KIEV SPA FIGHTS CITY HALL

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, June 1999:

KIEV, Ukraine––The future of animal
control in Kiev might have hinged on the
May 30 city election, but the results––and
consequences for animals––were unknown as
ANIMAL PEOPLE went to press.
Three-year incumbent Oleksandr
Omelchenko reportedly trailed Dynamo Kiev
football club president and member of the
Ukrainian parliament Gregory Surkis by five
percentage points in the last polls before the
vote, with 40% of the electorate undecided.


More than 40 other candidates were
on the ballot, setting up the likelihood that the
election would be won by whichever candidate
drew the most last-minute support from minor
contenders who dropped out.
Animals In The City, the animal
control department formed by Omelchenko in
September 1997, was a patronage plum up for
grabs––and the struggle was ruthless.
Surkis is the most prominent Jew in
Ukrainian politics. That became a perhaps
indicative last-minute issue.
“The Ukrainian National Party,
Rukh, came out saying ‘Surkis and his
mafioso clan shouldn’t be allowed to run the
city,’” Ukraine chief rabbi Ya’acov Bleich told
Elli Wohlgelernter of the Jerusalem Post. “A
leaflet was passed out saying: ‘On Sunday,
holiday of the Holy Trinity, give your vote to
our Orthodox Mayor, Omelchenko.’ A
poster put up this week,” purportedly by Jews
against Surkis, said “‘We know you stole a lot
of money when you were a supplier for the
city; we know you have nine apartments;
there’s no anti-Semitism in Ukraine, but Jews
like yourself control everything.’”

Harassment alleged
But the attacks on Surkis were mild
compared to the alleged harassment directed
since January 1999 against the Kiev Society
for the Protection of Animals.
Former news reporter Tamara Tarnawska
formed the Kiev SPA in 1994, according
to John Ruane, director of the British
organization Naturewatch, “and launched
what turned out to be a long and difficult campaign
to close the notorious b u d k a, or skinning
factory,” which had been the city animal
control contractor since czarist times.
“It was estimated that the b u d k a
bludgeoned to death 40,000-50,000 dogs and
cats each year,” Ruane continued. Tarnawska
brought global media attention to the budka in
1996, and set up a subsidized neutering program
to demonstrate a humane alternative.
Omelchenko, then just elected, in
March 1997 shut the budka and turned the site
over to the Kiev SPCA “for development into
a genuine animal protection shelter, the first in
the Ukraine,” Ruane said. “Additionally,
Omelchenko promised to reform the city’s
stray animal collection procedures,” which
were placed under Animals In The City.
Recounted Tarnawska, “From the
outset, we urged that Animals In The City be
managed by people committed to animal protection,
subject to public accountability and
scrutiny, and that it rely on neutering,
rehoming, and when necessary, humane
euthanasia, instead of catch-and-kill,” which
had been done on a bounty basis, with the sale
of animal pelts as an extra source of revenue.
Instead, Tarnawska alleged,
Omelchenko kept the bounties, and hired
“animal exterminators from the former budka.
Throughout 1998,” she added, “we exposed
the old cruel methods still in use, including
mass-poisoning dogs in the street, and asked
what was being done with the substantial funds
allocated to Animals In The City.”
Animals In The City chief veterinarian
Petro Lysk said she didn’t know who was
poisoning animals and claimed the agency met
international standards, but reportedly barred
inspection by representatives of the Britishbased
World Society for the Protection of
Animals and the Royal SPCA.
Tarnawska meanwhile additionally
alleged that animal carcasses were vanishing,
perhaps into “a fur business run on the side.”

Mystery car crash
On December 31, 1998, Tarnawska
said, “Animal exterminators from Animals In
The City who previously worked in the budka
forced their way into the apartment of animal
lover Galina Shiyanova without any kind of
official warrant, and beat her animals to death
with steel pipes. Shiyanova sought our help
to take the matter to court.”
That heightened the conflict between
the Kiev SPA and Animals In The City,
brought extensive media attention, and
brought attempted intervention by WSPA and
the RSPCA.
“Animals In The City and its director,
Nina Samofalova, were staunchly defended,
however, by parliamentary deputy
Mykola Haber,” Tarnawska continued, “who
denounced us and our foreign supporters.”
Samofalova had campaigned for Haber during
the August 1998 parliamentary elections.
“The offensive against the Kiev SPA
began four days later, on January 22,”
Tarnawska recounted, “with a raid on our
newly renovated shelter by the anti-narcotics
squad,” requested by Haber, she said, who is
suspected of wishing to turn the building over
to Animals In The City. Euthanasia drugs and
anesthetics were seized. Haber also challenged
the tax-exempt status of the Kiev SPA.
“Against this unsettling background,”
Tarnawska related further, “we and
our supporters received death threats, and one
of our vehicles was tampered with.”
Nathan Hodge of the Kiev Post
reported witnessing alleged attempted intimidation
of Tarnawska by Ukraine Interior
Ministry narcotics division deputy chief
Lieutenant Colonel Mykola Martynets on
February 9. Tarnawska told Hodge that
Martynets warned her against speaking to
reporters and going out on the street that night.
Kiev SPA attorney Mykola
Katerinchuk said he had received a similar
visit from Martynets, who reportedly did not
return Hodge’s calls asking for comment.
“Omelchenko expressed dissatisfaction
with Animals In The City,” said
Tarnawska. Omelchenko and deputy mayor
Volodymyr Yalovy endorsed the Kiev SPA at
a February 15 press conference––but
Omelchenko postponed an internal review of
Animals In The City, which was favored,
Tarnawska said, by another deputy mayor,
Ivan Fomenko, and by Kiev ‘communal economy’
chief Oleksandr Kariuk.
The pressure escalated on the night
of February 18, Tarnawska stated, when
“One of our vets, Mykola Stehnei, 25, was
mysteriously involved in a car accident in
which two other people died. The police
refused to provide us with any details.”
Stehnei suffered brain damage and
serious memory loss, Tarnawska reported
later, but “seems to remember many of the
animals in our shelter.”
By mid-March, charged Tarnawska,
“several journalists told us that they had either
been forbidden to write about us, or that they
had received calls from officials of the Kiev
city administration warning them that they will
lose their jobs if they continue to support the
Kiev SPA and to expose the methods and
duplicity of Animals In The City.”
In April, after Naturewatch, WSPA,
and the RSPCA rallied organizations throughout
Europe in support of the Kiev SPA, the
Ukrainian federal probe concluded that the
Kiev SPA had not illegally imported or used
veterinary drugs. But the Kiev SPA continued
to fight city hall for the permits necessary to
provide a full range of humane veterinary services.
What happens next seems to depend
mainly on which faction holds city hall after
the May 28 votes are counted.

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