Packs of abandoned pets go on the rampage in Moscow

Not all abandoned animals manage to survive the homeless life

Stray animals, both everyday and exotic, can be frequently seen on Moscow's streets. People living in a Moscow apartment building said they had noticed a strange animal wandering around with homeless cats in their yard. The shaggy-haired, malting animal was making a squeaking noise near their front door. It had a lame paw: at first it was limping, then it started crawling on its belly. One of the tenants of the apartment building, a tender-hearted woman, could not stand to see the animal die, and so she called the WWF.

Chairwoman of the WWF information center, Ekaterina Pal, said the strange animal was just a polecat. Its forefoot was fractured in two places. Vets treated the animal. It is not known how a polecat could have found itself in the center of Moscow. Ekaterina believes it used to be someone's pet, but it was abandoned when its owners tired of it.

Such occurrences are frequent in Moscow. A member of the Moscow vet association, Olga Akimcheva, said Muscovites find rabbits, grass-snakes and even mongooses by apartment buildings. It is not usually difficult to catch exotic homeless animals like this which are exhausted from trauma and bad health. “A monkey recently turned up on our premises. It was shivering all over with cold. The poor animal was frightened and exhausted. Its neck and wrists were bruised. Apparently, monkey owners had purchased it as a 'talisman' since it was the year of the monkey, and tortured it to their hearts' content. Then they simply threw it on to the street,” Ekaterina said. “We helped the monkey and took it to the Moscow Zoo.”

Needless to mention, not all abandoned animals manage to survive the homeless life. Zoologists say homeless pets form rather aggressive packs and can sometimes attack people. This mostly refers to homeless dogs, of which there are an estimated 30,000 in Moscow. A horrific incident took place in one Moscow district, when an old lady died from dog bites. This year, ninety-eight people have been attacked by abandoned pets. Fifteen of them are still in hospital.

Elizaveta Sukhova had to stay in hospital for over a month to recover from lacerations to her legs, hands and arms. “A pack of rabid dogs appeared at the power station where I worked. We tried not to approach them alone, but that day I had to walk past them on my own. The dogs cornered me. They were as wild as wolves. I screamed, workers rushed to help me and called an ambulance,” Elizaveta says.

“People are often to blame for making pets behave like wild predators,” EMERCOM vet Yulia Milenina says. “People buy animals for fun. Not all of them think it’s a big responsibility. The majority of street animals used to be pets. When they find themselves alone in the street, they grow wild, breed and spread infections. Needless to say, nobody inoculates them, and they become dangerous. Packs of abandoned dogs are a common sight in Moscow.”

The Moscow sanitary service, in co-ordination with the Moscow government, has developed a special program to sterilize all stray dogs and cats. It plans to catch and sterilize 75 percent (over 50,000) of homeless animals by the end of 2005. Shelters for pets that have been operated on will be set up in Moscow in 2005. The program will cost seven million rubles.

Animal charities put forward a less expensive, albeit a more humane proposal. Muscovites can take homeless pets into their homes, feed them and take care of them as much as they want. District administrations could pay small wages to such volunteers. People will grow kinder and animals will feel happier. However, it is unlikely the plan will be implemented.

Meanwhile, our correspondent from Chelyabinsk reports that stray dogs attacked a 58-year-old woman while she walked with her grandson. In an attempt to save the child, the woman tried desperately to stave off the animals. As a result, she was hospitalized with numerous lacerations to her legs. In Murmansk, dogs attacked a 14-year-old girl and mutilated her face. The girl needed 15 stitches to her face.

Leskova Natalia

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Author`s name Olga Savka