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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Your Pets May Require a Propiska




They will have to receive a Moscow registration. They will need an official permit to reproduce. Finally, they will be billed for utility and trash removal, gas and water.


In short, the wild days may be over for Moscow's pets - if the bill on animals, which overwhelmingly passed its first reading in the Moscow City Duma last Friday, becomes law.


According to the explanatory note that accompanies the bill, which was spearheaded by Deputy Andrei Shirokov, the legislation could result in a dramatic decrease in homeless animals by putting pet reproduction under control. It will also ban apartment-based pet shelters and create revenue for special exercise facilities for animals, like dog-walking parks.


"The bill is aimed at protecting vertebrate animals, their owners and petless neighbors," said Shirokov's assistant, Marina Orlova.


The bill, which is expected to hear its second reading in about two months, proposes obligatory paid registration for dogs and other pets weighing more than 50 kilograms: 28 rubles (roughly $1) a year for private owners; 42 rubles (about $1.40) for companies.


According to Orlova, animal owners, in order to register pets at veterinary clinics or special municipal organizations, would also have to produce documents describing their living conditions - a step designed to "stop the practice of using apartments for private animal shelters," she said.


Currently, there is no official regulation on the number of pets that can be kept in an apartment; many animal lovers use their homes to shelter dozens of stray cats and dogs.


"We receive infinite numbers of phone calls and letters from people complaining about their animal-related troubles, about neighbors who keep up to 20 dogs that are loud, smelly and dirty," Orlova said.


However, city vets said the rough registration rules may actually deal a blow to pets' standard of living.


Oleg Fedorchik, chief veterinarian at the Ideal pet clinic, said if pet owners are allowed to register only a few animals, "home shelters will go into hiding and will avoid registration and vaccination."


"Such a practice will increase the number of ill animals," Fedorchik said, adding that he personally "will not limit registration to one or two [animals] per household."


But Orlova said the bill could also eliminate the need for home-based shelters, since it aims to decrease the city's stray population - currently estimated at 200,000 dogs and an unknown number of cats - by stipulating strict regulations on animals' reproductive activities.


In December, the State Duma, or lower house of parliament, passed legislation - later vetoed by the president - that would have made mandatory the neutering and spaying of pets. While Shirokov's bill does not insist on neutering, it stipulates that pet owners must receive special reproductive permits for animals. The permits can only be issued if the pet owners produce written requests from the owners of potential offspring, although Orlova could not precisely explain how this part of the bill could be enforced.


The proposed legislation also suggests that pet owners should pay rent for their pets. The rent - no more than 42 rubles per year per pet for animals over 70 kilograms, and no more than 8.3 rubles for smaller animals - is intended to cover the cost of utilities, trash removal, water and gas.


"Since owners cook for their animals and wash them, and since the animals create certain dirt, they should pay for all these things," Orlova said.


Although the rent and registration fees are minimal, Orlova said they will go a long way when multiplied by Moscow's roughly 1.5 million pet owners. The revenues would be used not only to construct dog-walking parks, but to finance free emergency veterinary services as well.


Part of the money will also be used to finance random dog-document checks on the street - "just like the police check people's passports," Orlova said.


While some Muscovites - like Irina Gaidakova, who said she approved of the bill's promise to separate dog-walking facilities from children's playgrounds - favor the legislation, others criticized the registration and rent regulations such a bill would impose.


"I don't mind paying a few dollars a year for my dog, but these regulations remind me of the laws they have for humans, the document checks in particular," said Valery Gnezdilov, owner of Bublik, a 7-month-old mutt. "Next thing we know, we'll have to pay registration fees and rent for cockroaches."