registration was carried out by state veterinary services and housing service and maintenance offices within the framework of widely carried out anti-rabies vaccination. The collected data were used for taxing dog owning (this tax was charged to residents of multi-storey buildings only). These payments were part of the municipal budget, and were used to maintain city green areas including the management of off-leash areas for dogs. This tax is still obligatory today, in the amount of 17 hryvnia (about Euro 1,5) annually, but after the reform of municipal services in most Ukrainian cities, veterinary services stopped transferring the data concerning anti-rabies vaccination to municipal offices. The taxing of dog keeping was stopped, thereafter.
Before the reform of municipal services, which included housing service and maintenance offices, the existing system for stray animal control ensured a small number of free-ranging animals in the streets.
And then things improved:
On 21 February 2006 the animal protection legislation (“Act on the Animal Protection from Cruelty”) was adopted in Ukraine. Before this Act was adopted, stray animals were killed “in field” by overdosing of curariform drugs within the framework of stray animal population control.
After these changes in the legislation, some Ukrainian city administrations began to abandon the old catching-and-destruction method to control stray animal population (because it became illegal, and equals the animal cruelty by law); they introduced the new more humane techniques of stray animals catching. Animals were then caught by capture loops, hoop-nets, and by “flying syringes” with tranquilizers instead of the previously used curariform drugs. They were then transported to veterinary clinics or animal shelters. In some cities the caught animals were neutered, treated by anti-rabies vaccine, and re-released; in some other cities, animals were kept in shelters for 7 days, and then the unclaimed ones were euthanatized.
But most Ukrainian cities still use the old stray animals catching method, even if it has become illegal. However, in the cities where the new humane catching techniques have been introduced, a rapid growth of stray animal population has been observed. This is because such techniques are more expensive and fewer animals can be caught while the funds for dog population management have stayed the same; moreover, municipal budget funds are strictly limited, and people are not paying the taxes to own pet animals.
Got that? The humane methods have exacertbated the problem.
In the cities where the canine CNR (catch-neuter-release) programs were widely introduced (Kyiv, Kharkiv), the stray dog population increased significantly, and stray cat population decreased abruptly (because they were eradicated by the dogs).
In the last two and a half years, 6 cases of fatal stray dog attacks have been registered in Ukraine: 2008 – one fatal case, an adult man in Odessa; 2009 – 3 fatal cases, a 27-year-old man in Kiev, a 7-year-old girl in Donetsk, a 47-year-old man in Tysmenitsa (Ivano-Frankovsk district), and severe injuries (more than 200 lacerated wounds) inflicted to 6-year-old girl in Kerch; 2010 – 2 fatal cases, a 10-year-old girl in Kartushino (Lugansk district) and a 60-year-old woman in Kharkiv.
What was done?
Because it has now become impossible to re-release stray dogs and as they continue to rapidly increase, the implementation of the CNR program in Kharkiv was stopped in 2010, and all the caught animals were placed in veterinary clinics where they were kept by 10 days. Some of them were adopted but the majority were euthanatized as it proved impossible to have them adopted or to keep them longer in the clinic.
Even the captured strays are killed.
Animal rights activist Alexander Hirczy says:
“Local governments are hiring professional dog hunters to exterminate dogs. They kill them in a number or ways. Sometimes they use needles or poison, some people even shoot them. They kill the dogs indiscriminately. They don’t care if they’re stray dogs or house pets – as long as they’re in the street, that’s all that matters.”
“It’s important to protect these dogs because what’s happening to them is a shame for European football. How can people sit and watch a match knowing that there are professional hunters killing these dogs just because of football?”
The activists are using football to make their point heard. But the Ukraine is not killing these dogs just because of football – it has just found a reason to speed up the ongoing process of removing stray dogs. The country’s Act on the Animal Protection from Cruelty seeks to protect pets and ensure mandatory registration of animals for dog owners, and voluntary for cat owners. But the infrastructute to support the Act has not been created universally. Will the locals respond better to money enabling them to act ‘humanely’ or being told what to do by foreingers? Can shelters be built fast enough to stop any football tourists from being bitten by strays? What is worse for the country’s PR – stray dogs being killed by gun and poison, or monied Westerners being bitten?
In 2006, Caroline Lucas MP hailed the end of dog death squads:
20 October 2006 – The mayor of Ukrainian capital Kiev is to appoint a special advisor to stamp out cruel and abusive treatment of thousands of stray dogs in the city following a campaign by Green Party MEP Caroline Lucas and animal welfare charity Naturewatch.
The decision should mark the end of decades of abuse by the city authorities – who have been rounding up thousands of strays and slaughtering them before processing the carcasses into hats, gloves, soap – and even dog food…. Lucas said: “The treatment of stray dogs in Ukraine is absolutely barbaric and unacceptable – as undercover video evidence collected by Naturewatch testifies.”
Now, Naturewatch is using the football to renew its drive.
Russia Today reports:
Tens of thousands of stray animals roam the streets of Ukraine’s cities. In Lisichansk alone, hundreds of residents are bitten by dogs every year. The town’s authorities planned to first shoot the animals and then destroy their remains in the mobile incinerator. But what followed was a spate of gruesome killings, sparking outrage amongst animal protection groups.
A 2007 UJN report – Stray Animal Control Practices Europe – was conducted by the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals International (RSPCA International).
It is important to develop long-term, sustainable strategies to deal effectively with stray animal populations. This is essential not only to protect humans from coming into contact with those animals but to protect the health and welfare of the animals themselves. Experience shows that effective control involves the adoption of more than one approach (WHO/WSPA, 1990; International Companion Animal Management Coalition, 2007). In Western societies, where the concept of “ownership” predominates, it requires a comprehensive, coordinated and progressive programme of owner education, environmental management, compulsory registration and identification, controlled reproduction of pets and the prevention of over production of pets through regulated breeding and selling. All of these elements should be underpinned by effective and enforced legislation. To implement these elements successfully requires the involvement of more than one agency; and in turn is dependent upon the willingness of government departments, municipalities, veterinary agencies and non government organisations (NGO’s) to work together.
So. Ukraine has given itself six months to follow the Western model on dog ownership while no longer killing strays by any means possible. A “fantastic victory”, then..?