National Geographic News

Ashleigh N. DeLuca

National Geographic

Published March 28, 2014

Ten dogs rescued from the streets of Sochi, Russia, arrived at the Washington (D.C.) Animal Rescue League Thursday evening on their way to new homes in the U.S.

The stray animals' transfer was arranged by Russian billionaire Oleg V. Deripaska, who started an initiative, Povodog, to save and adopt local dogs at risk of being rounded up and killed.

In an attempt to make the Olympic city ready for the international spotlight in February, exterminators contracted by the city of Sochi killed hundreds of strays—often using inhumane methods—prompting a global outcry against the killings. (Related: "Stray Dogs in Sochi: What Happens to the World's Free-Roaming Canines?")

Greeted by a throng of reporters at the animal league Thursday, all of the mixed-breed dogs appeared calm as they were led into their clean and spacious kennels, where they'll live until they are adopted.

Quieter dogs like Glasha, a silver 52-pound (23-kilogram) female, sat at the back of their individual kennels blinking at the video cameras and microphones with calm curiosity.

The friendlier dogs like Bosh, a particularly loving 46-pound (20-kilogram) black brindled male, hung their paws over the railing of their enclosure, happy to nuzzle and play with anyone who walked by. (See dog pictures submitted to National Geographic.)

After receiving a fond lick on the cheek from Bosh, Kelly O'Meara, director of companion animals and engagement at the Humane Society International, predicted the center would have 500 adoption applications within a few days. The Humane Society partnered with Povodog to transport the dogs to the U.S.

A stray dog from Sochi, Russia, get acclimated to its 'doggie den' after arriving at the Washington Animal Rescue League shelter March 27, 2014 in Washington, DC.
A dog rescued from the streets of Sochi waits to be adopted.
PHOTOGRAPH BY CHIP SOMODEVILLA, GETTY IMAGES

Exterminated

Deripaska, who has estimated the Sochi stray population to be around 4,000, initially donated $15,000 (U.S.) to construct the shelter on donated government land and has promised $50,000 (U.S.) a year for operational costs.

Although Sochi had a stray canine problem long before the Olympics came to town, the construction of the Olympic Village only made matters worse.

Many dog-owning families that lived in the residential area that was transformed into the Olympic Village were relocated to apartment complexes to make space for the brand-new facilities. The animals that were left behind began milling around the newly erected Olympic Village.

Anticipating large crowds for the Winter Olympics, the local government and Olympic committee ordered a local stray dog cull. Since extermination efforts started in October, an average of 300 dogs have been killed every month in Sochi. The issue became an unwelcome distraction for Sochi just days before the start of the games. (Related: "Writer's Call to Kill Feral Cats Sparks Outcry.")

Despite officials' claims that the culling is for health and safety reasons, the extermination method used is ineffective—and cruel.

Locals have reported seeing stray dogs shot with poisoned darts, which resulted in the animals violently convulsing and whimpering in pain on public streets. Contracted companies reportedly drive through the city at night collecting the poisoned carcasses.

Olympic Athletes Adopt Dogs

Many U.S. Olympic athletes also decided to bring dogs back home with them after the games.

Gus Kenworthy, a silver-medal freestyle skier, adopted a mother dog and her litter of four puppies. David Backes, a hockey player and founder of Athletes for Animals, brought two strays back with him and placed them in new homes. (See: "5 Amazing Stories of Devoted Dogs.")

Snowboarder Lindsey Jacobellis and hockey player Kelli Stack also adopted puppies.

Juanishia Lee-Williams, adoptions coordinator at the Washington shelter, said she's confident the newly arrived strays will find homes.

During her final walk through the kennel for the night, Juanishia promised the new Sochi dogs: "It was a long trip, but we will make it worth your while."

Follow Ashleigh N. DeLuca on Twitter.

14 comments
Elisabeth Eitel Young
Elisabeth Eitel Young

We domesticate dogs and then treat them poorly.  We then ship a few dogs across an ocean in airplanes using jet fuel originally sourced from oil rigs similar to BP's Deepwater Horizon ... rigs that sometimes spill and kill thousands if not millions of other animals. Call me a misanthrope, but humans are crazy.

Julie Strassman
Julie Strassman

This is very good that these dogs were rescued, poisening is absolutely horrible! If only more people would spay and neuter and commit for life before adopting a pet. A dog is more faithful than most people, and yet people adopt them and when circumstances change they just leave them. SO so sad.

Lexi S
Lexi S

While it's nice to see people adopting instead of buying, it would be cheaper to just adopt dogs in need in America. 

LP Mitchell
LP Mitchell

Russian dogs? American dogs? Rescued dogs.

Holly Desmarais
Holly Desmarais

People should stop complaining about how other people want to help this world be a kinder place.  People should be free to help in whatever way they want.  If you feel that there are too many strays here in this country or other ways we can spend our money and time, then maybe YOU should try helping instead of telling people what they should do and how they should do it.  We need more compassionate people in this world.  Be the change you want to see, people.  Never criticize someone who is kind. 

K Siembida Sr
K Siembida Sr

And, we are euthanizing strays at every SPCA Kennel in every state in the USA. It is paramount to adopting foreign babies, when we already have so many of our own who need care. Doesn't make sense to me !

José Lira
José Lira

Positive people, made positive projects ...!!!

Congratulation guys !

D Flagg
D Flagg

Calm down folks --- people help when and where they can and see fit --- it is not up to you to decide where someones charity and compassion comes from! 

KENNETH LANE
KENNETH LANE

And how many children could have been supported with food for a year with the cost of this sillyness?

vernon allen
vernon allen

my goodness,we have so many waiting adoption here and we bring more in?

Share

Feed the World

See blogs, stories, photos, and news »

Latest From Nat Geo

See more photos »