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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Animal Rights Activists Rally to Save Strays

About 100 animal rights activists and pet owners rallied Wednesday on Pushkin Square to protest what they called a city plan to destroy thousands of stray dogs and cats.

Mayor Yury Luzhkov signed a law five years ago that prohibits the killing of stray animals and requires authorities instead to castrate or spay them. But protesters said a City Hall department planned to soften the ban to allow strays deemed aggressive, ill or disabled to be put to sleep.

"They will simply kill all the stray animals on their territories if the proposal is approved," said Irina Novozhilova, head of Vita, an animal rights organization.

Protesters said the proposal was part of a program being prepared by Moscow's residential services department, which oversees stray animals in the city, among other things.

Marina Orlova, spokeswoman for the residential services department, denied that plans were afoot to crack down on strays. "We have prepared updated rules for keeping dogs and cats in Moscow for people who have pets," she said.

Animal rights organizations disagreed, publishing a document on their web sites that they said had come from the department and showed otherwise.

Moscow residents own about 3 million dogs, Orlova said. In comparison, an estimated 23,000 to 26,000 stray dogs are roaming the streets.