SOCHI, Russia – There are dog lovers, and then there’s David Backes, center for the St. Louis Blues and U.S. Olympic hockey player.
He’s attempted to save dogs from death row. He’s flown a plane himself from St. Louis to Houston to rescue three dogs and chauffer them to a no-kill shelter – a 700-mile, 8-hour trip. He and his wife Kelly, with whom he owns three dogs, also started Athletes For Animals, a national organization that unites a “team of professional athletes with a shared passion for rescuing and protecting the welfare of homeless pets nationwide.”
Hockey’s most adamant dog advocate arrived on Monday for Team USA’s first practice of the Winter Olympics in Sochi – a city that’s become infamous for its treatment of stray dogs that roam its streets and the Olympic village. The Associated Press reported that the city contracted a pest control company to exterminate strays during the Games.
“I’ve heard reports. I don’t have first-hand knowledge of it,” said Backes, when asked about the controversy.
“I guess for someone that’s a dog lover, some of those reports are a little disturbing. I’ve seen a few stray dogs. They look happy and healthy. Looking for a handout, maybe, but not really posing a threat to anyone.”
Backes said his organization is in its infancy, and thus isn’t ready to go global in helping the dogs. Humane Society International has stepped up and offered ways to adopt the strays of Sochi. In fact, Americans in Sochi can adopt the mutts and bring them back to the U.S.
Backes hoped that the city would no longer target the strays.
“Hopefully they can live and let live, and we can all live in one big world together,” he said.