Moscow (AFP) - Stray dogs are being killed in Russian cities set to host the 2018 World Cup as authorities follow orders to get thousands of feral animals under control, Russian MPs claimed Thursday.
"We have received many appeals from animal rights activists and just caring citizens saying mass shooting and euthanasia of stray animals is taking place in a number of World Cup-host cities," the head of the Russian lower house's environmental protection committee Vladimir Burmatov told Parlamentskaya Gazeta newspaper.
Packs of stray dogs are a common sight in Russian cities, fuelled by public reluctance to sterilise pets, and some can be aggressive or beg for food.
Last month first deputy prime minister Vitaly Mutko estimated there are some two million stray animals in the host cities and urged them to solve the problem humanely.
Burmatov said his committee had sent an official letter to sports minister Pavel Kolobkov warning of "mass destruction of homeless animals" in host cities, and asking him to ask the regional authorities to use "humane methods without causing death or mutilating or injuring the animals."
Burmatov called for stray dogs to be placed in temporary holding centres and sterilised, saying this would be no more costly than killing them and would improve Russia's image.
"These troubling signals must stop, our country's reputation is at stake. Because we're not savages carrying out mass killings of animals on the streets, throwing their bloodied bodies into vans and driving them round the city.
"For the same money you can easily carry out catching, vaccination and sterilisation and accommodating the animals in holding centres," Burmatov said.
In response to the letter sports minister Kolobkov said he had told the host cities to use humane methods in order to avoid a negative public reaction, Parlamentskaya Gazeta newspaper reported.
The World Cup will be held in 11 Russian cities this summer, from the enclave of Kaliningrad in the West to Yekaterinburg in the East.