Bloody sport. 2018 FIFA World Cup kills homeless animals 

Bloody sport. 2018 FIFA World Cup kills homeless animals
The approval of a special law on animals has been postponed for a year to get rid of homeless cats and dogs prior to the 2018 FIFA World Cup Photo: The CrimeRussia

A petition against the shooting of stray animals in anticipation of the 2018 FIFA World Cup has been signed by more than 1.5 million people. Famous Russian actors made a stand for the animals. Protest rallies were held in some cities. The FIFA is getting letters from animal advocates. French actress Brigitte Bardot has personally addressed Vladimir Putin asking to stop the killing of animals for the sake of football.

Russia is preparing to host the 2018 FIFA World Cup; in order to put up a good show for the foreign guests, all the 22 cities must be brushed up, cleaned, and painted; dilapidated houses are to be covered with colorful nets, while homeless people – resetted to the 101st kilometer. 

Special measures are taken against homeless animals as well – the sports festival is not for them. Nor is it for the people. Its goal is to show the world that we live well and have no such problems. 

Mouse won’t squeeze in 

Preparations to the mundial with regards to stray animals have started in January 2017 – after the permission of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation not to release non-aggressive homeless animals in the places of their capture. Administrations of cities hosing the World Cup acknowledged this information, while animal activists started ringing alarm bells.

The 21st FIFA World Cup will be held in Russia since June 14 to July 15, 2018. The Russia will host this sports event for the first time in its history. The games will be played on 11 stadiums in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Kazan, Yekaterinburg, Samara, Saransk, Sochi, Rostov-on-Don, Kaliningrad, Niznhy Novgorod, and Volgograd.

Shortly before the Sochi Olympics, volunteers had literally evacuated animals from the city to save them from death. Moscow resident Igor Airapetyan made several trips on his car from Moscow to Sochi and back again and evacuated over 100 animals. 18 more dogs found new owners during the games – foreign athletes and guests, mostly from America and Europe, have adopted them.

Игорь Айрапетян

Igor Airapetyan

A year before the Olympics, the authorities have announced a tender to capture and ‘utilize’ homeless animals. The contractor had to destroy more than 2000 ‘heads’ in the Tsentralny (Central) district of the city; 1.7 million rubles ($29.6 thousand) were allocated for that purpose. Sergei Krivonosov, Deputy of the State Duma from the Krasnodar Krai, has admitted that despite his personal disagreement with the Mayor’s initiative, “this is the fastest way to solve the issue”. 

However, the solution chosen by the municipal administration and demonstrating its complete incompetence in this sphere has outraged the public. People had staged protest rallies. According to Airapetyan, the dogs could be sterilized as the same cost of 850 rubles ($15) per animal. Furthermore, the Model (Advisory) Law on Animal Treatment approved on October 31, 2007 at a plenary session of Interparliamentary Assembly of the Commonwealth of Independent States in St. Petersburg stipulates that captured homeless animals who haven’t found new owners must be returned to the places of their capture. 

It was announced soon that the tender has failed – no bids were received. However, animal advocates claimed that somebody continues killing animals on the city streets in a cruel way. Activists suspected of this the regional monopolist – Rostov-based Sluzhba Basya (Basya Service) Limited Liability Company able to capture (i.e. destroy) 300–500 animals per month. The suspicions have been confirmed when the first municipal animal shelter in Sochi launched a week before the Olympics started receiving dogs from representatives of that company.

Американский фристайлист Гас Кенуорти с сочинскими щенками

American freestyle skier Gus Kenworthy with Sochi pups

To the credit of the Sochi officials, it must be admitted that they have carried out a skillful operation. First, they have announced a tender outraging the people, then cancelled it, thus, easing the public tension, and concurrently, performed the job by destroying almost all stray dogs in the city.

World Animal Protection and the World Health Organization have ruled that the capture and destruction of dogs is an ineffective way to solve the stray animal problem in a city because it does not take into account the uncontrolled breeding of the dogs.

Officially, the people were not defrauded: the animal control tender in the Tsentralny district of Sochi has been cancelled, while other districts were not mentioned at all. 

According to the accounting reports of Sluzhba Basya, the company has received governmental contracts for the total amount of almost 4 million rubles ($69.6 thousand) in Sochi (not including Adler) in 2013 alone. 

‘Slaughterers-in-law’ 

Even before the Sochi Olympics, Sluzhba Basya was repeatedly involved into scandals and even legal proceedings for violations of the animal welfare legislation. 

For instance, in 2012, animal advocates have filed with the Prosecutor’s Office of the Zheleznodorozhny District a lawsuit to investigate activities of the Municipal Center for Control of Homeless Animals whose main contractor for many years was Sluzhba Basya. According to Natalia Demicheva, President of the Humane Society Municipal Public Organization, many animals (including those having owners) were not transported to temporary holding facilities but immediately destroyed by injecting large dozes of Adilinum. Earlier the Russian Veterinarian Association and Vita All-Russia Center for Animal Rights have recognized the usage of this product inhumane. It causes asphyxia – i.e. a dog or cat, being fully conscious, stops breathing and dies a painful death. 

In 2013, Rostov animal activists have filed a lawsuit against Sluzhba Basya and the Center for Control of Homeless Animals requiring to stop using Adilinum and oblige the organizations to hold the animals for six months in accordance with the Civil Code. However, the court has taken the side of the defendants. And ‘Basya slaughter house’ continued its operations. 

As it often happens, this story involved a conflict of interest, cronyism, and corruption. 

In 2015, the Prosecutor’s Office of Rostov has instituted a criminal case against Aleksandra Sorokina, ex-Director of the Municipal Center for Control of Homeless Animals, and Eduard Omelchenko, Director of Sluzhba Basya. According to the investigation, in the period of 2010–2014, Sorokina has embezzled over 1 million rubles ($17.4 thousand) from the budget by fictitiously hiring four persons. Salaries paid to them had ended up in her pockets. 

It also became known that in 2010–2013, Sorokina has embezzled 5 million rubles ($86.9 thousand) through fictitious acquisitions of animal food. 

In addition, together with Omelchenko, she has embezzled more than 7 million rubles ($121.7 thousand) by submitting false information on the volume of performed works, including capture, healing, and utilization of stray animals. In June 2017, the court has found them guilty of embezzling in total some 13 million rubles ($226.1 thousand) and sentenced Sorokina to 3 years behind bars conditionally and Omelchenko to 1.5 year behind bars conditionally 

But this hasn’t affected the time-tested money-making scheme based on taking animal lives in any way. Aleksandra Sorokina’s husband Aleksei Sorokin has superceded Omelchenko in Sluzhba Basya.

Animal activists managed to take control of the Municipal Center for Control of Homeless Animals – but only for a short time. No one was willing to give up such a ‘gold mine’. Following numerous lawsuits filed by Sluzhba Basya, the Federal Antimonopoly Service has charged the management of the Municipal Center for Control of Homeless Animals depriving slaughterers of their bloody job with violations of the antimonopoly legislation. The new management has immediately resumed the collaboration with Sluzhba Basya

In 2017, the General Administration for the Rostov Region of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) of the Russian Federation has instituted against Sluzhba Basya a criminal case under Article 245 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (cruelty to animals). Contrary to the contract with the Center for Control of Homeless Animals, instead of vaccination, sterilization, and treatment of stray animals, people employed with Sluzhba Basya had simply destroyed them. 

The most recent episode involving the ‘slaughter house’ occurred less than a month ago. On February 27, an animal activist has discovered more than 20 dog carcasses in a ravine near Tuapse. The police have quickly arrested an employee of Sluzhba Basya having a contract with the local administration to capture and hold homeless animals. The man has confessed to killing the animals using Adilinum and throwing away carcasses as per director’s instruction in order to reduce the costs.

Results of work of Sluzhba Basya Limited Liability Company. Photo: Blogsochi.ru Results of work of Sluzhba Basya Limited Liability Company. Photo: Blogsochi.ru Results of work of Sluzhba Basya Limited Liability Company. Photo: Blogsochi.ru
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Too bad, but all these stories haven’t affected the collaboration between governmental authorities and this company. 

In 2018, Sluzhba Basya Limited Liability Company won a tender “to capture homeless animals in the Khostinsky district of Sochi” worth 630 thousand rubles ($10.9 thousand), tender to perform the same work in the Lazarevsky district of Sochi for 1.6 million rubles ($27.8 thousand), and tender “to perform prophylactic works to prevent an epizootic outbreak, including capture of stray animals (cats and dogs) ... in the Adlersky district of Sochi for almost 800 thousand rubles ($13.9 thousand). In total, the ‘slaughter house’ has received in 2017 over 6.2 million rubles ($107.8 thousand) from administrations of various Sochi districts. 

In other words, the preparations to 2018 FIFA World Cup in Sochi and Rostov-on-Don are well underway. 

Throughout the country 

The above situation is not an isolated incident. Here is an example from the Central Federal District. 

Searches for a missing dog carried by a resident of Dubki village of the Yaroslavl region have resulted in an entire journalistic investigation. In summer 2017, a dog running in the yard of a private home in the absence of its owner was sent to sleep by a poisoned dart and taken away. The woman has found out that some legal entity – Individual Entrepreneur Sharipov – catches stray animals in that area. In May 2017, Sharipov has signed a contract with the Administration of the Yaroslavl District of the Yaroslavl Region “to render services involving the capture and temporary isolation of homeless animals” at a price of 450 thousand rubles ($7.8 thousand). 

The “temporary isolation” implied that the animals were to be kept somewhere. It turned out that they were allegedly transported to so-called ‘Yusta shelter’ located in Rushinovo village of the Pereslavl district. According to the woman who managed to visit this ‘shelter’ accompanied by a district police inspector, it looked like a concentration camp. 

Volunteers from the Public Control Group claim that the shelter is lacking hydro and water supply. There is no possibility to carry out required health measures, no quarantine zone, and not a single employee with veterinary education. The ‘shelter’ has no garbage removal and biowaste utilization contracts. No documents, no certificates for animal feeding stuff, no permits from the fire service, and no fire-fighting appliances. 

Unfortunately, the woman did not find her dog there. Later journalists of REGNUM News Agency have found out that the dog was killed on the scene: the hypnotic agent doze was set too high – either accidentally or intentionally. 

The Administration of the Yaroslavl Region claims that it had allocated funds to keep animals for 10 days. This period is believed to be sufficient for the owner to find and take his/her dog. However, Tajik citizen Individual Entrepreneur Yusufdzhon Sharipov, similarly with other dog catchers, had its own math: why feed and water a dog for 10 days if it is much easier to destroy it in 5 minutes and go for another one – no matter whether it has a collar or not? After all, the authorities pay for each ‘head’. 

This is why nobody is allowed to enter the ‘shelter’ – there are no animals to look for in it, nor should anyone see how the budget funds are spent. Representatives of the regional veterinarian department had visited the ‘shelter’ only once – at its launch. According to them, it was “not that bad” at that time. The department may carry out scheduled inspections only once in three years, while unannounced inspections require a sanction of the Prosecutor’s Office. 

Приют «Юста» (август, 2017)

Yusta shelter (August 2017)

Some Tatiana Makhonina is the official owner of Yusta. Animal advocates know her very well since the time when she was employed with the Noginsk Municipal Shelter – it had also collaborated with Individual Entrepreneur Sharipov and awarded him since 2016 governmental contracts totaling 14 million rubles ($243.7 thousand). 

There are zillions of such examples throughout the country. The corruption and embezzlements of budget funds allocated for animal shelters are the simplest ways to make money ‘on the blood’. In some Russian regions, fur coats are sewn from cats and dogs, while their meat is sold to catering establishments... 

What we have 

After numerous submissions from the public and Deputies, Vice Premier Vitaly Mutko has instructed the heads of Russian regions hosting the 2018 FIFA World Cup to solve the stray animal problem using humane methods, including creation of temporary shelters and foster centers for animals captured in areas adjacent to stadiums and major event locations. 

However, according to the Ministry of Sport, as of early March 2018, municipal shelters have been built only in St. Petersburg, Niznhy Novgorod, Kaliningrad, and Saransk. In the rest of the cities, foster centers should be launched shortly – like it was in Sochi, immediately before the Olympics – just to show a few remaining dogs to foreigners. 

The situation is pretty trivial: to avoid causing public outrage, the federal authorities don’t announce large-scale actions and entrust the regional authorities to deal with the problem. In turn, the regional authorities act within the limits of their viciousness and allocated funds. 

The best situation is in Moscow: the budget for the year of 2018 allocates 930 million rubles ($16.2 million) to capture, maintain, sterilize, and euthanize homeless animals. However, according to Elena Ivanova, member of the Expert Council of the Commission for Environmental Policy of the Moscow State Duma, not a single program is in place to monitor animals on the streets, or create a universal database, or provide aid to the animals.

В московском приюте (фото: daryadarya.livejournal.com)

Kozhukhovsky animal shelter in Moscow. Photo: daryadarya.livejournal.com)

In other cities, the situation is much worse. In such a major city as Yekaterinburg, there is only one municipal shelter – so-called ‘short-term holding facility for captured animals’ – and it operates under the jurisdiction of Spetsavtobaza Municipal Unitary Enterprise of Yekaterinburg specializing in animal control. Obviously, these two organizations have totally different objectives. A good thing is that the municipal enterprise collaborates with ZOOzashchita Charitable Fund providing veterinary aid and rehoming the animals. In late 2017, Spetsavtobaza has won a municipal tender worth 32.5 million rubles ($565.8 thousand) to capture and maintain homeless dogs. According to Ekaterina Dmitrieva, Director of the Fund for Animal Protection, the contract stipulates euthanasia of more than 4 thousand dogs, while only 450 animals are supposed to be sterilized and rehomed. 

This is not to say that the situation with stray animals was not so horrid in the past – but in anticipation of the 2018 FIFA World Cup, the destruction mechanism has accelerated, thus, exposing all the underlying problems. As of today, there is no long-term complex solution developed with the involvement of experts. 

All civilized states (Europe, America, Canada, etc.) have strict rules regulating the human–animal interactions. Their main principles include: 

- regulations limiting the animal breeding; 

- responsibility of owners (taxes, penalties and criminal liability for throwing out animals to the street, strict dog walking regulations, limited number of animals per one person, mandatory veterinary control, chipping, etc.); 

- sterilization programs; work of volunteers and shelters; statistic data maintenance, and observations; 

- public awareness (humane treatment of animals, correct handling of them, incentives for people adopting homeless animals from shelters, etc.) 

The well-known “capture–sterilization–release” program is normally applied there only to a limited number of cats. Other animals are kept in shelters. Limited admission shelters accept new animals only subject to the availability of vacant places and maintain an animal until it is adopted or grows old. Unlimited admission shelters accept all animals but keep them only for a certain period and put to sleep unclaimed animals. In addition    

Приют в Томилино

Animal shelter in Tomilino

In Moscow, the “capture–sterilization–release” program was in effect since 1998 and until 2008 – initially, as an experiment and then on the permanent basis. A special Division of City Fauna chaired by famous animal advocate Tatiana Pavlova was established at the Moscow Housing and Public Utilities Department. According to Pavlova, more than 18 thousand dogs have been sterilized in Moscow over the period of its existence. However, in 2008, the program was ruled to be ineffective and closed. Especially taking that a few years ago, the Chamber of Control and Accounts had identified misappropriation of funds in the department. 

The main problem is that Russia is lacking the required legislative framework. 

On one hand, there is Article 245 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation stipulating a fine or up to three years behind bars for cruelty to animals. However, in reality, only exceptional cases causing massive public outcry result in trials and real convictions. 

The lawyers note that the main issue with this Article is that a person committing cruelty to animals – even if the animal has been crippled or killed – may be prosecuted only if it is proven that the illegal actions had been committed from molester motives, or for personal gain, or using sadistic methods (a pretty vague wording), or in the presence of minors. In other words, the prosecution has to prove in court not the crime against an animal – but the motive behind this crime. 

The Civil Code treats animals as assets. According to Article 137 of the Civil Code of the Russian Federation, owners’ rights in relation to their pets are not much different from administering any other assets. The owner may sell his/her asset, transfer it by succession, or destroy. In respect to animals the latter means killing. The article stipulates though that cruel treatment of animals contradicting humanity principles is prohibited. 

Article 137 of the Civil Code applies inter alia to livestock animals whose slaughtering is a normal practice in a number of industries, including animal husbandry, food production, and consumer goods manufacturing. Euthanasia of domestic animals may be justified in case of a terminal illness, contagious infection, unbearable pain, dangerous aggressive behavior, unwanted litter, and some other situations. 

The law treats stray animals within the framework of property relations as well. The police and local self-government bodies must take measures to find their owner and transfer the detained animals for temporary (before the identification of the owner) maintenance to persons having required facilities for that (Article 230 of the Civil Code of the Russian Federation). 

The Civil Code also stipulates the acquisition of the municipal right of ownership to homeless animals if the owner was not located in six months and the person, in whose maintenance and use the animals have been, has refused to acquire the right of ownership to the animals in his maintenance. Therefore, the municipal authority gains the right to administer the animals (Article 231 of the Civil Code). This allows to destroy the unclaimed ‘live assets’ in a lawful way. 

Local authorities announcing animal control tenders are normally governed by the Federal Law № 131-FZ On the General Principles of the Organization of Local Self-Government in the Russian Federation. One of its paragraphs stipulates the need to maintain and improve the sanitary condition of the area and increase the quality of life for the citizens.

Пикет зоозащитников в Самаре

Protest rally held by animal activists in Samara (February 2018)

The Federal Law № 52-FZ of March 30, 1999 On the Sanitary and Epidemiological Welfare of the Population does not make special references to stray animals and their treatment – but it states that they may transmit diseases, including terminal illnesses. Therefore, the capture and maintenance of homeless animals are considered sanitary and antiepidemic (prophylactic) population protection measures against diseases common for the human and animals, measures to prevent and liquidate animals diseases, and treatment measures. 

The sanitary and epidemiological regulations SP 3.1.7.2627-10 approved by a Decree of the Chief State Sanitary Doctor of the Russian Federation № 54 of May 6, 2010 stipulate that the control of stray animals through their capture and maintenance in special shelters and immunization against rabies are considered preventive measures against rabies contraction by humans.

As it can be seen, none of the above acts directly requires to kill stray animals. However, officials consider this population control method the easiest and cheapest one. Normally, they retain commercial structures to do this job, thus, exonerating themselves from the responsibility for killings. The legal loophole treating living creatures as assets empowers the people to do with animals whatever they want – because assets have no rights.

Euthanasia of healthy animals is completely prohibited in 3 countries: Germany, Greece, and Italy. In many other European countries, captured animals can be euthanized if it is impossible to rehome them; in the rest of the states, an animal can be put to sleep due to an illness, serious injury, or aggressive behavior.

In 1999, the State Duma has approved the Law On Animal Protection against Cruel Treatment. It was approved by the Council of the Federation as well – but in 2000, President Vladimir Putin has put a veto on the bill with the following resolution: “There is no subject of legal regulation” and returned it for refinement. It was never re-examined in subsequent years, and in 2008 the bill has been withdrawn.

In 2010, a new Bill On Responsible Treatment of Animals has been introduced to the State Duma with the purpose to fill the current gaps in the legislation regulating the human–animal interactions. Most importantly, this bill defines animals as living creatures feeling emotions and suffering pain. In 2011, it has passed in a first reading and then was put into cold storage. In September 2017, its discussion was resumed but, following a request from the Government, has been postponed again until fall 2018. Apparently, this was done to complete the preparations to the 2018 FIFA World Cup without any legal obstacles. 

P.S. 

Recently stray dogs have mauled to death a 19-year-old man and seriously injured a 26-year-old girl in the town of Istra of the Moscow region. While this article was in preparation, it became known that businessman Yusufdzhon Sharipov (above-mentioned Individual Entrepreneur Sharipov having a contract with the municipal administration to capture homeless dogs) has been arrested. Two criminal cases have been instituted against him under part 2 of Article 293 (neglect of duty, which has involved by negligence the death of a person) and under part 2 or Article 238 (rendering of services, which do not meet safety standards and have entailed through negligence the death of a person) of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. The investigators have to find out how could Sharipov win a tender without having a veterinary registration.

No one had asked that question prior to the tragic incident. Therefore, don’t put the blame on stray dogs – after all, it is the man who bears the full responsibility for the domesticated animals.

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