City Hall Plans to Neuter 50,000 Stray Dogs

MTA memorial to Malchik, a stray that was stabbed to death by a female fashion model near Mendeleyevskaya metro.
City Hall is spending $64 million to neuter as many as 50,000 stray dogs because of a rising number of attacks on people.

A Soviet-era policy of shooting homeless animals was abandoned in 2002. Mayor Yury Luzhkov, under pressure from animal-rights groups to uphold the ban, has now decided on a two-year program to stop the dogs from breeding, said Natalya Sokolova, the city's top animal official.

More than 22,000 Muscovites were bitten last year, a rate of 60 a day. One-third of these were hospitalized with severe injuries, and more than 90 percent were inoculated for rabies, according to the Federal Consumer Protection Service.

"We can't go around and exterminate the dogs," Luzhkov said in an interview broadcast on TV Center this month. "All the animal-rights activists are dead set against that. But the number of dogs is rising. This is a very serious problem, and it's very difficult to resolve."

The city is building 15 shelters to house 30,000 dogs by the end of next year at a cost of 1.5 billion rubles ($64 million), Sokolova said. The animals will be neutered and returned to where they were caught after a 10-day recovery period. Luzhkov, 71, started a neutering program in 2002, though a lack of kennels limited the procedure to 10,000 animals a year.

By comparison, London, Europe's second-largest city, has a single shelter, the privately run Battersea Dog's Home, which can accommodate just 700 dogs.

"It's madness," Sokolova said of the program's budget. "It'd be better to spend this money on building kindergartens or schools.''

Cases of cruelty to strays have generated public indignation. Officials at the Mendeleyevskaya metro station erected a bronze statue last year of Malchik, or Boy, a dog who lived in the subway for three years before being stabbed to death by a female fashion model after her dog attacked the stray.

The woman was committed to a psychiatric hospital because of the killing, according to Irina Novozhilova, head of the animal-rights group Vita.

The attacks often occur in parks and near subway stations, where dogs gather in large groups.