‘We’re bound by the imperfect law’: Kazan as Russia’s first city without stray dogs?

No stray animals, the city administration promises

Urban authorities have announced a new global plan for making Kazan a city free of stray animals. The problem will be considered seriously: world experience will be studied, specialists will be invited, legislation will be amended. The first steps have already been done — a hotline to trap homeless dogs has opened, free sterilisation and vaccination of pets have kicked off, while Find a New Friend! campaign will begin on 18 July. Read more in Realnoe Vremya’s report.

24/7 hotline and free sterilisation

“We set a global task of solving the problem of homeless dogs,” claimed head of Kazan’s Executive Committee Rustem Gafarov. He noted that a lot of citizens still think that the issue can be resolved by killing dogs. But the city administration has chosen a humane path. The first steps are the launch of a hotline to trap homeless animals and free checkups, sterilisation and vaccination of a person’s pets.

These offers have been in force since early July at weekends and taken place in Voznesenskoye and Otary settlements. The settlements were chosen because the locals do not always find the time to see a veterinarian, while sick animals have a higher risk of being abandoned, moreover, 70-80% of these dogs wander on their own, which increases the population of homeless animals.

Judging by the first results of a mobile veterinarian’s, such a service has turned out to be popular. As Vice Chairman of the Executive Committee Iskander Giniyatullin said, the offer is gaining momentum: if only three dog owners brought their dogs for sterilisation in Voznesenskoye, 55 did in Otary, so the veterinarians didn’t manage to see them all.

“This campaign is designed to keep the control over puppies’ birth, reduce the population of animals because unfortunately not all hosts control their dogs and puppies owners don’t need are born, they often end up in the street,” Giniyatullin complained.

He noted that the hotline is very popular, it has already received 530 calls over the week, the calls automatically transform into an application for the trap service (to compare, 3,800 applications were received in six months 2021. One can call anytime.

In good hands

Trapped animals are taken to Zoocentre animal shelter in Mirny settlement where they are treated, sterilised and chipped. It was a kennel just two years ago. After the adoption of a corresponding law, large-scale modernisation began here, it doubled the capacity: a heated building was constructed, a 1,2-square-metre dogbox is designed for every dog. There is also a 20-square-metre enclosure for 10 dogs to walk, an operating theatre where 15 animals are daily sterilised. A total of 700 animals can stay here at the same time. The animals are kept in the shelter for 20 days under veterinarians’ surveillance. A dog is fed twice a day. Then not aggressive and healthy animals are let go.

To reduce the amount of homeless dogs, the city administration is launching a series of events Find a New Friend! They will be held in Kazan parks.

“Trained volunteers will teach citizens to communicate with unfamiliar dogs, explain citizens the specifics of their behaviour, how to win favour with an unfamiliar dog, how to avoid its aggressive reaction. Veterinarians will provide necessary recommendations how to take care of animals,” the vice chairman announced.

The first meeting with dogs from the shelter will be next Sunday, on 18 July, at 11 a.m, in a dog area in Gorky-Ometyevo Forest. Those who will choose a pet will sign an agreement. According to schedule, such meetings will take place in other parks in August. Giniyatullin noted that after such communication Kazan citizens will stop fearing stray dogs, and the city will become safe for them.

Timeout to think

Head of the Executive Committee Rustem Gafarov admitted that the problem of stray dogs cannot be solved easily. But they have to start with something.

“We are bound by the imperfect law on the treatment of homeless animals, the absence of fixed norms about pet owners’ responsibility for their animals... Despite a huge number of unknowns in this equation, we anyway decided to deal with this problem, not let the grass grow under our feet, and start to perform this task on our own. We will do our best legally. And perhaps, as this has repeated many times, our experience will turn out useful for others too. The number of calls to the hotline says that the problem is truly topical for a big number of citizens,” he stressed.

Gafarov noted big changes at Zoocentre, which works according to a municipal contract. Not only animal maintenance conditions improved there, but its administration also confirmed the intentions to become an opener establishment, established relations with animal advocates. It is planned to open a heated quarantine area, an enclosure for walking and socialisation of homeless dogs soon.

The head of the executive committee recognised that the problem cannot be solved only by sterilisation and better maintenance conditions. The urban authorities are taking timeout to think. During this timeout, they will study world experience, invite specialists and public activists. But this doesn’t impede the work from starting right now — in settlements and finding kind owners for dogs. Such campaigns are going to be constant.

“We have no illusions and do not expect all dogs to be taken home immediately. In contrast, such a decision shouldn’t be spontaneous but well-thought-out. Somebody will understand he cannot do this, while somebody will get not only emotions but some tips from professionals who will help people get ready for this step.

Pending amendments to law

Kazan City Duma deputies also joined the problem of stray dogs. On 8 July, they held an away meeting at Zoocentre in Mirny settlement and a round-table talk in the City Administration. The deputies said there are big gaps in the federal law on responsible treatment to animals. In particular according to law, animal maintenance in a shelter includes their treatment. However, there aren’t fixed criteria for diseases. Financing is allocated only for vaccination, deworming and pest control. Neither is there an algorithm of actions to treat animals that are subject to being kept in the shelter before their natural death, after the contract with the shelter expires.

The concept of unmotivated aggression and evaluation criteria, those who are authorised to evaluate the behaviour of previously sterilised animals aren’t specified. Precisely such homeless dogs should be trapped again. Also, there are questions about the requirement for a video of trapping and return of stray animals to their previous area of residence.

The deputies said it was necessary to make changes to the federal law and they would consider this issue at the next session of the Kazan City Duma.

Eleonora Rylova