The $64 million question: is Moscow building new shelters promised in 1999?
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, May 2008:
MOSCOW–“Moscow Dog Attacks Spur $64 Million Castration
Drive,” the international financial news web site Bloom-berg.com
bannered on April 14, 2008.
The headline, in a publication founded by New York City
mayor Michael Bloomberg, seemed to promise the largest dog
sterilization campaign anywhere, ever.
Bloomberg.com Moscow correspondent Henry Meyer reiterated in
the lead paragraph of his article that the $64 million would be spent
“to castrate as many as 50,000 stray dogs,” in response to dog
attacks now occurring at about an eighth of the U.S. rate.
But reality–as Meyer acknowledged five paragraphs later–is
that Moscow chief veterinarian Natalia Sokolova told a television
audience that the city plans to spend the $64 million to build 15
animal shelters, meant to impound about 2,000 stray dogs apiece per
year. The shelters are to be opened in 2009, ten years after they
were first promised.
According to Meyer, “A Soviet-era policy of shooting
homeless animals was abandoned in 2002. Mayor Yuri Luzhkov, under
pressure from animal-rights groups to uphold the ban, has now
decided on a two-year program to stop the dogs from breeding.”
Meyer in his last paragraph claimed to have interviewed
“Irina Novozhilova, head of the Moscow-based animal-rights group
VITA,” but VITA newsletters give quite a different picture of the
long effort to bring Moscow animal control up to world standards.
Dog-shooting was abandoned in 1999 and the dog sterilization
program was officially introduced instead in October 2002, according
to VITA. The program was supposed to sterilize 80% of the female
dogs in Moscow, as well as building shelters, but got off to a
creeping start, leading to an official proposal in 2005 to restart
VITA mobilized opposition, and publicized what needed to be done.
Nonprofit programs sterilized and vaccinated dogs while the
city program faltered. City dogcatchers, especially in the
Northeastern Administrative District of Moscow, under prefect Irina
Raber, responded by repeatedly capturing dogs who had already been
“The very first of those attempts was stopped by the regional
public prosecutor in June 2004,” VITA recounted in 2006, but “the
Northeastern District managed to send to the rendering plant 98 tons
of animal corpses during just the first half of 2005, with perfect
impunity, while killing dogs and cats in the capital territory is
Charged VITA, “The dog-catchers do not want to prevent
breeding of street animals, because each new animal on the street
Attempts to sabotage nonprofit pro-animal initiatives have
gone far beyond non-cooperation, VITA reported in March 2008,
celebrating that a spurious criminal case against Bimi Charity Fund
for Animals president Daria Taraskina was dropped, six months after
VITA undertook a media campaign and appealed to the governor of the
Moscow region on her behalf.
Taraskina heads a shelter in Tomil-insky, a Moscow suburb,
opened in 1989 by the Charitable Society Rus. In 2000, VITA
recalled, this shelter “was left without management and means of
subsistence when all of its administrators died in a dreadful traffic
accident. The dogs spent four days in the heat without water or
food. Taraskina, managing two other shelters at that time, took
charge. In seven years of Taraskina’s management the shelter
underwent a complete restoration.”
In August 2007, however, road access to the shelter was
barricaded, the road was dug up, the shelter was repeatedly raided
by police, and Taraskina was eventually charged with facilitating
“Someone,” as yet unidentified, “liked the place where the
shelter is situated and was trying to get possession of it,” guessed
VITA president Novozhilova.