Problem With Stray Animals Shows Ugly Face Of Ukraine

KIEV, Ukraine -- If the lives of stray animals are a reflection of the society in which they live, then Ukraine is an ugly place whose international reputation is suffering as a result.

A dog recovers from sterilization in the basement of a state-run veterinary clinic on Yaroslavska Street in Kiev.

Despite taxpayer money and government programs, the number of homeless animals in Kyiv remains high and their treatment often brutal.

In a tiny basement of the state-run veterinary clinic on Yaroslavska Street in Kyiv, a dozen stray dogs are recovering not only from sterilization, but from human cruelty that has left some of their spines broken and eyes poked out. That’s not the worst of it. Beatings, poisonings, torture and murder of stray dogs are frequently reported.

Tamara Tarnavska, director and founder of the private SOS animal shelter in Pirogovo near Kyiv, is taking care of some 2,000 animals. The place used to serve as a slaughterhouse where “homeless animals were clubbed or beaten to death with metal sticks. Some were skinned while still alive,” Tarnavska said.

In 1996, in a documentary about the barbaric executions, Tarnavska, then a journalist, asked: “Can any country in Europe with such inhumane treatment of animals be called civilized?” She is still asking the same question, 14 years later.

“There is money in the budget, programs, laws in Ukraine, which are aimed to fight the problem,” Tarnavska said. “All Ukraine has to do is to make the current system work. But nothing is implemented.”

Although official statistics are lacking, rough estimates are that up to 30,000 stray animals – mostly dogs – roam Kyiv. “Up to 30 percent are pedigreed animals, thrown out as adults or puppies on the streets,” said Iryna Tereshchenko, head of Kyiv-based Youth Animal Protection League.

In 2007, the Kyiv City Council adopted a four-year program to combat the stray animal problem with an Hr 76 million budget. The program was aimed at massive sterilization, creation of animal shelters in every city district, and public education.

Animal protection groups say that if Kyiv would sterilize up to 15,000 animals per year, do a better job clearing the streets of trash and punish irresponsible animal owners, the problem would be easily manageable 5 to 7 years from now.

However, the 2007 program failed, with less than 3,000 animals sterilized in Kyiv last year. No officials want to answer questions about why the program failed or where the money went.

“We could easily sterilize up to 7,000 stray animals per year, but we received nothing for the entire program,” said Vadim Teplyuk, deputy director of a state-run veterinarian clinic in Kyiv’s Troeshina district. Other state-run ones are Animal Shelter in Borodyanka and the Center of Animal Identification.

Mismanagement is another issue. The taxpayer-supported Animal Shelter in Borodynka has 80 employees despite having only 500 animals. By contrast, Tarnavska said the private SOS shelter she runs has only 11 employees for 2,000 animal inhabitants. “For the money that Borodynka spends on salaries, bonuses and other ‘expenses,’ they could have sterilized thousands of dogs,” Tarnavska said.

Top secret

If Ukrainians ever decide to find out how their taxes are spent, they will most likely fail. It is easier to reach a member of parliament than to get statistical data from Borodyanka’s unwelcoming Animal Shelter.

To get in, a person first needs permission from the Kyiv City Administration, which directs inquiries to the shelter’s press service. If a journalist is asking, the questions have to be sent in advance. While waiting for the permission to arrive, questions are fielded by a rude press secretary, Iryna Golovina, who kept repeating over the telephone: “I will not say a word to you until the permission comes.”

It makes a person wonder who the shelter serves and what it is trying to hide.

Who cares?

Stray animals, which can be diseased and dangerous, don’t rank high on the list of government priorities.

“It is not about money, but human resources,” said Tereshchenko of the Youth League of Animal Protection. “There are almost no people who really care about this problem in Ukraine. All the failures come down to that.”

Among those who do care are committed volunteers.

“Often we are forced to pay for sterilization, for transportation of animals, even though we are not supposed to. I cannot afford it with my miserable pension,” said Tetyana Shvets, head of the Animal Protection Society in Kyiv's Shevchenkovsky district.

International best practices in solving the problem of strays involve these steps: massive sterilization; reasonable euthanasia; creation of numerous shelters; punishment for animal abandonment and abuse; and better trash pick-up to remove discarded food that sustains the homeless population.

A long way to go

“While there is trash all over the city, while Ukrainians with impunity throw out thousands of animals, while the Borodyanka shelter keeps catching random dogs instead of hordes, while there is no complex approach, no matter how many animals we euthanize or sterilize, the problem will remain unsolved,” Tereshchenko said.

Activists in Western European countries are joining their Ukrainian counterparts from July 26-31 to seek more humane treatment of animals in Ukraine. The publicity campaign is backed by the U.S.-based People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, which has an international presence.

“We will hold an action week for homeless animals," said Nadja Kutscher, a PETA representative in Germany. "We are asking people to turn to the authorities to urge them to apply humane and effective means to reduce the overpopulation – not cruel killings!”

Source: Kyiv Post


Anonymous said…
I believe it was Ghandi who said that "a society should be judged by how it treats its animals" or something to that effect. Draw your own conclusions about Ukrainian society!
banana282 said…
It's disgustting. I'm from Ukraine, I used to live there but never have I even thought that anyone would do that. They even tell you lies in Ukraine, they tell you things are being done to help. But its all lies! Nothing is being done, Ukraine is a corrupt country with no plans of stopping animal cruelty, they don't even have established human rights. I'm not proud of my heritage and I never will be!