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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Plaintiff Wins Rare Judgment Against Dog Poisoner

In a rare example of the authorities taking action against animal abuse, a court in Volgograd has ordered a man to pay 6 million rubles for using rat poison to kill a neighbor's dog.

"This is the first such case in Russia that we know of," said Yulia Khmelkova, director of the Volgograd Fund for the Protection of Animals. The fund provided a lawyer for the plaintiff, a 20-year-old woman whose boxer died.

The case is unusual in that this is the first time in Khmelkova's memory that a plaintiff actually won an animal rights case. She said most courts throw out such cases, which can be difficult to prove.

But in this instance, Khmelkova said, the defendant confessed and there were many eyewitnesses.

The case arose in an apartment complex in Volgograd. Defendant Vladimir Ivanov, who lives in a first-floor apartment facing the courtyard, had complained that the dogs made too much noise, scratched under his windows, and left behind excrement.

Ivanov had previously threatened to poison the local dogs, she said, and on the night of March 1, he scattered rodent poison around the courtyard about an hour before the dogs were usually let out. An hour and a half after they went out, the dogs began having convulsions.

Three dogs died, but only one owner, Masha Mayorova, filed suit against Ivanov. Mayorova, who was in the hospital for an operation at the time, had won second place in a writing contest on the theme "My Favorite Pet" about her boxer, Inga.

"She was a family member to me, like a daughter. When you lose a person, that's how it felt," said Mayorova. "This is a dangerous man. That poison is harmful to people. He scattered it on the ground where children walk."

According to Khmelkova, some of the victims testified in court, but no one signed on as a co-plaintiff because they didn't think they could win.

"We were preparing ourselves morally that we would lose the case." said Khmelkova.

But the court decided otherwise. On June 25, the court ordered Ivanov to pay Mayorova 3 million rubles for the loss of her dog and an additional 3 million rubles for moral compensation. The announcement was met with applause in the courtroom.

"This is an enormous accomplishment." said Vera Maksimova, vice president of the Moscow-based Russian Society for the Protection of Animals. "This is an excellent example for animal lovers." She said she had never heard of such a case being successful in Russia.

A spokesperson at the Volgograd central civil office, which accepts appeals, confirmed that Ivanov has filed an appeal in the oblast court. The case will be heard in August or September, the spokesperson said. Neither Ivanov nor his lawyer could be reached.

Article 245 of the Russian criminal code punishes cruelty to animals with fines of up to 800 times the minimum monthly wage, or about $11,100 at the current wage, or by imprisonment for up to two years. But cases are not brought, Maksimova and Khmelkova said.

"People do not want to fulfill their civic responsibility." said Maksimova. "No matter how we try to persuade them, many people don't want to testify, or they are afraid, or they don't want to fill out the necessary forms, so unfortunately, reporting the crime is as far as it goes."