Dog enthusiasts are mobilizing to rescue numerous stray dogs in Russia’s Far East following a decision by authorities to initiate euthanasia. In the Eastern Siberian town of Ulan-Ude, near the Mongolian border, 18 dogs have already been euthanized. However, a positive response from compassionate individuals has led to the relocation of 600 dogs via train to new homes or private shelters across Russia.
Volunteer Stella Ovsoyan shared with BBC Russian that many kind-hearted individuals are reaching out, boarding trains heading to various destinations such as Moscow, St Petersburg, Kazan, Khabarovsk, and Vladivostok. Their primary objective is to save these dogs from impending death, regardless of the dog’s appearance.
At Ulan-Ude’s central station, where the temperature is a frigid -20°C, a group of people eagerly awaits the next train, each accompanied by a dog on a leash or cradled in their arms. These dogs will be placed in a designated carriage and entrusted to the care of the train conductor, ensuring their safe journey to new destinations.
The stray dog issue poses a significant challenge for Russia’s Republic of Buryatia, prompting controversial decisions by local authorities to resume culling. In contrast to the more humane policies implemented nationwide in 2020, which emphasized capturing, sterilizing, vaccinating, and releasing strays, Buryatia opted to return to the previous practice of culling.
Ulan-Ude, with almost half a million population, faces recurring incidents of stray dog bites. Activists argue that neglect is at the root of the problem, citing instances where people abandon dogs after a short period or discard litter of puppies on the streets. Local laws, they lament, fail to hold individuals accountable for such behavior.
Rescuing these dogs costs approximately 5,000 roubles (£44; $55) per journey to safety. Despite the successful rescue of hundreds, activists stress that around 2,000 more dogs still need saving. Financial support from volunteers and well-wishers has been crucial, as some who cannot adopt try to contribute funds for the dogs’ transportation.
Amidst the challenges, animal welfare volunteer Stella Ovsoyan acknowledges the difficulty of choosing which dogs to send to safety and highlights the uncertainty those left behind face. Yet, the hope of providing these dogs a new lease of life keeps her committed, reinforced by messages from new owners expressing gratitude for their adopted pets’ improved lives.