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30 Apr, 2009 06:42

Outrageous animal cruelty shakes Kaliningrad

A string of attacks on animals in the Russian city of Kaliningrad has caused outcry among locals. The killings are thought to have been carried out by savage fighting dogs in training.

A zoo should be a safe environment for its animal residents, but at Kaliningrad’s zoo, savage dogs struck in two nighttime attacks. A reindeer, goats and a llama were mauled to death in what locals believe were kills for thrills by bloodthirsty fighting dogs.

Irina Novikova loves animals but has witnessed some horrific acts of cruelty recently near her home. Earlier this year the woman had a prize-winning Spitz dog in her care savaged. As it lay dying, she vowed she'd find the killers, but she has had no luck so far as people are afraid to inform on the owners of fighting dogs.

“Experts suspect two men. One was either the dog's buyer or trainer, the other was the seller or its owner. In any case, the attack was designed to show the animal's fighting skills,” says Irina Novikova.

Last summer another pet lover Irina Garbar witnessed two dogs rip apart a cow. She believes they were trained to kill by their owners who watched the gruesome act nearby. Soon after she looked on in horror as a small girl threw herself on her pet puppy to protect it from two crazed killer dogs. She says her neighbourhood used to be a safe place, but no longer.

“I'm afraid to walk with my puppies after what happened and no one walks their animals here anymore,” says Irina.

Even though they are outlawed in Russia, dog fights continue to attract big prize-money, with some winning up to $15,000. Between fights, however, the dogs need to be kept aggressive. Hence their owners spur on their savagery between brutal bouts to the death held in secret venues.

“After we printed this account people rang us with their own stories. I suspect there are many more unreported cases – for instance an old lady whose pet is attacked is less likely to tell the police,” says local journalist Olga Sayapina from Strana Kaliningrad newspaper.

The killings at the zoo however have sparked outrage among locals. People in Kaliningrad are really shocked by this string of attacks and they are concerned that there is a concerted and defiant group of people wanting to kill animals to train their dogs.

Dog-fighting is part of a brutal underworld where sadistic savagery is played out behind closed doors. The ringleaders are one step ahead of the police, and are rarely caught them red-handed. Dog trainer Vitaly Latyshonok has trained dogs for 33 years. He says that it is humans and not dogs who are the problem.

“If dogs are well looked after then they will be good. These people run the illegal dog fights either for money or because they are disturbed,” says Vitaly Latyshonok.

On the streets of Kaliningrad people talking of locking up their animals, never letting them outside, but for those who have vulnerable farm animals, all they can do is sit and hope that their livestock won't be the next prey to unleashed fighting dogs.