Center for Animal Welfare Legal Protection    
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ANO Center for Animal Welfare Legal Protection
"Second-hand Dealers in Kittens"("")
the author: Yevgeny Ilyinsky, ANO Center for Animal Welfare Legal Protection
published in Russian newspaper "Mir novostei" (" ") of June 01, 2004

In the picture: post-card kittens and similar kittens along with 96 others, thrown out by second-hand dealers from the old Ptichii Rynok ('Animal Bazaar') into the street and frozen stiff on 2001 New Year's night.

Humaneness "Moscow Way".

      Several times a day, we receive phone calls from people asking the same question: who can accommodate a dog that lost his master, who will take care of kittens abandoned by someone or of puppies that were given birth somewhere in the yard. It is not uncommon that the case in point are large numbers of animals: what can be done, if a lady-guardian of twenty cats has died, or the basement floor of a house is being leased for a store, and the new owners on the eve of a house-warming party are already cooking poisoned meals for cats that used to inhabit the basement floor.
      We have to explain to the people that the government does not set up any specific services to attend to such animals, whereas the state-owned shelters are unable to accommodate even one thousandth of indigent dogs and cats. What's more, seeking to secure admission of such animals in the aforesaid shelters is useless, to put it mildly, for the animals are unlikely to be rescued there.
      On the other hand, there are plenty of private shelters: these are flats of common people who have enough problems of their own, and who, seeing that animals are in trouble and realizing that one has nowhere to apply to with a view to ensure the accommodation of animals on a practical level, are forced to bring the animals home and keep them. Offering such people more animals as their pets would be as good as taunting them.
      The problem is that what is happening in Moscow now is a surprising phenomenon: domestic animals that from times immemorial have been intended to be kept by man are deprived of support by society and are left abandoned in the street. As for the government, I suppose it does not regard this as a problem of lack of proper regulation of the right market and economic mechanisms by the government. Nay, it views the situation as a victory of humaneness. To all appearances, Moscow top officialdom interprets humaneness to animals as the granting of freedom of coexistence to two major species of domestic animals, cats and dogs that lost their masters and became homeless, coexistence by laws of "natural selection" on city streets. However, such "natural selection" virtually leaves no chance of survival to cats. They are exterminated on a mass scale, above all, by stray dogs and by the workers of housing and communal services who literally set up common graves of homeless cats in walled-up basement floors throughout Moscow. It is significant that Moscow Government has made those very housing and communal services liable for measures to protect homeless animals.
      When time and again I am faced with a manifestation of this "humaneness", I bring home a cat saved from certain death. And if it were possible in Moscow, by string pulling, knowing the right people, for any money to accommodate an animal with no detriment to it, there would never be as many as thirty cats in my flat. For, personally, I do not keep cats for the sake of communication, because, as a matter of principle, I do not suffer from lack of communication.
      "And you, too - I explain every time, when talking over the phone, - if you want to help an animal, take it to your home or seek his would be master by placing ads in a newspaper, which is a hard and time-consuming task ".
      There may be a question: why spend one's valuable time on all these explanations, and not say simply that we do not accommodate animals, and hang up the receiver. But, if I say this, I can be certain that the animals will die because, most likely, they will get into the hands of second-hand dealers.


      There are no laws in Russia, curbing the breeding of dogs and cats. It is this that has led to a catastrophic increase of the number of stray animals and virtually nil demand for outbred or no longer fashionable pure-bred cats and dogs.
      A whole army of the so- called swindlers - second-hand dealers thrives on the absence of such demand. Under the guise of breeders, compassionate, if not saint old ladies, and sometimes animal protectors (there are even animal-protection organizations specially registered for the purpose), they offer assistance at a charge in finding masters for kittens, puppies and grown-up animals. They place ads in newspapers, sometimes looking quite harmless, for example: "I'll take a fluffy female cat..." or "Who found or lost a dog...".
      But more often, one can see them at a metro station or on the Animal Bazaar with kittens in their arms. It is the kittens that most second-hand dealers deal in. It may seem to an ignorant person that such people are giving away the kittens to "tender hands" persons or sell the kittens. In reality, they only make pretence of this: their only purpose is to attract those who do not know what to do with kittens that were born at home, in an office or, for example, at an entrance to the house.
      Telling a second-hand dealer is very simple: offer him to take animals, and pretending being a little confused, jacking up the price, for appearance's sake, he will immediately agree. Service rates may differ, sometimes they may be very high, which is of no consequence to the fate of an animal. A person really trying to accommodate his animals will never agree to take on another animal, not even for a million.
      Some second-hand dealers try to look altruists: "Simply give me something for peanuts"- they say. Why, to some small-time swindlers even this money is quite enough. The second-hand dealers get rid of the animals they thus collected in different ways, but most often they throw them into the street at desolate places.
      Very often, people, out of the desire to secure accommodation of animals, bring swindlers the kittens that were earlier thrown out by other second-hand dealers. Even people who, on more than one occasion, heard about boxes with frozen kittens and know who does this, keep using such "zooservices". People keep bringing the doomed kittens to "trustworthy" second-hand dealers: allegedly, someone saw at their places bags of expensive cat's feeds. We know, however, that an attractive image and knowledge of psychology is a professional trait of swindlers.
      No small part of people who bring swindlers the kittens from stores and industrial enterprises are essentially indifferent to the fate of these animals: getting rid of them at low cost is their main concern. Therefore, even a person of no fixed address copes with such job of animals "accommodation" easily: just give him the time to collect and throw away animals, and count the money. The trouble of deceived people is that they are unaware there are and can be no second-hand dealers after whom the animals would not be doomed.
      Most people must think that infectious diseases of cats and dogs are similar to diseases of humans, like flu' or an acute respiratory disease. But there s a difference. Animal viruses are extremely resistant, they remain on objects, clothes and even on hands for years. Therefore, all second-hand dealers as well as all Animal Bazaars are literally impregnated with infection. Once in the hands of second-hand dealers, many kitten for the first time in their life remain without Mother, in a setting of frightening uncertainty. As a result of such enormous stress, their low immunity drops to zero, and infection catches on immediately. It is absolutely unrealistic to ensure prophylaxis of a non-vaccinated animal that had a contact with a virus carrier, albeit short-lived: there are no such means. To realize this fully, one must have the experience of nursing back to health dozens of diseased animals. We cured successfully hundreds of animals. However, a layman will be content hearing the assurances of a second-hand dealer: "Don't worry, I know how to treat them". The trust of scrupulous and doubting clients may be won by the names of a few medical drugs memorized by the swindler, allegedly used for prophylaxis and treatment of kittens' infection.
      A disease of infected kittens does not manifest itself immediately, its symptoms appear in a few days. The second-hand dealers demonstrate animals free of any symptoms of the disease. "Look - they often say, - I take only healthy home-grown kittens, therefore, with me, there is no infection". Yet, you may go to "Vykhino Metro Station , a traditional work place of second-hand dealers, and take a fine healthy kitten there. In a bout one week, the kitten will die, even if you apply to a vet clinic without delay. However, if you are prepared for this in advance, then as soon as you note the first symptoms of kitten's disease - refusal to take meals and apathy (sadness), give us a ring. Our phone number you can find out by the name of our organization through the 09 reference service of Moscow, we shall tell you what to do to cure the kitten.
      At civilized shelters (infections may be even there, because some animals carry viruses all their life), a new animal is at first quarantined for 1.5 months for vaccination, and only after that it is allowed to contact other animals. It is unthinkable for an old lady - second-hand dealer to be in possession of everything necessary for such work, e.g. professional germicidal lamps, those that are used in operating-rooms, or several isolated rooms. And imagine what the prime-cost of such work would be.
      It follows from this that even if someone were engaged in accommodation of homeless animals in good faith, such work would be: first, unprofitable (considering the high price of drugs); second, too hard (a diseased kitten alone requires several procedures and twenty injections a day); third, transient (cured kitten, even with skilled treatment, often remain chronic invalids, it is impossible to give them away to anybody, and, therefore, a decent person each time will have to keep them to himself, and thus, having crammed his flat with animals to capacity, will soon terminate this activity); fourth, impossible (even a magician will b unable to secure survival of all the kittens).
      The swindlers' main merchandise are kittens of domestic cats, whose owners do not want to sterilize their animals. The reasons for such reluctance are not only disorder of the owners, but also their so-called "philosophy": they list themselves as advocates of non-interference in nature. I would add - at the expense of others. More specifically, at the expense of guardians of homeless animals, frequently quite elderly women, saving these animals (I repeat, stray cats "originate" from uncontrolled reproduction of domestic animals). However, the "philosophers" naturally are not concerned with enthusiast pensioner women, as, obviously, with nature.
      As for the guardians of cats, the beginner guardians, who do not know what infection is, sometimes fall into the same trap. At first, they do everything right: catching semi-wild, dirty kittens, washing, curing them, exterminating miriads of nits and ticks. But eventually they take the kittens to the second-hand dealers, thus making a fatal mistake...
      The death of infected kittens is virtually inevitable, regardless of whether they are thrown into the street or find themselves, by chance, in loving hands. The low level of our many veterinary doctors all the same will not make it possible to save them.
      Not every kitten will have time to live until the disease manifests itself. While thrown out kittens realize that they should find some refuge and hide themselves, packs of dogs tear them apart; incidentally, according to zoologists, pack of dogs exterminate today not only cats, but also the remnants of wild fauna in the nature-protection zones of the capital: a complete extirpation by dogs of all dappled deers on Losinyi Island has been the price already paid for unlimited freedom of stray dogs. Nowadays, stray dogs in Moscow are not the lonely, miserable "lost creatures" we used to pick up out of pity some ten years ago.
      The areas around Moscow Animal Bazaar are littered with boxes crammed with kittens doomed to agonizing death. Surprisingly, there are quite a few Siamese, Persian and Angora cats. The swindlers always prefer cats of the pedigree stock: it is customary to pay more for the "accommodation" of these. The simple-hearted owners sincerely worry about the fate of their beloved kids, ask the dealers to accommodate them better and pay a thousand rubles for the accommodation of a single kitten, sometimes more, not even suspecting that they pay for extermination of the kittens.
      When I try to explain to the cat owners that nowadays it is a crime to encourage the birth of more kittens, it is not uncommon to hear this in reply: "What are you talking about?! Our children are so fond of playing with kittens. And then, our new-borns are so beautiful!" As if it is easier for the kittens to die, when they are beautiful, and children would rejoice to learn of what happened to the kittens afterwards!
      Some second-hand dealers grew accustomed so much to going unpunished for years, that they even do not try to preserve their human appearance. We have received a letter signed by a group of dwellers of Malakhovka, the neighbors of a second-had dealer, an alcoholic by the name of Inga, who is a swindler from Vykhino. When she fails to sell her goods in time, she simply throws the kittens out of the window. By that time, the kittens already develop grave diseases. So, the corpses of animals dangling on tree branches are easily observed by the dwellers of lower floors. The problem is not that nobody can hold the sadist responsible, but that this is absolutely pointless: her place will be immediately taken by numerous competitors, and there will be just as many of those willing to surrender their animals. Who cares, where the kittens will die afterwards, in Malakhovka or elsewhere.
      This unheard-of situation has persisted for nearly 20 years. During this period, in Moscow alone, hundreds of thousands of kittens have met excruciating death! According to the data available, the government organization liable for the situation with animals in Moscow , i.e. the municipal Department of Urban Fauna as part of the Department for Housing and Communal Services has not even once attempted to change the situation.
      Over a year ago, the nature-conservation prosecutor's office of Moscow sent my materials about second-and dealers to the Fauna Department, with an injunction to respond to the applicant, i.e. me, the author of this article. Yet, I have not received anything, not even a formal reply.
      As for the Animal Bazaar, virtually all zoo-protection organizations are of the opinion that Moscow authorities should not so much have moved it, but (considering the shocking goings-on in the field of purchase and sale of exotic animals) have closed it down forever. The Bazaar shop-windows care like the dishes of Korean Cuisine cooked with cat and dog meat: both are based on inconceivable sufferings of animals.


      I know that some will argue: why should I sterilize my cat, if we give away kittens ourselves and do not turn to second-hand dealers. Yet, are such people aware that most kittens accommodated this way eventually land in the hands of second-hand dealers or are thrown into the street? What other way is there to set about the kitten, if a relative has developed an allergy or a child has played with the kitten enough, or the owners simply thought better: "What do we need the kitten for? Previously, nobody tore the furniture or pissed onto the blanket!" Of course, some regret to throw away a tiny kitten. But then, when it comes to an adult pussy-cat that pesters all with its cries at the time of heat, "setting it free" becomes no problem.
      In fact, nobody should talk anybody into doing anything a situation like that. Civilized countries have long been through this. People there realized that it is impossible to exploit individuals an force them to pick up homeless animals, and that maintaining state-run shelters is a drain for the country's budget. Therefore, in many countries mandatory sterilization of outbred dogs and cats has been introduced.
      "All right, - you may say - but why necessarily sterilization - there are tablets, aren't there?" Unfortunately, all drugs cutting short the heat of animals cannot be used for a long time. Very likely, this may result in grave pathology and necessitate an urgent operation. Besides, these drugs are not contraceptive, and if a cat walks out into the street or if there is a male cat in the house, the drugs are useless. In addition to this, at some point, the tablets cease to produce the desired effect. And by the age of 4-5 years, most hitherto tranquil cats develop a non-stop heat.
      Sterilization, without doubt, will augur well for the health of any cat. A few years ago, studies accomplished abroad indicated that sterilized cats live, on the average, twice as long as non-sterilized ones. The reason is that sterilization constitutes simultaneously the treatment and prophylaxis of a number of diseases, above all of genital organs as well as of diseases resulting from stresses. Which means that it is best to think in advance of both - cat's health and about inadmissibility of giving birth to kittens doomed to sufferings.
      I find it appropriate to tell here how sterilization (castration) of a cat should be carried out properly by a truly skilled doctor. I think I am in a position to judge about this, because we had over 1000 homeless cats operated on literally before our very eyes; after the operation, we took care of the cats, and still follow up many of them as we are in contact with their guardians and act as guardians ourselves for quite a few such cats in our district.
      To sum up, first: a cat at any, even most advanced stage of pregnancy, may be sterilized. The true reason for refusal by a veterinary doctor to operate on a pregnant cat is a low level of his skills.
      Second: an operation may be performed on a cat aged 6 months and older, but if circumstances demand this, the operation may be performed earlier. For example, in the USA, doctors recommend that even kittens be operated on. Discourse on preferability for a cat's health to give birth to a kitten, first, is absolutely unfounded. The most ideal age for cat sterilization from the standpoint of endocrinology is seven, eight months. The operation can be made at any older age, provided the cat has no serious contra-indications.
      Third: during the operation, both the ovaries and the uterus must be removed. This particularly important for cats that experienced diseases and a birth of kittens since there is a great likelihood of an undiscovered pathology of the uterus that cannot be left as a rudiment. By the way, there are many such cats among homeless animals, therefore sterilization saves them from certain death.
      Fourth: the suture must be arranged on the side and be around 1 cm long for non-pregnant cats and around 3 cm for pregnant ones. This is crucial. Everybody knows that most pain points are on the skin and muscles. Meaning that the smaller the cut, the less the animal will suffer after the operation. It is also important that a side suture is more hygienic, while the suture arranged on the belly always comes in touch with the floor or ground.
      Fifth: the operation should take the doctor around ten minutes. Pregnancy or diseases like suppurative inflammation of the uterus, even at a stage of exacerbation, increase the length of operation roughly by 10 more minutes. This notwithstanding, the doctor should not demand any significant extra charge, al the more so for a homeless cat.
      Sixth: I consider that maximum permissible payment for the operation is Rbls. 1.5 thousand. But if the doctor charges this money, the quality must be as described herein, giving no cause for additional wound management, dressings, drug aid, let alone seeing a doctor a second time, including suture removal.
      Seventh: there must never be any signs of inflammation in the suture area: swells, knobs, wounds that wouldn't close. The cause of these is poor performance of the doctor, but more often than not - very cheap threads used for internal sutures many Russian veterinary doctors are used to employing everywhere. The doctors often put the above phenomena to thread allergy or individual intolerance. However, we never observed anything of the kind with our doctor who operates on more that 1000 stray cat a year. Simply, one should guarantee the quality of one's work, and if a doctor wants to save, it should not be to the detriment of operation quality.
      Eighth: if a cat operated on has no inflammation-induced ailments, no antibiotics should be prescribed to if after the operation. Antibiotics are prescribed by doctors who are not confident of their work.
      Ninth: the outer suture must be sewn with self-dissolving threads that do not require removal afterwards. The suture should be sewn in a special way so the cat could not damage it and so that a cat-cloth should not be required, which is crucial for homeless cats. In this case, the period of temporary look-after hospitalization after the operation is reduced considerably, and the cat may be let out into the street the day, following the operation, if necessary (naturally, not in winter). For guardians of stray cats, this is really a life-saver: often, they are unable to keep several cats at a time in a flat too long.
      Unfortunately, Russian veterinarians are unlikely to be concerned about the problems of homeless animals: they use largely common-type threads, which make a cat-cloth (dressing material for cats) a necessity. A cat should wear a cat-cloth until the sutures are removed, i.e. eight-ten days.
      With deep regret, we have to admit that the rules-requirements-recommendations set out in the above 9 items are hardly ever (even partially) heeded in Russian vet clinics. It is hard to say what is taught to future veterinarians at our veterinary academies. Which does not mean at all that cats need not be sterilized. Just like if you do not have a car, it does not mean that you should give up public transport facilities. True, the guardian may have to patience and look after the cat a week, but this is better compared with the suffering awaiting her kittens in future. After all, even if the operation was performed by a doctor of average level of skills, the benefit for the cat will be obvious, anyway.
      To sum up, as long as the government, in my opinion, shuns the problem of stray dogs and cats, only conscientious owners animals and skilled veterinary surgeons are in a position to help our pet animals.

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