BY TYLER BATTEN
The Sochi Games are rife with controversy, but perhaps, among the many, none have gone so viral and pulled on as many western heartstrings as the mass extermination of hundreds, some say thousands, of stray dogs.
The Sochi stray news is all the more biting following the widespread rumour that Chinese and eastern European clothing manufacturers have, for years, been using dog fur as hood liners for jackets, calling it faux fur, and selling it to the fashion-forward West.
Controversy surrounding faux fur clothing and the concept of mass dog culls is nothing new, and is by no means limited to the “gay-bashing, dog-slaughtering Sochi Olympics.” We have our own problems right here in Canada.
In the early spring of 2013 I found a feral Rottweiler puppy in a parking lot of a rural Manitoba strip mall. At the time, she weighed about 30 pounds and was extremely emaciated. She wasn’t the only puppy in that parking lot.
In the small town of The Pas there are dozens, if not hundreds, of dogs roaming around, looking for food. Unlike here in Kitchener, stray dogs aren’t picked up by local humane societies and sheltered until they’re adopted out, or killed if they’re unpopular amongst adoptees. They are hunted, shot, poisoned or otherwise neglected from the time they’re born.
The well-known practice of leaving a litter of puppies alone and waiting to see which ones survive before picking a keeper is rumoured to still be in widespread use across the North. The population problem arises when dogs survive their harsh upbringing, but don’t return to their owners because they’ve learned to live without.
According to North American statistics, only one out of every 10 dogs born will find a permanent home.
A petition to “ban dog shoots in Manitoba,” was launched in early April 2013 by Paw Tipsters owner Yvonne Russel. The intent of the petition was to have provincial legislation passed which would see the province responsible for the sterilization of free-ranging dogs.
Shortly after launching the provincial petition, Russel realized the scope of the problem and took the campaign national, calling on the federal government and First Nations’ communities to address the issue of dog shootings.
The petition garnered over 17,000 signatures nationwide but has yet to be addressed by the federal government in any formal way.
Failure to address the issue has led good Samaritan Emma Lees to take up the fight against animal cruelty and abandonment.
Lees founded a private animal shelter in her garage in The Pas during the autumn of 2013. She currently has 12 dogs in her care, but at one time had 17.
“God, there are so many pups running around. One of the reasons why is because the sterilization process is rather expensive and a lot of people can’t afford that money straight up,” Lees said. “We don’t have a humane society here, so if a dog goes to the pound it has 48 hours until it’s put down.”
“… ‘It takes a village,’ is one of our major mantras when it comes to this work – we can’t do it alone. Everybody needs to take heart in the animal control issue,” Lees said.
A different petition calling for the end of “the mass killing of stray dogs” in Sochi was launched by a New York woman following American press coverage of the cull. The petition has already amassed 13,000 signatures; its rally cry reads, “this is only a ‘problem’ because of the lack of laws and regulations in animal protection and cruelty the country has never instilled.”
Just days after the petition was launched, Russian billionaire and Olympics contractor, Oleg Deripaska, founded a shelter on the edge of town, where volunteers are invited to bring strays. The shelter is now home to over 100 Sochi dogs.
Meanwhile, the struggle to sterilize and house stray dogs across Canada drags on.