Sochi officials aren’t going into detail on what is happening to the diminishing number of stray dogs in the Olympic village, simply stating they are being taken to a “special shelter.”
“When we first arrived, [stray dogs] were everywhere,” said NBC Chicago reporter Rob Elgas in Sochi. “Today there are far fewer dogs roaming the streets.”
Officials were cryptic in their response to reports of stray dogs being “exterminated.”
“They have a special shelter for the stray dogs,” said Aleksandra Kosterin, the head of communications for the Sochi organizing committee. “They actually catch them, they make a medical examination on whether the dogs are ill or not. So there is a special pest control, or stray dog service.”
A pest control company which has been killing stray dogs in Sochi for years told The Associated Press that it has a contract to exterminate more of the animals throughout the Olympics.
Alexei Sorokin, director general of pest control firm Basya Services, said his company is involved in what he described as the "catching and disposing" of dogs. Sorokin refused to specify whether they shoot or poison dogs or say where they take the carcasses.
Sergei Krivonosov, a lawmaker from the Krasnodar region, last year supported the dog culling.
Krivonosov said taking the dogs off the street was Russia's "responsibility to the international community and that their elimination is the quickest way to solve this problem." He conceded, however, that this is "not the most humane way" of dealing with the problem and said that authorities should encourage dog shelters.
Sochi city hall last year announced a contract "to catch and dispose" of stray dogs in Sochi but animal activists vehemently protested the move. Authorities pledged to give up the practice and build animal shelters for stray dogs instead.
Activists say there is no evidence that a shelter has been built. The city hall would not immediately respond to the AP's calls and emails seeking comment.
Shooting stray dogs has been common practice in many Russian regions despite activists' efforts to push authorities for more humane ways of dealing with the issue.
One thing is certain--the number of stray dogs in Sochi is dropping.
“There are no dogs remaining in the village that I have seen,” said Daniel Merkley, the director of Olympic village. “If there are, I’m not aware of them.”