The World Cup Round-Up: The Ugly Truth behind the Beautiful Game?
World Cup action is officially underway in cities across Brazil. But amidst all the excitement, there are some troubling reports. According to eyewitnesses, stray dogs are being “rounded up and removed” by dogcatchers in host cities like Recife. And with little space to house the dogs, Humane Society International (HSI) fears an “organized extermination”.
Unfortunately, this is not the first case of alleged animal culling for a major sporting event. Recently, Russia came under fire for “eradicating” dogs in the lead up to the 2014 Winter Olympics. The Associated Press reported that Russian authorities hired pest control firm Basya Services to “rid the streets of Sochi of 2,000 stray dogs”. Similarly, in 2008, the Beijing government collected thousands of cats in advance of the Summer Olympics Games. The cats were purportedly crammed into cages and left to die in secretive government pounds on the edge of the city.
Wendy Higgins, communications director at Humane Society International, argues that the exterminations are “a knee-jerk reaction to prepare cities for the global spotlight.” Some city officials believe that strays will overrun the streets, distressing visitors and hurting the city’s “clean” and “welcoming” atmosphere. Others fear that a stray dog or cat might “wander into an…event”, as during a rehearsal at Sochi’s Fischt Stadium. In the words of one official, “God forbid something like this happen[ed] at the actual opening ceremony…it [would] be a disgrace for the whole country.”
But culling stray dogs and cats is not only inhumane – it “does not solve the issue of overpopulation”. The real solution, according to animal welfare groups, is mass sterilization. In the words of Alexandra Rothlisberger, Senior Program Manager for HSI Latin America, “Long-term sterilization and vaccination are the only street dog management methods that effectively address the issue”. Given this reality, the HSI has sent a letter to Recife’s mayor urging him to implement a subsidized sterilization program. HSI is also supporting Brazilian animal organizations offering spaying and neutering services.
Of course, sterilization will not immediately reduce the stray population. Rather, it is a long-term solution to the overpopulation problem. Thus, in the interim, opening or expanding animal shelters is necessary. In Sochi, for example, numerous animal charities “stepped in” to create extra space. Dog lover and billionaire Oleg Diripaska also famously “fund[ed] a dog shelter close to the city, on the Black Sea”.
To learn more about animal welfare, and how you can help, please contact Humane Society International, The Fuzzy Pets Foundation, or our partners: the Animal House Shelter, City Dog Rescue, or the Austin Humane Society.
Flickr photo credit: Karunaker Rayker