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Moscow’s dog owners say no to dog hunters

October 29, 2012, 17:22 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila

MOSCOW, October 29 (Itar-Tass) — Despite the awfully bad weather, hundreds of dog owners gathered in Novopushkinsky public garden in downtown Moscow on Sunday to say no to dog hunters. Participants in the rally urged to bring to criminal responsibility those who were behind mass killing of pets in a Moscow park.

Standing ankle-deep in ice water under pouring rain, protesters were chanting “No to flayers.” The rally drew about one thousand of people who protested against the so-called “dog hunters,” who kill dogs in Moscow and other Russian cities. Participants in the rally demanded to punish those responsible for mass killing of animals and to close sadism-promoting websites.

People were prompted to take to the streets by increasingly growing reports about dogs poisoned to death. This year alone, more than a thousand dogs have been poisoned in Moscow. A criminal case opened over mass killing of dogs in Moscow’s Park of 50th Anniversary of the October Revolution was followed by another wave of dog poisonings there.

A deadly bait does not discriminate between domestic and stray dog. It kills all. It kills rescuer dogs and guide dogs as well. Thus, a veteran of the rescue service, the nine-year-old dog nicknamed Pribor, nearly died from such poisonous bait. Medics could hardly save the dog who had been saving people for his entire dog’s life.

Organizers asked participants in the rally not to take their pets with them, for fear that dog hunters may plant baits with poisoned meat all around the place. Many were carrying plates with the names of their killed animals. One man was holding a poster featuring photos of his Parson Russell Terrier, a winner of the Dog of Russia title, who died in terrible agonies this May after swallowing a fatal treat in Moscow’s Timiryazevsky Park.

“What is going on is a sign of society’s illness,” popular Russian actor Leonid Yarmolnik told the rally. “What kind of families were those that reared such people who kill animals? If I caught such a person red-handed I would not hesitate to kill him or her, even under penalty of prison.” According to Yarmolnik, mass poisonings of dogs in Moscow signals “the birth of fascism in our country.” The protesters demonstrated a map spotted by red dots indicating places where dog poisoning cases were reported. Apart from the Park of 50th Anniversary of the October Revolution in a Moscow western suburb, such cases have been reported in the recent years from more than 100 places. None of dog hunters has been punished yet.

The dog rights champions who gathered for the rally voiced their demands to the Russian authorities. Thus, they called for a law imposing criminal liability for cruelty to animals. They urged to consolidate all animal poisoning cases into a single litigation. They also called for stricter restrictions on selling medicines used by dog hunters.

A real war against dogs has been unfolding in the recent years in Russia. Dog hunters say their goal is to defend themselves and their families from stray dogs that might bite or even kill them, and to clear the city off carrying agents of diseases and vermin. Their practices include shooting and poisoning of stray dogs. The dog hunter movement enjoyed a peak of popularity in October 2011. According to animal rights advocates, dog hunters are active not only in Russia’s mega cities, such as Moscow, St. Petersburg, Novosibirsk, Perm, and Saratov, but also in neighboring Ukraine and Bulgaria.

Dog hunters claim the method they are using is the only right one in a situation where municipal services are not doing their job of catching strays. But their methods kill not only stray dogs but domestic pets, sometimes those walked on the leash.

A routine dog hunters’ technique is to leave around poisoned minced meat. In the majority of cases they use a mixture of drugstore medicines. They exchange poison recipes on special websites. They never feel pangs of conscience saying they are doing a sanitation job, like rat or mosquito extermination.

The chat and communicate via an international Russian-language website Vreditelyam.net, which has about 3,000 registered users, mostly from Ukraine and Russia. The users exchange their experiences, post photos of their “trophies,” square joint operations to “clean up” territories from stays.

Dog hunters are often ordinary people, like a family couple with two children seen planting poisoned baits in Moscow’s Park of 50th Anniversary of the October Revolution.

“Among dog poisoners there might be petty people, quite respectable, with children, even those having a cat – no one could thinks of them to do such things,” the Komsomolskaya Pravda cites Ilya Bluvshtein, a deputy chairman of the Russian society of animal rights champions Fauna. “The matter is that they never see how animals they poison are writhing and dying in agony, so they may not be aware of what they are doing.”

There are people however who approve of dog hunters’ job - there still are problems with strays and aggressive behavior of domestic dogs.

“There must not be any strays,” a Dasha writes on Izvestia’s website. “Killing and poisoning of stray dogs in cities is absolutely justified.”

“Shooting dogs is a cruel but a least-evil solution: people, their safety, health and even lives are much more important than dogs,” writes a user nicknamed ‘interested.’

And there are more such posts.