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22 Apr, 2009 05:02

No food and mercy for stray dogs in Moscow shelters

Animal rights activists are sounding the alarm over the thousands of stray dogs roaming the streets of Moscow. However, abandoned and sick animals may get into even more trouble if taken to a shelter.

Filmed in secret, a rare shooting shows a view inside one of Moscow’s so-called 'animal shelters.' Media, and even members of the public, are banned from entering. And immediately, it’s clear why. The dogs are on death row. Kept in cramped cages, with little food or water, and where disease is rife.

Some still have the energy to bark – others have given up ages ago. In one cell, a dog lies in the last grips of life among his already dead inmates.

But for the owners of this shelter, it’s an apparent money-maker. Campaigners say they’re getting about $US 200 a month for each dog they have – regardless of how they’re treated.

“Since the animals can’t talk, they can’t say they are not being fed. This money is laundered and pocketed by some officials. It’s absolutely impossible to prove this, because the shelters are closed. Even those people who just wish to take a pet home are not allowed to enter under some wild pretext like ‘you do not look trustworthy to us,' or ‘you are not a Moscow resident’,” explains animal rights campaigner Emilia Nadin.

Emilia was behind the hidden camera. She’s been a staunch animal rights campaigner for two years, and has saved all her pets from the street. She hopes her film will pressure those in charge to act.

But the government denies that the problem is so great.

RT was shown an animal shelter in Moscow where dogs were well looked after, and allowed to roam outdoors.

The governor of the Eastern Moscow district, Akhmet Sharafetdinov, says he had no idea conditions in other shelters were so different, and is sure it will be dealt with.

“Of course, there’s explicit regulation adopted by the Moscow government. It corresponds to different resolutions, and our work is actually based on that regulation,” he said.

There are an estimated 30,000 stray dogs on the streets of Moscow, and although a sterilization project has been introduced, their number is growing.

Animal activists blame irresponsible breeding. With no way of looking after them, puppies and kittens are often abandoned, and left to fend for themselves on the street.

One place offering help to rescued strays is a veterinary clinic in the city centre. Irina Blinova has been taking sick animals off the streets for over 20 years. This is how she found Rex – his body covered with bleeding sores. Guards were ready to shoot him, but Irina decided she had to intervene.

Such acts of kindness don't come cheap. Without any government funding, Irina says medical costs for one dog amount to about $US 1,000 dollars per month

“Due to the crisis, it becomes harder. I’m short of money now, and I cannot invest my own money. But I will try to find sponsors and people who can help me with Rex, Chloe, and two other dogs in bad condition which I have,” Irina says.

But unless the government finds and implements an effective solution, it seems there will indeed be homeless dogs on the streets of Moscow for many years to come.