Let me start by saying I am in no way advocating the slaughter of your child’s pet.
As usual, I am addressing more than one subject.
Everybody loves dogs. Even people who are afraid of dogs love dogs. They’re loving and loyal, cute and cuddly. Stories about animals invoke more empathy than those about humans. How could anyone hurt a dog?
Perhaps it is because, as descendants of wolves and brothers of hyenas, dogs are predators. Left to their own devices a dog returns to pariah or even feral behavior rather quickly. Born in the wild dogs are not domesticated pets, no matter how cute they are. When I worked in Animal Control, one of the more frequently asked questions about stray dogs was “will he bite?” (regardless of the dog’s sex). The only answer I could give was based in honesty. “He has teeth”.
Like people, dogs can be deceptive, the “fiercest” dogs can be playful, the cutest dogs can be vicious.
As with any ethical issue, controlling stray dogs gets bound to emotional responses. People portraying themselves as humane and loving feel perfectly comfortable threatening violence including murder against human beings involved in animal control. Even dogs that have attacked children receive more sympathy than their victims.
In Sochi, Russia, this drama is playing out on a world stage. The same people who denounce plans to humanely remove wild dogs as bureaucratic doublespeak don’t even pause before sliding into their own slanderous comments. Facts are denied and speculation sworn to as truth.
Located in a largely uninhabited area, Sochi is a resort on the Black Sea at the foot of the Caucacus mountains. With the onslaught of construction leading up to the Olympics, the wild dogs that run through the area congregated near the new source of food and shelter. Most reports, from both sides of the issue, place the number of dogs in the thousands. These are not stray pets, there are not thousands of children missing their puppies along the Georgian border.
The local authorities contracted to have the dogs removed. This is where it goes goofy. While most people agree the dogs were disease ridden and had attacked people (some say “there is no evidence of attacks” and then make unsupported claims about impossible numbers of dogs killed), the idea of killing the dogs flipped the logic switch to the “off” position. Accounts have routinely referred to shooting and poisoning dogs, by the hundreds and even thousands. This should cause even the blindest activist to question stories referring to the thousands of dogs that have been saved. If you can have it both ways there must have been an incredible initial population of dogs. Maybe some were wolves?
There is no verification of how many dogs were killed, or how. Shooting can be humane, as someone who at one time performed euthanasia six hours a day I can tell you that animal suffering is easily absorbed, being humane is in the human’s best interest. Indiscriminate poisoning is crazy, again, the object is to kill, and randomly poisoned bait can be picked up by undesired targets, or be insufficient doses to kill the animal that does pick it up. If someone is being paid per carcass, there’s no proof of death if random poison is used. Have tranquilizer darts been used? Probably, they are a safe (for the officer) and humane (for the dog) approach. But “Poisoning” and “Shooting” are manipulatively used words, yanking at the same emotions that were being manipulated with the choice to use pictures of cute puppies instead of the wild dogs chasing children down the street.
Is there room for improvement in the world of Russian animal control? Without question. But in my mind, those improvements can wait until Russia can start treating humans more humanely. For many Russians, being treated like a dog is a step up.