Rescuers Rush to Save Sochi's Stray Dogs

The stray dogs of Sochi are cute and they're everywhere. But the city—concerned about disruptions of the games and, more seriously, the potential public health hazard—wants them gone before tomorrow's opening ceremony. And so locals, concerned they'll meet a gruesome end, are racing to rescue as many as possible.

Amid reports of a major cull, the New York Times reports on the efforts of one rescue organization, backed by a Russian billionaire (and major investor in the games):

"We were told, 'Either you take all the dogs from the Olympic Village or we will shoot them,' " said Olga Melnikova, who is coordinating the rescue effort on behalf of a charity called Volnoe Deloe (roughly, Good Will), which is financed by Oleg V. Deripaska, one of Russia's billionaire oligarchs.

"On Monday we were told we have until Thursday," Ms. Melnikova said.

So far they've rounded up about 80 dogs so far, taking them to a makeshift shelter outside of town. The Boston Globe interviewed Vlada Provotorova, a dog-loving Sochi dentist, who's working with other volunteers to gather up strays, and CBS News talked to a Sochi resident who's already taken 17 puppies into her own home. Many animal rights activists and volunteers accuse the city of poisoning strays, rather than taking a more humane approach.

Meanwhile, the IOC has issued a statement that only sick dogs are being put down—others are just being temporarily "taken into custody" so they can't disrupt the games. "It would be absolutely wrong to say that any healthy dog will be destroyed," an IOC spokesman told reporters. Right, just like Fido's going to a farm upstate. (Besides, how much control does the IOC have outside of the Olympic Village?)

There's obviously no easy solution at this point, and no one wants to see strays tearing into visitors. But just a tiny fraction of Sochi's enormous overall budget probably would've gone a long way toward dealing with this more humanely.

Photo via Getty