Stray animals in Ukraine suffer for football dream

As Kiev prepares to host the European Football Championship in 2012, animal rights groups claim attempts to beautify the country are coming at the expense of homeless animals.

UEFA president Michel Platini was bemused to see people literally barking at him during his visit to Kiev. He was inspecting preparations for the EURO 2012 football championship when animal rights activists held protests over claims of animal cruelty. They say authorities are deliberately killing stray pets in order to clear the streets of EURO 2012 host cities.

Asya Serpinskaya runs a rescue centre for stray animals in the Kiev region. Housing almost a thousand stray cats and dogs, it is the biggest of its kind around the Ukrainian capital. She shows a dog poisoned by strychnine. It was half-dead when she found it in the streets of the Ukrainian capital.

“It took us all night to save her,” Asya says, adding that most of the homeless animals at the shelter arrived in a similar state.

Sterilizing an animal in Kiev costs around 50 dollars, and with not much money around, people sometimes choose a different – far less humane – solution.

“Nobody wants to pay what it costs and that is why they decide to poison animals with cheap rat poison or strychnine. Our authorities are doing nothing to solve the problem,” Asya explains.

Maria Gazyuk from the Zoobusiness magazine agrees:

“Now with the financial turmoil, people are forced into getting rid of their pets. And now the streets are filled with stray animals. In Kiev alone there are tens of thousands of stray dogs and cats. The few existing shelters are full to the limit and cannot accept more.”

The Ukrainian capital has only one state-funded shelter, which houses around 300 pets. The rest are run by private sponsors, but even they are not capable of accommodating all of them. The number of homeless pets is reaching an alarming level.

Kiev’s administration firmly denies using any violence, though does admit it is struggling to deal with the issue.

“We’re talking millions needed for this issue. And of course nobody can provide that amount during the economic crisis. And no matter how many shelters we build, this problem will not be solved completely. The good news is our financing has been increased and starting next year we will build several shelters in the region,” says Olga Drozdova from the Kiev administration.