STOP Russia from legalising concentration camps for stray cats and dogs

There is no animal welfare legislation in Russia. Hundreds of thousands of stray cats and dogs die every year from hunger, cold, disease, inhumane killings by municipal authorities and by organised criminal groups called "dog hunters". Often municipal shelters are run by corrupt private companies who divert millions of dollars from municipal budgets into their pockets whilst letting the dogs suffer and die in filthy and cramped conditions, starved and without proper veterinary care.

There is a lot of mystery and secrecy surrounding the preparation of a revised draft Statute "On responsible handling of animals" for the second reading by the State Duma (Russian legislator). There is no transparency about its content, status and the fate of the amendments proposed by reputable Russian animal welfare charities whose representatives have been excluded from the consultation process.

There are strong indications that the draft Statute, which may be approved in the second reading by the State Duma any time now, will legalise so called "euthanasia" of stray animals as the sole method of population management for municipal authorities. If this happens, there is no doubt that it will create yet another opportunity for corrupt schemes to be set up in order to extract huge sums from municipal budgets  - in theory to buy drugs for humane euthanasia but in reality thousands of stray dogs and cats will be killed every day in the cheapest possible inhumane ways and regardless of their chances to survive and be re-homed.

Worse still, the draft Statute does not deal with the cause of the overpopulation problem. There are no effective legislative proposals for fighting against cruelty, no encouragement for or culture of sterilisation, no pet breeding or pet trade regulation. So the effect of this "euthanasia" will be no more than the creation of legalised permanent killing factories for stray cats and dogs.

Dear Mr President, Mr Narishkin and Mr Kashin,

We write to you in respect of a draft Statute "On responsible handling of animals" No 458458-5 ("the draft" or "the draft Statute"). It was approved by the State Duma in the first reading on 23 March 2011.

We are gravely concerned about the fate of the draft Statute and the circumstances surrounding its current status. Although the draft approved in March 2011 required significant improvements, it established the principles of humane treatment of a number of categories of animals including stray animals, responsibility for cruelty to animals, TNR programmes (trap, neuter and release) as the method of stray overpopulation management. It was a good start.

Since then there has been nothing but secrecy surrounding further progress of the draft. There is no publicly available information about the current content or status of a revised draft which, as we understand it, is being prepared for the imminent second reading by the State Duma. There is no information on the fate of the amendments proposed by reputable Russian animal welfare charities. The representatives of these charities have been excluded from the consultation process. Well known international animal welfare charities, which have extensive experience in stray population management worldwide, have not been consulted on the draft.

Further, Mr Shingarkin, the head of a working group within the Committee of the State Duma on natural resources, use of nature and ecology responsible for collating comments and revising the draft Statute, appears to have little relevant experience and has made unsympathetic and unhelpful comments in public about the progress and the content of the draft. Further still, it appears that the working group now includes people who are sympathetic to "dog hunters" - criminal organisations in Russia who kill and torture dogs.

We understand that the revised draft Statute provides for "euthanasia" of stray cats and dogs. It is clear that overpopulation of cats and dogs is a problem in Russia. However, it is common knowledge that municipal schemes for managing overpopulation are ineffective and corrupt. Dogs are captured and killed in inhumane ways in many parts of Russia. Often municipal shelters are run by corrupt private companies and civil servants to divert millions of dollars from municipal budgets into their pockets whilst letting the dogs suffer and die in filthy conditions, starved and/or frozen to death and without proper veterinary care.

The proposed "euthanasia" will create yet another opportunity for corrupt schemes to be set up to extract huge sums from municipal budgets - in theory to buy drugs for euthanasia but in reality thousands of stray cats and dogs will be killed every day in the cheapest possible inhumane ways regardless of their chances to survive and be re-homed. What is more, is that indiscriminate killing is proven to be an ineffective tool for overpopulation management. The numbers go back up and quickly.

Worse still, the draft Statute does not deal with the cause of the overpopulation problem. It is proven at the international level by well known international animal welfare charities that TNR programmes (trap, neuter and release) are effective and humane. What is required is proper commitment and organisation. It must be handled by reputable and experienced animal charities.

It must be recognised that stray overpopulation is a complex issue that requires comprehensive legislation. Legislation must provide appropriate punishment for cruelty (heavy fines and imprisonment) and an effective enforcement mechanism. Legislation must create incentives for sterilisation, regulate pet breeding and pet trade, provide for animal welfare education for vets, encourage education programmes for responsible pet care. The effect of the current proposals will simply be the creation of legalised permanent killing factories for stray cats and dogs.

Therefore, we respectfully request the following:

1. Legislation that imposes appropriate and effective punishment for cruelty to animals. It is recognised worldwide that people who have committed crimes of violence towards people were often cruel towards animals earlier in their lives.

2. Legislation which establishes that animals are sentient beings

3. Legislation that provides humane ways of dealing with the causes of stray overpopulation and takes into account the current experience and practices of reputable international animal welfare charities

4. Constructive consultation process involving representatives of reputable Russian animal welfare charities such as LAPA (Helping animals in Russia), Giving Hope, Virta and VITA.

5. Transparency in relation to the draft Statute


6. The removal of Mr Shingarkin from the working group

We respectfully request an urgent action on your part to resolve the above concerns. Russia must become a place of zero tolerance towards corruption and cruelty to animals.

Any questions and responses should be addressed to Natalia Chumak, Founder and Trustee of a UK animal welfare charity LAPA (Helping animals in Russia).

A list of signatures supporting this petition letter is attached.

Yours sincerely

LAPA (Helping animals in Russia)

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