On the eve of Euro-2012 the situation with stray animals in Ukraine was discussed by the whole world community. Even such world starts as Brigitte Bardot, Alain Delon and Pamela Anderson made a stand for stray cats and dogs in our country. However, after the end of the championship the story coverage is becoming less and less intense, though the problem has not gone anywhere.

Collective "wough"

The problem is that it is almost impossible to count all stray animals living in the streets - "wanderers" never stay in one place. However, there is a nominal formula, according to which there is one stray dog per every 200 residents of a city. It means that there are estimated 15-20 thousand stray dogs 'living' in Kyiv. According to the unofficial calculations, back in 2010 there were already 30 thousand stray dogs in the capital. If dog packs always come in sight, listing stray cats is out of the question - cats are smaller, quicker and prefer hiding. Anyway, the army of woughing and miaowing animals is impressive.

The statistics on stray animals in Kyiv is being carried out by the communal enterprise "Identification center of animals". However, the center's specialists count only those animals, which passed the sterilization procedure and were returned to volunteers. 11.3 thousand stray dogs were registered in the center from October 2007 till June 2012, and 10.3 thousand of them were vaccinated against rabies. And this is only a small part of all stray dogs remaining in the streets.

Good sad volunteer

Not every the four-legged gets lucky to find a protector. There are one state shelter and one communal shelter in Kyiv, four big public animal protection organizations and several city mini-shelters. The total capacity of their premises is not limitless. Maximum what they can take is 5-6 thousand stray animals. If the financing is sufficient the shelters may sterilize, vaccinate and treat the animals. Sometime they find them new homes.

The major problem of all shelters is financing. President of SOS animal protection society Tamara Tarnavska has been working with stray animals for over 20 years. She even once renounced a prestigious job in a UN department. However, the taking care of stray cats and dogs no longer makes her happy. "Every day I feel like losing it. There are more than a thousand dogs and about 200 cats in our shelter in Pirogovo. We lack of financing and now face the shutdown.  Western foreign organizations used to help us for 20 years, but now have ceased financing. They do not understand why they must take money from their citizens and send it to a country with plenty of luxurious Maybach. But our Ukrainian oligarchs do not hurry to help neither people nor animals. We are forced to ask the European Union for help, and most responses come from pensioners," she says sadly.

Hundreds of thousands hryvnias are needed to maintain one big shelter. "Sirius" shelter, for example, survives thanks to donations from kind and not indifferent people. The shelter takes help in any form - money, medicine, food or advertising support. The cost sheet of the shelter is published on internet to make shelter's work as transparent as possible in order to attract more sponsors. According to the shelter's workers, the major part of financing goes to transportation and nutrition of animals.

"Sirius" also works with coming volunteers, who may take care of one or two animals, feeding them while looking for permanent home. Olga, one of such coming volunteers, told us that with the help of social networks she managed to find a new master for a crippled dog in Germany. "I hope she is doing fine there," Olga says.

President of the Kyiv animal protection society "Animal Hope" Natalia Nepochatova says that volunteers do not find much support among the population. "Many people do not understand why volunteers work for free or even spend their own money and consider us strange and inadequate. Nobody wants to believe that people can make good just like this, expecting nothing in return."
"A volunteer may take one or two, or even three dogs at home, but he inevitably faces problems with the communal services and neighbors. Nobody wants to see the problem in Ukraine, not speaking about solving it," Tamara Tarnavska adds.

Dog hunters

On the eve of Euro-2012, the so-called 'dog hunters' movement pressed forward. People, calling themselves activists, were merely killing stray animals, and sometimes even home pets, left unattended. The dog hunters motivate their actions by rabies threat coming from stray animals. However, according to the main department of veterinary medicine in Kyiv, no rabies cases were registered in 2009-2010. Three rabies cases (two stray dogs and one cat) were registered in 2011. One rabies case (a home dog) has been registered this year.

Stray animals do attack people, it's hard to argue with that, and it is a big problem. Beaten people never know for sure if a dog or a cat is infected. Rabies is incurable disease and always fatal. 

To be fair, we should mention that home pets also bite their masters. According to the official statistics, in 2004, 4.5 thousand Kyiv residents addressed hospitals for anti-rabies vaccine after being beaten by their pets, and 1.8 thousand, beaten by stray animals. But starting from 2009, people have been beaten mostly by stray animals. The last year statistics shows that the figures are almost equal: 2.9 thousand home bites against 2.7 street bites. However, the matter concerns not the pure statistics, but people, responsible for this problem. We are talking about not those poor victims, beaten in the streets, but about those careless individuals who first bring puppies and kitties home and then throw them out.

If a person is beaten by an animal, especially a big one, it may result in a stress or even a phobia. However, killing one and all animals is not a way out. It is inhumane and penal. The problem is that dog hunters get rarely accused or punished for their actions and they are not afraid to demonstrate their activity publicly. Very often dog hunters film their massacres to show on internet and to promote such attitude. 

Dog's luck

Both Ukrainian and foreign animal activists declare that the best solution ever of this problem is total sterilization of stray cats and dogs. "Average life time of stray cats and dogs is ten years. Taking the reproduction under control, it is possible to significantly reduce the population with humane methods," Tamara Tarnavska says. In fact, the majority of the EU countries have solved the problem with this very method.

This spring Ukraine also started to sterilize its stray dogs. However, the campaign was selective, and dog hunters were killing already sterilized animals. "If you do not plan on breeding, sterilize your pet, so one or two shelter dogs will have a chance to find home," Natalia Nepochatova says.

At the same time, practicing psychologist Natalia Naidyonova believes the problem should be approached from the very beginning, meaning people who bring pets home. According to her, people appreciate things more if they spend time or money on them. The psychologist recommends dog breeders or shelter workers not to give pets for free, but to take at least minimal fee and to ask for some guarantees. "Of course it won't stop some people from throwing out a pet, but at least it will make most people feel more responsible for the animal," she says. Among other important factors to solve the problem, the specialist pointed out social advertising and promotion of humanity and love to animals.

Western countries take the problem seriously. Recently, one of the American TV channels carried out a risky project, during which the convicted were taking care of Pit Bull Terriers. The dogs used to participate in dogfights, but the TV channel decided to prove that even such aggressive dogs (as well as people) could be reeducated. According to the project authors, the idea was to demonstrate that bad things can happen to anyone and it is important to show humanity and to share someone's pain and sufferings.

In this contest, an old joke about "nobody's problem" comes to mind. A mouse arrives in the stalls for domestic animals and complains about a mousetrap the farmer put to kill it. A chicken, sheep and cow say the problem does not concern them. But in the evening the trap catches a snake, which bites the wife of the farmer. To ease the pain of his wife the farmer kills the chicken to make broth, then sells the sheep to cover expenses for medicine and finally kills the cow to feed the relatives of the wife, who came to visit her after the accident. For the whole time, the mouse has been quietly sitting in the corner. The moral is that social problems cannot be "nobody's" problems, and both the authorities and citizens must unite to solve them.

Alina Yeremeyeva


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