The Russian government has reportedly been pressuring FIFA World Cup host cities to rid their streets of stray dogs by any means necessary, prompting cities to poison the animals in the thousands ahead of next month’s tournament, according to media reports and a Change.org petition.
Nearly two million people have signed the petition, which was started by animal rights activist Yekaterina Dmitriyeva after she discovered nearly $2 million worth of government tenders set up to resolve the issue of stray animals.
Dmitriyeva told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) that the tenders all use similar language, with some talking about “euthanasia” and others calling for “destruction” of animals.
“This is an enormous sum… for this money, they could pay to sterilize, vaccinate and care for these animals, but they prefer to just kill them,” she told RFE/RL.
The tenders include a $560,000 contract in the city of Yekaterinburg, which was uncovered by the Washington Post.
The Telegraph reported that dogs and cats have been turning up dead with poison darts attached to their bodies ever since Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko directed cities to resolve the stray animal problem in December.
According to the Telegraph, the city of Sochi contracted the services of pest control firm Basya Services to “capture” some 3,500 stray animals.
In 2014, the director of Basya Services told the Associated Press that his company had been contracted to “catch and dispose” of stray dogs prior to the Winter Olympics in Sochi.
Companies who win animal control contracts are paid per animal, which incentivizes them to capture or kill as many as possible, the Moscow Times reported.
Some companies will then contract people who enjoy killing stray dogs for sport, known as “dog hunters,” according to a separate petition (WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT) calling for the notorious “dog-hunters” to be brought to justice.
The World Cup kicks off June 14 with host nation Russia taking on Saudi Arabia in the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, with the final to be held at the same stadium on July 15.
Ten other cities will also be hosting World Cup matches.