Culling at the Sochi Olympics: exterminating street dogs is not the answer

Culling dogs in Sochi—or any community, for that matter—is the wrong solution. c. IFAWIFAW is horrified that the culling of dogs in Sochi was back on the agenda in preparation for the 2014 Winter Olympics.

For the past nine months, IFAW has made repeated offers to help the Sochi 2014 Olympics Organizing Committee develop and implement a humane and sustainable plan for managing its roaming dog population. Our pleas have been met with resounding silence.

But IFAW is still ready and willing to help. We can help Sochi create a humane, sustainable plan for managing their dogs. Culling never has to happen again.

Culling dogs in Sochi—or any community, for that matter—is the wrong solution.

Here’s why:

  • It’s ineffective. Culling dogs does not work. It doesn’t address the source of the problem and so must be repeated in perpetuity.
  • It is inhumane. The standards for humane euthanasia are internationally recognized and do not involve a quick sweep or round-up by an extermination company that has likened the dogs in question to “trash.”
  • It’s traumatic for people. Sochi citizens care about the dogs. As a recent Associated Press article reports, the dogs get food and shelter from local construction workers, and numerous citizens’ groups in Sochi have reached out to ask us how to halt the cull.
  • It’s striving toward an unattainable ideal. There is an incorrect assumption that international visitors to Sochi want to visit a dog-free city as shown by the loud and growing international outcry against the culling of dogs in Sochi.
  • It will be a public relations nightmare. (In the eyes of many, it already is). It makes a mockery of the Sochi claim to be an Olympic event ‘In Harmony with Nature.’ Most people will not tolerate a mass killing in order to achieve the ideal mentioned above, and do not see a cruelty as “harmony with nature.”

Here’s what Sochi can do now:

  • Immediately cancel any orders to exterminate dogs.
  • Accept advice and expert assistance. IFAW and the international animal welfare community is ready and able to assist with immediate and long-term strategies to address roaming dogs.
  • Address the safety issues. To contend with the terrorist threat, Russian leadership has poured incredible amounts of resources and manpower into establishing safe venues and educating visitors on vigilance. Include information on safety around Sochi’s dogs in guidance for visitors.
  • Include humane dog management contingency plans in any event plans now and in the future. Involve various facets of the larger community to help with this. The community spirit produced from tackling such an issue spills into other initiatives.

We are confident that our recommendations will result in success. IFAW-Russia has been working on roaming dog issues there for over 15 years, including working closely with the Moscow’s Mayor’s Office to end the practice of killing dogs in the capital city.

IFAW is a leader on roaming dog issues around the world. Our “Humane Communities: Security, Health and Animal Welfare Commitment”, which establishes a framework to develop plans for managing dog populations humanely and sustainably is part of the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI), and is resulting in innovative new projects in Bosnia and Chile.

We are working with the United Nations Development Program to address roaming dog problems in several communities throughout Bosnia; and in addition to our work in Puerto Natales, Chile , these pilot programs will undoubtedly be models for various other communities struggling with similar issues.

We have been working with communities as diverse as those in Mexico, Bali and South Africa to address dog and cat management and welfare, and we would be pleased to offer our global experience and expertise to officials in Sochi.

Sochi has to want to address its problem of roaming dogs. With hours to go before it steps onto the greatest international stage, city leaders and the Olympic committee have an important decision to make.

We hope they make the right choice.


Ask Russian authorities to work together with IFAW for a humane and positive solution for Sochi’s street dogs.

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Azzedine Downes,IFAW President and CEO
President and Chief Executive Officer
Beth Allgood, Country Director, United States
Country Director, United States
Cynthia Milburn, Director, Animal Welfare Outreach & Education
Senior Advisor, Policy Development
Dr. Maria (Masha) N. Vorontsova, Senior Advisor to the IFAW Marine Conservation
Senior Advisor to the IFAW Marine Conservation Program
Faye Cuevas, Esq.
Senior Vice President
Grace Ge Gabriel, Regional Director, Asia
Regional Director, Asia
Jason Bell, Vice President for Conservation and Animal Welfare
Vice President for Conservation and Animal Welfare
Matt Collis, Director, International Policy
Director, International Policy
Patrick Ramage, Program Director, Whales
Program Director, Marine Conservation
Sonja Van Tichelen, Vice President of International Operations
Vice President of International Operations
Staci McLennan, Director, EU Office
Director, EU Office
Tania McCrea-Steele, Project Lead, Global Wildlife Cybercrime
Project Lead, Global Wildlife Cybercrime