Russian authorities appear to drop plan to remove Moscow's stray dogs after outcry
MOSCOW — Moscow's thousands of stray dogs have something to wag their tails about -- animal rights activists say the city has dropped a plan to round up the dogs and ship them to a camp far outside of town.
Animal rights activists and Russian celebrities had been pressuring the city to abandon the plan, which they said would endanger the dogs by placing them in an environment where diseases would run rampant. Some had compared the planned facility to a concentration camp for dogs.
Natalya Yunitsyna, head of the Hope Bringers charity, told the Associated Press on Tuesday that the deportation proposal was now off the city's agenda.
"We're very pleased that we've won a small victory here," she said.
Moscow city government was expected to endorse the plan Tuesday but the session's minutes, posted online, do not mention the proposal.
The mayor's press office was unavailable for comment, and city hall officials would not confirm the report.
The Russian capital has an estimated 26,000 stray dogs, some smart enough to ride escalators and trains, and others who intimidate or attack humans.
The controversial plan would have gotten rid of the dogs by sending them to a camp in the Yaroslavl region, about 150 miles (250 kilometers) northeast of the city. But activists staged a campaign to oppose the deportation, collecting nearly 2,000 signatures of prominent artists and musicians against the plan.
Moscow has spent about 1.3 billion rubles ($45 million) on dog shelters, sterilization and other programs to deal with the city's stray population in 2008-09, but critics say much of the money has gone unaccounted for.
The next thing activists will be demanding is an independent body to advise city hall on dealing with strays, Yunitsyna said. Activists will also push for taxes and oversight over dog breeders, who they believe to be "a key source of new strays," and promote more sterilization among Russian pets.
-- Nataliya Vasilyeva, Associated Press
Photo: Stray dogs in downtown Moscow on March 1. Credit: Ivan Sekretarev / Associated Press