Official position of Moscow Government on homeless animals
The "Okruga" newspaper
Chief of City Fauna, Moscow Dept. of City Housing/Communal Services & Municipal Improvements
(She held the aforesaid position from April of 2000 to April of 2006.)
SOLUTION OF STRAY DOGS PROBLEM IN MOSCOW SOUGHT?
(Here is a comment of site editor: this interview is cited as a typical example of one of numerous statements made in media by the chief of city fauna, reflecting the policy of municipal animals-management organizations in Moscow. Like many other, this interview is also a vivid illustration of the style and methods of work of the section in charge of city fauna, based on misinformation and dupery of the people)
- You cannot remove all stray dogs from the city. If all of them are exterminated or removed, other dogs will come to take their place: from the territory of Moscow Oblast, the newcomers will be even more aggressive. (For the criticisms of this kind of reasoning, see the review by the Head of the Chair of Veterinary Pathology of the Russian Friendship University, Merited Scientist of the RF, Doctor of Biology, Professor V.V.Makarov, and comments of ecological and nature- conservation bodies, and also criticism of expert-biologists). And, in the absence of these dogs, there will be unconditional dominance of rats (Rats inhabit manifolds, basement floors of the buildings and other shelters that are inaccessible to dogs. Hence, dogs are unable to influence the rat population. Nor is there a serious food competition for rats. Results of several independent special researchers into the relationships between stray dogs and rats: Biologist V.A.Rybalko and a group of experts of Omsk State Teacher-training University fully refute this assertion made by T.N.Pavlova.). The same applies to crows. (Dogs have no impact on crows at all. This is officially confirmed by the Russia's Union for Birds Protection). Nothing doing, this is the way the ecosystem of a large city is structured, stray dogs maintain biological equilibrium. (Maintaining the "biological equilibrium" by stray dogs, who, incidentally, are alien animals to the natural ecosystem of our territory, only consists in intensive extermination of homeless cats, above all the kittens, which actually results in ecocide of the kittens, and in catastrophic destruction of biodiversity in Moscow woods and parks, which is proven by reports of ecological and nature-conservation organizations). At present, municipal services are busy catching and sterilizing the stray dogs. (Even on paper, the percentage of caught and sterilized dogs is paltry. In reality, this percentage is much lower (it's impossible to record the number of actually sterilized dogs, and only a naive person is likely to believe that nobody puts this to use), whereas homeless cats are not sterilized by municipal services at all). Rbls. 2000 per dog is allocated. Besides sterilization and nursing, this amount covers inoculation and return of the animal to the area from which it was taken. Given the total number of dogs in the city (around 2 million), the number of stray dogs is relatively stable - around 20 thousand. (Again, misinformation! Today, the number of stray dogs, judging by the data of specific areas, has grown at least 4-5 times compared with the data cited by T.Pavlova - 20 thousand that was true of the year 1997 (since then, no records have been kept in Moscow as a whole), meaning that at present the figure cannot be under 100 thousand individuals. The breeding of animals that nobody wants continues, stray animals are not removed from the streets (the authorities actually refused to trap even aggressive animal!, which violates constitutional rights of the citizens to health protection), there is actually no sterilization, either: anyone can calculate by how much the figure of 20 thousand would have changed over the period of 7 years! And, remember, we're talking about stray dogs only. And what about homeless cats?!)
- Whence such stability?
- Obviously, not due to natural reproduction, but thanks to external increments: our people buy dogs as if they were plush toys and part with the dogs just as easily. (Note one very important thing! Having said all of a sudden that the stray dogs population has been continually replaced with the pets no longer wanted by their masters, T. Pavlova not only fails to answer the question put to her, but, in fact, disproves what she said earlier about the s table number of 20 thousand: why, following her logic, the population cannot but grow - indeed, the stray dogs are only sterilized and taken back to their home street, whereas other pet owners throw into the street other animals in greater numbers. In reality, the policy of Moscow authorities has led to a situation where the number of stray dogs increase each year, tending to reach its biological limit, which only depends on the amount of food available to stray dogs. For Moscow, this limit may be several hundred thousand stray dogs)
- However, it's no use forcing one's favors on anybody, after all, people divorce, too...
- True, but they do not throw each other into the street! Nobody forces a person to foster a dog or cat, but, once you've chosen to act as a parent, you must take care of the pet. This is the purpose of the law "On Keeping the Pets in Moscow", which was passed in the first reading at the end of December, 2003. (The said draft bill was developed by the section of city fauna, Moscow Dept. of City Housing/Communal Services & Municipal Improvements, which, in accordance with Moscow Government Decree No 819-ÏÏ dated 01.10.2002 is charged with control of the entire activity regarding homeless animals in Moscow. In the opinion of many organizations, this work as well as the elaboration of the aforesaid draft bill was wrecked successfully by the section of city fauna. For two years, our organization has tried hard but failed to amend the current version of the draft bill of the aforesaid Law. The Law, as it is now, lack the proper concept, thereby condemning to death thousands upon thousands of Homeless cats and dogs. For details of this, see our article "The Dog Waltz to the Tune of a Cat Requiem" ("Moskovskaya Pravda", 05.12.2003). Why are the animals more often than not thrown out into the street? Because the animals are becoming a nuisance. Which means that an animal should be brought up so it should behave itself without giving trouble and causing inconvenience. For example, once a person makes up his mind to foster a dog of a game breed or simply a large dog, the owner - by law! - will have to train it with the aid of a professional animal trainer. (The draft law "On Keeping Pets in Moscow" passed in the first reading, there is not even a hint of anybody being obliged to train his dog regardless of its breed). Subject to administrative penalties will be situations where a person sets his Stafford dog at his next-door neighbor's poodle, or a person throws his own cat out of the window.
- Rumors have it that all Moscow dogs will have passports, and that will be mandatory?
- During three years after the Law is published, all dogs must be registered and marked. A mark is a number, which facilitates not only the finding of a lost dog, but also the establishment of the owner of a thrown out one. This should be penalized. (The draft law "On Keeping Pets in Moscow" passed in the first reading says nothing of universal registration and marking of all the dogs.)
- How stiff are the penalties?
- Cruelty and knacking shall be penalized by a fine from 10 to 300 minimum wages, and one minimum wage at present is Rbls. 100. If the owner restricts the requirements of his pet, e.g. feeds it poorly, does not walk it in time, the penalty may range from 1 to 20 minimum wages. (The draft law "On Keeping Pets in Moscow " passed in the first reading says nothing of the pet owner being subject to a penalty for throwing the pet out into the street or for refusal to keep it properly. It does, however, envisage a penalty for "leaving pets without care", ranging from 10 to 20 minimum wages. At the same time, the general provisions (Article 1) of the Draft Law defines a pet guardian as "a person who undertook of his own will to take care of a homeless animals having no owner, city animal or an animal being part of municipal property ". A trustee and a "guardian" are synonyms in any Russian-language dictionary. Mind you that it follows from the definition of a pet guardian (trustee) given in the draft law that the pet owner-master cannot be a trustee/guardian, meaning that, by definition, the owner-master cannot exercise trusteeship/guardianship over his pet, so the Law cannot possibly stipulate penalizing the owner-master of an animal for "leaving pets without trusteeship ". At the joint meeting of Moscow City Duma on environmental policy and of Mosocw City Duma Commission on municipal economy and public utilities reform, which was held on February 2, 2004 at the Moscow City Duma, Yevgeny Ilyinsky asked: "Does the Law stipulate the payment of a benefit to the guardians of pets?" In response to this, Tatiana Pavlova, who was in charge of developing the draft Law, said: "The Budget does not envisage any payment to the guardians for fostering homeless animals. The draft Law says that the guardians do this duty on a voluntary basis."(we have an official shorthand record of the meeting). As a result, the stipulation of this Law should be literally understood as follows: individuals who act, voluntarily and free of charge, as guardians (exercise trusteeship) of pets thrown out into the street by their owners-masters will be subject to penalties for leaving such animals without guardianship (trusteeship). This situation, then, is a classical example of forced labor, which is, under most severe sanctions, prohibited by numerous international agreements, and, in particular, by Article 2, 1930 International Labor Organization Convention No 29 (in Russian). At the same time, the guardians of homeless cats and dogs at present already have their constitutional rights to a free choice of paid occupation infringed, because they engage in free socially useful work of rescuing and providing life support of animals abandoned by the pet owners (thereby individually and at their own expense complying with the requirements of Part 2, Article 137 of the RF Civil Code, which stipulates humane treatment of pet animals). Once the said Law enters into force, the rights of the guardians shall be infringed doubly: their labor becomes forced (because according to the aforesaid Convention, "forced labor means any work or service required of a person under the threat of a penalty"). At the same time, the owners throwing out into the street their pet animals are not held responsible for refusal to foster their animals.)
- Most normal people do not torture their pets. On the contrary, people tend to be upset if a dog gets lost.
- There is a unified center for tracing lost animals. (In actual fact, such a center is non-existent. Following decree of Moscow Government No 41-ÐÏ dated 16.01.1998, matters of tracing lost dogs, state records, dog fostering and use were entrusted to an organization called State Unitary Enterprise "MKTs", which, soon after the issuance of the aforesaid decree was obviously found unnecessary, deprived of financing and dissolved. Thus, Moscow authorities have not, until now, provided records of stray dogs despite the lethal case resulting from an attack of stray dogs on people in January of 2004 in Signalny Proezd of Moscow. If there had been a proper inventory of dogs, there would not have been loss of life in Signalny Proezd, nor would dozens of people have been mutilated at the same place during those ill-fated days. We held a special press-conference on that tragic event. As was pointed out in our article "Do not Wake up the Sleeping Animal Welfare Protectionist!" ("Moskovskaya Pravda", 16.01.2004) that non-availability of information on the numbers of potentially and actually dangerous stray dogs, with an indication of the place of habitat of each pack, the degree of pack aggressivity and mandatory communication of such information to the population in each city district constitutes violation of constitutional rights of individuals to health protection and favorable environment as well as of the right to acquire timely and true information on factors that have an adverse effect on one's health, the stray dogs certainly constituting such factors, too. The above rights of individuals are stipulated by Articled 41 and 42 of the RF Constitution as well as by Articles 17 and 19 of the RF Law "Fundamentals of RF Legislation on Health Protection of Individuals" Pursuant to Article 19 of the RF Constitution and Article 17 of the above Law, the state guarantees equal rights of people in exercising the aforesaid rights and these rights should not be dependent on the place of residence, sex, physical condition of a person and other circumstances. At present, in Moscow and other Russian cities, these egalitarian conditions, as far as the hazard of being attacked by stray dogs is concerned, are not complied with either, because dogs attack selectively, the risk exposure being higher in the case of physically feeble people: children, women, the elderly as well as people living in the vicinity of vacant lots, industrial zones, or other locations of probable whereabouts of dogs. As a result, there emerges discrimination, regarding many an indication of the stray dogs attack hazard, which infringes upon the equal rights clause stipulated by Article 19 of the RF Constitution. Moreover, the emergence of living conditions where subject to discrimination in terms of health protection are categories of individuals like children, women and the elderly, is in conflict with numerous international norms of the UNO. In particular, infringed upon are the rights of the said categories as well as of the disabled to the freedom of movement and access to social infrastructure facilities, envisaged by international norms and the norms of RF Laws)
- Why are there still no affordable municipal orphanages?
- The city authorities definitely are reluctant to build them, even thought the appropriate decree was issued in 1994. Moreover, they do not allow private individuals to build such orphanages! There are well-off people, who not only can and want to set up an institution of such nature: they are willing to run it with their money. All that is needed is land to be allocated. Alas, no land is allocated for such a purpose in Moscow or in the nearest Moscow suburbs: the land is very expensive , it can be used to bring a much greater profit! Small orphanages are set up by the wives of wealthy people in the lots of their country cottages, but of course these cannot accommodate all those homeless and abandoned. (It would have been possible to talk about orphanages in earnest as of state policy of dealing with the problem of stray animals, if the number of abandoned animals in the streets had been small (two to three thousand). However, given the enormous existing number of dogs and cats both in private ownership and homeless, it is ridiculous to talk about he humaneness of orphanages being set up, because it is impossible to set up orphanages capable of accommodating such big numbers of animals (including home pets that lose their owners virtually every day) on the territory of the city - meaning that the bulk of animals will, as before, be dying on the street, whereas the crammed-to-capacity orphanages will be similar to concentration camps. Therefore, when they talk about some abstract orphanages, the authorities admit they are incapable of settling the problem of stray animals in Moscow in a humane manner. In a humane manner means - ensuring for all the animals their biological life-cycle of 15 years, not from one day to one year, as in an orphanage or on the street. As a today, there exists just one reasonable concept, advanced by our organization, realistically humane, capable of encompassing all dogs and cats)
- Tatiana Nikolaevna, how did you personally come to deal with city dogs?
- Also, as the wife of a thriving husband. I'm a graduate of MGIMO, my speciality is international economics. After graduation, I worked for a while, after I gave birth to a child, I settled at home.... Once, the husband went out to walk the dogs (we have four labradors), usually our dogs played with a mongrel by the name of Vas'ka. And this time, there was no Vas'ka around. Someone said the mongrel had be caught and taken away by a special dog-catcher service. My husband and I immediately went o the "nursery". What we saw there is absolutely impossible to describe - it was horrible! It was then that I made up my mind to change the situation radically: I collected the necessary papers and applied for a job at the Dept. of City Housing/Communal Services & Municipal Improvements.
Svetlana Valkhar. January 17, 2004, Okruga. South-West
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