Cablegate: Gimme Shelter: Strays Find New Home in Moscow

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1. SUMMARY: Strays roaming Moscow now have an upscale alternative.
The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) recently opened a
new Stray Dog and Cat clinic in northern Moscow that is intended to
work in tandem with an existing mobile vet clinic. This represents
the first such combination of mobile and stationary surgical
facilities dedicated to animals in Russia. Stray dogs continue to
be a gnawing and increasingly visible problem in Moscow, so it is
not surprising that city authorities are strong advocates for this

Background: Stray Dogs in Moscow

2. By rough estimates, Moscow is home to some 40,000 stray dogs.
Permanent fixtures outside almost every metro station, packs of
these animals are a common sight throughout the city. Many of the
strays suffer from inhumane treatment, hunger, and disease. Dog
attacks occur regularly. Although Moscow authorities officially
switched from a catch-and-kill policy to spay/neutering four years
ago in a move towards more humane animal management, significant
shortcomings remain in the city's efforts to control the population.
Official policy states that all stray dogs should be sterilized,
inserted with a microchip recording their processing, kept in a
shelter for 10 days, and then released (at a cost of 4,500 rubles,
or roughly $175 dollars, per dog). However, the population of
strays in Moscow has continued to grow in recent years -- suggesting
faulty sterilization methods or, more likely, lax implementation of
official policy.

New Stray Animal Clinic Opens in Northern Moscow
--------------------------------------------- ---

3. The future may be less bleak, however. IFAW officially opened
its new Stray Dog and Cat clinic, the Community Led Animal Welfare
(CLAW) center, in northern Moscow on April 25. EST attended the
opening ceremony, which drew more than 80 guests -- including
veterinarians, journalists, and state officials. Speakers at the
event included Oleg Mitvol, the Deputy Director of Rosprirodnadzor
(the Federal Nature Management Supervision Service), Vera
Stepanenko, the Head of the Environment Commission of the Moscow
City Duma, and Fred O'Regan, President and CEO of IFAW. The
administrative head of Koptevo, the municipal district where the new
center is located, also attended the event and praised its positive
community impact.

4. Although there are currently eight animal shelters operating in
northern Moscow, IFAW's new CLAW center is the first in the city to
focus on comprehensive community based animal care -- promoting
public education and working to find sustainable homes for stray
animals. The center will provide spay/neutering services,
vaccinations and other basic veterinary care for stray animals and
pets of low-income Moscow residents, training for Russian
veterinarians on the latest surgical methods, and community
education on animal treatment and welfare. The center, which can
accommodate up to 50 animals at a time, is equipped with a large dog
training and exercise area, new dog pens, modern surgical
facilities, conference/class space for educational instruction, and
a specially equipped mini bus for transporting the animals. The
center's surgical facilities will be among the first in Moscow to
use only approved medications (illicit drugs are widely used for
veterinary surgery throughout Russia due to the high costs of
officially approved veterinary narcotics) and are outfitted with gas
anesthesia -- a rarity in Russia and an important educational
resource for animal professionals.

Mobile Vet Clinic Provides Additional Capacity
--------------------------------------------- -

5. IFAW's mobile vet clinic (TESS), established five years ago and
the first of its kind in Moscow, will work in tandem with the new
CLAW shelter. This represents the first such combination of mobile
and stationary surgery facilities dedicated to animals in Russia. A
fully equipped veterinary lab also outfitted with gas anesthesia,
the mobile clinic is set up to provide spay/neutering services as
well as basic veterinary care. Over the past five years the mobile
clinic has treated more than 12,000 animals and was featured on a
NTV television special. Mobile vet services are a primary component
of IFAW's international efforts because they provide the flexibility
to target animal overpopulation and provide animal welfare education
where it is most needed, often in low income areas. IFAW hopes this
arrangement will serve as a model for Moscow and other regions of

Community Education is Key to Clinic's Efforts
--------------------------------------------- -

6. Community education is an integral component of IFAW's efforts
to change public attitudes toward animal welfare, care, and
treatment. In addition to its vaccination and sterilization duties,

MOSCOW 00002250 002.2 OF 002

the new CLAW center will serve as a hub for community animal welfare
education programs and expanded professional training programs.
IFAW plans to educate schoolchildren and community members about
proper animal care, provide information on keeping pets in city
apartments, train veterinarians and animal management specialists,
and promote the purchase of dog breeds known to make good pets. The
TESS mobile clinic provides the additional capability of traveling
directly to veterinary clinics or high need communities, where
direct animal care can be combined with civic education. The mobile
clinic currently educates veterinarians and interns associated with
Agrosystem - 2, a subsidiary of the Timiryazev Agricultural Academy
in Moscow.

City Authorities Provide Essential Support

7. IFAW financed the bulk of the new shelter's construction costs
and will fund its day-to-day operations, but Moscow city authorities
provided crucial support. They contributed limited construction
funds, supplied the electricity and water connections for the new
building, and most significantly provided a plot of land for the
center in a specially zoned nature area. Although the current lease
is for only one year rather than 49 as expected, in a side
conversation at the opening ceremony Oleg Mitvol asked Masha
Vorontsova, Director of IFAW Russia, to draft a letter requesting
resolution of the situation and promised that he would personally
talk with Mayor Luzhkov to secure the long-term lease. This
encouraging collaboration among the administration of the northern
Koptevo district of Moscow, the administrators of specialized city
territories, and the ecological, veterinarian, and sanitary services
of Moscow reflects strong support from government officials and city
administrators for IFAW's community outreach programs.


8. The opening of the new shelter bodes well for Moscow's nascent
efforts to manage its stray animal population. Muscovites have
always been dog-lovers (NOTE: The smaller the apartment, the larger
the dog. END NOTE) but they have been slow to adopt humane methods
to control the burgeoning stray population. The increasing number
of pet owners in the city reflects the growing middle class, which
means the new center's community outreach programs are well
positioned to generate further grassroots support for humane animal
care. Vera Stepanenko observed that "many, but not all" of her
colleagues at the City Duma share her views on the importance of
humane animal treatment. This underscores both the substantial
government support IFAW has already generated and the ongoing
importance of its civic education and community outreach efforts.


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