Russian President Vladimir Putin is getting international heat for Sochi's decision to kill the city's stray dogs ahead of Friday's official opening of the 2014 Winter Olympics.
Struan Stevenson, a conservative member of the European Parliament, accused Putin of 'breath-taking' hypocrisy for once posing with a Persian leopard to show his concern for the environment and animal rights while seeming to condone the elimination of Sochi's huge stray dog population.
'Putin has spent over $50 million in Sochi, making this by far the most expensive Winter Olympics ever,' Stevenson said. 'It is a tragedy that some of that money could not have been used for the sterilization and re-homing of Sochi's stray dog population. The massacre of these animals stains the snow of Sochi with blood before the games get underway."
The International Olympic Committee said in a statement that the Russian Olympic organizing committee assured it that Sochi's strays are being handled in a humane manner.
'All stray dogs that are found on the Olympic Park are collected by a professional veterinary contractor for the well-being of the people on the Park and the animals themselves,' the IOC said in a statement Monday. 'The dogs are being handled by professional veterinary staff, who carry out a full health examination off-site and look to locate the relevant owner. All healthy animals are released following their health check."
The Scottish European Parliament member said Sochi Mayor Anatoly Pakhomov promised that the city would capture, sterilize, and care for the strays by building a dog shelter.
But he said the shelter was never built and Pakhomov instead hired a private company to round up and kill the dogs. He said the animals are being shot with poison darts.
'Posing with a leopard cub will not distract the world from Putin's breath-taking duplicity and culpability in the massacre of helpless animals,' Stevenson said. 'If the Kremlin is genuinely trying to forge closer ties with Europe, they should bear in mind the importance of our animal welfare policies enshrined within the Lisbon Treaty."