Sochi authorities 'hire private company to kill stray dogs' ahead of Winter Olympics

Animal rescuers say cull is happening despite public U-turn on plans

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The Independent Online

Authorities in Sochi have hired exterminators to cull stray dogs ahead of the Winter Olympics, according to animal rescuers.

The administration publicly dropped plans to “dispose of” more than 2,000 dogs and cats last year but charities have filmed evidence of animals being killed in the street at night.

A man claiming to be the owner of Basia Services extermination company, Alexei Sorokin, told ABC News his firm had been hired for the task by city authorities.

“I am for the right of people to walk the streets without fear of being attacked by packs of dogs,” he said.

“Let’s call things by their real name. These dogs are biological trash.”

He used the analogy of a dog running into a ski jumper to claim the strays could be deadly for Olympians.

Dog attacks are reported daily in the Russian city, where neutering animals can be expensive and those abandoned by their owners multiply quickly on the streets.

In April, authorities offered more than 1.7 million rubles, about £30,000, to exterminate 2,000 dogs and cats in Sochi between 2013 and 2015.

A spokesman said drastic measures were needed to ensure the safety of foreign visitors and improve the city’s image.

Plans for the cull were later publicly withdrawn in the wake of international criticism from animal welfare groups.

Rescue volunteers are campaigning for a shelter to be built and for cheaper sterilisation for dog owners as humane ways to get dogs off the street.

Many of the animals are abused and even poisoned, stabbed or beaten to death by so-called “dog hunters”.

Vigilante groups have sprung up in several Russian cities, using poison-laced meat, guns and other weapons to kill strays.

Residents have protested for a government crackdown on the gangs, who sometimes kill pets by mistake.