Center for Animal Welfare Legal Protection    
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Autonomous non-profit organization
Center for Animal Welfare Legal Protection

Basement Battle

      Throughout the years 2002 and 2003, cats were walled up in the basements of Moscow. The cats were dying in stillness. The air holes were bricked up, therefore nobody heard them screaming. The anguish of cats guardians was just as still, but more protracted. The guardians had mental disorders and infarcts. Our telephone was red-hot with appeals for help. We did all we could. As a result, I cannot say all this ended.
      In August of 2003, we sent a letter to the General Prosecutor's Office of the Russian Federation, attaching several hundred (!) addresses of Moscow houses that had accumulated with us, where the air holes were walled up completely. The General Prosecutor's Office then passed our letter to the Moscow Housing Inspection Office although most of the letter dealt with violation of human rights and humiliation of people and animals, but not with failure to observe the building codes. Th reply from the Moscow Housing Inspection Office is quoted below. Instead of the very long letter to the General Prosecutor's Office, we quote here an abridged copy of the text - "Information letter for the employees of housing and communal services ", which we hand out to the guardians of cats with walled up basements so the people, armed with this letter, should go to the local district management boards and implore the officials to open at least one air hole for the cats.
      Similar letter, concurrently with one to the General Prosecutor's Office, were sent by us Moscow Government in the name of Mr. Yu.M. Luzhkov and to the RF President's Human Rights Commission (there is still no reply).
      On the strength of this material, we forwarded to Gosstroy of Russia a petition, requesting to legitimate holes for the cats in the basements in future editions of Building Codes and Regulations (SNiPs). GOSSTROY of Russia responded by saying it appreciated the problem and promised assistance in making modifications in SNiPs.
      As of today, according to our information, the walling up of basements in Moscow continues everywhere. It is true, that brickwork often gives way to iron board with sparse holes up to 1 cm in diameter incised in them. In many cases, the guardians of cats fail to succeed in opening up at least one air hole, and then the animals die inside or are destroyed nearly one and all by dogs, if they stay outside. We have no information at least of one case of complete dewalling of a basement in one of the buildings listed in the letter addressed to the General Prosecutor's Office.
      As for Moscow Government, its reply we quote here. For the sake of justice, we also quote a letter by the Chief of the Department of Housing and Communal services Mr. N.V. Pavlov, addressed to the district management boards. This is the best result we have attained thus far. Regrettably, because the letter is, in fact, a recommendation, the officers of ZHEKs (local housing authorities) do not care a damn about it.
      We also attach copies of some of our numerous applications to other instances and copies of typical responses chosen for example.
      Among the responses quoted, you will find a unique and euphonic reply from the Moscow Housing Inspection of the Southern Administrative District. But what has actually happened? According to the guardian of cats Mrs. V.P. Bachurina, nobody ever gave her any "explanation to the effect that one of the air holes would e left open for the access of cats", therefore all air holes are walled up, as before, ventilation in the basement has not been restored, and the cats are poisoned, even those that were outside. The poisoned cats were dying and were in agony before very eyes of the house dwellers.
      Some of the responses quoted here we received from the Department of Education. Besides apartment houses, it is not uncommon for cats in Moscow to be walled up in the basements of schools on orders of teachers and stewards. It may seem strange, but we had not a single instance of a teacher or school administration contacting us on the subject of assistance to homeless animals or in connection with sterilization of cats, living at schools. Among thousands of homeless animals, sterilized by their guardians through our organization, there were quite a few cats from hospitals, polyclinics, stores, various enterprises, plants and even prisons (we sterilized about 30 cats at a prison), bot not a single one from a school.
      It has long become and axiom with us: if nobody sterilizes homeless cats and they multiply without control, the animals are sure to be exterminated by somebody in the end. This means that school head masters, whose duty is to maintain a proper sanitary state of a children's institution, deliberately choose extermination (they cannot negate they know nothing about sterilization: after all, they are educated people). But if such criteria are prevalent at schools, it means that a teacher of such a school, talking about bringing up children, is a common swindler.
      We remember three cases of basements being walled up at schools. The first one occurred at school No 846 at Pechatniki and is described in detail in the address to the Lyublino Inter-District Public Prosecutor's Office. In the second case, the 82-year old single woman, a first-category invalid Aleksandra Grogoryevna was the guardian for two cats at school No 770 at Tsaritsyno. She said that when she was feeding the cats, children threw stones at her, while the deputy head master looked on and extorted cheers of approval, ands a security guard used force against her. When the air hole was walled up, she stood in frost several hours, waiting for militia she herself had summoned, she simply had nowhere to apply to. Later, militia told us they did not even intend to visit the place.
      Case No 3 was like this. Two pregnant cats were walled up at school No 1168 at Tushino. This happened at the very moment their guardian Mrs. L.V. Ushakova was about to take the cats to a vet clinic for sterilization. The guardians were unable to set the cats free for three years. All this time, the cats were fed through a tiny slit. The cats gave birth to kittens; the kittens grew up and gave birth to more kittens, and the new cats gave birth to next generation. Parents began complaining of fleas. The head master announced that the fault lay with the guardians of animals, who grew up several generations of cats in the basement. Of course, how could she know that fleas were not the result of cats, but of the dampness and absence of ventilation in the basement (by the way, does she guess that the walled up basement upset the air exchange in the entire building of the school, which cause a lot of discomfort forth children at the lessons). To save from the fleas the cats would have long quit the basement had they not been walled up. The head master to open not only the air holes, but the door to the basement, too. The guardians were presented an ultimatum: have your cats caught immediately (absolutely wild!) and take them out to a shelter (if only it were available!), after which the basement will be walled up again.
      We talked with some of such teachers, stewards, head masters, and were under the impression that even on their deathbed they will not repent or have pity toward people humiliated by them.

Corresponding with officials (in Russian)

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