Russian billionaire steps in to save Sochi’s stray dogs

Russian billionaire steps in to save Sochi’s stray dogs

A Russian billionaire is making a last-ditch effort to save Sochi's stray dogs from death sentences.

Oleg V. Deripask is funding a makeshift dog shelter to provide safety for the animals targeted by an initiative to clean up Sochi's streets.

In recent months, the Russian government authorized a pest removal company to "catch and dispose" of the hundreds of stray dogs in Sochi, citing that the canines were too dangerous to be left roaming around on their own. Since October, about 300 dogs have been killed every month, outraging animal activists around the world.

Deripaska, a major investor in the Sochi games, is hoping to save many of the remaining dogs from systematic death-by-chemical-injection.

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Deripaska and his rescue organization, Volnoe Delo (translated roughly as "Good Will"), are funding a simple rescue effort: a cart is currently making its way around Olympic Village, transporting the stray dogs to a makeshift shelter.

About 80 animals, many of them abandoned after their owners' homes were demolished to make way for Olympic venues, are currently at Deripaska's shelter.

"We were told, 'Either you take all the dogs from the Olympic Village or we will shoot them,'" Olga Melnikova, who is coordinating the rescue effort on behalf of Volnoe Delo, told The New York Times.

The International Olympic Committee insisted that no healthy dogs are being destroyed, and are only being "taken into custody."

"It would be absolutely wrong to say that any healthy dogs will be destroyed," said Mark Adams, an IOC spokesman.

The dogs at the shelter will receive medical treatment and vaccinations — and will be made available for adoption, even to fans attending the sporting event.

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Shelter workers hope that the publicity and outreach efforts will encourage people to look beyond breeding and help pups in need.

"Everybody here wants a German shepherd or a pit bull," said Nadezhda Mayboroda, a Sochi resident who is working at the shelter. "Nobody wants just a mixed dog."

Deripaska has pledged $50,000 a year for shelter operations.