Scroungy and street smart, Moscow's 26,000 stray dogs roam the Russian capital, bedding down in subway stations and even learning to ride the trains. But some are aggressive, traveling in packs and attacking people.
Now authorities want to round the strays up and send them to an isolation facility outside the city — a plan that has appalled dog lovers and animal rights activists.
Prominent actors and musicians have petitioned City Hall to abandon the idea. Speaking at news conference on Monday, actor Yevgeny Mironov compared the planned facility to a "concentration camp."
Shipping the animals to a camp in the Yaroslavl region, 150 miles (250 kilometers) to the northeast, will only promote disease, force the dogs into inhumane conditions and, ultimately, won't solve the problem, activists said.
Artyom Zverev, a veterinarian with the animal rights charity Bim, warned the facility could become a breeding ground for disease.
In order to ship the dogs out of the city's borders the animals need to be quarantined for a month, and the city has no facilities or staff to do that. One ill dog is enough to endanger the whole group, he said.
"If there is an outbreak of a disease, animals will be dying slowly and painfully," Zverev said.
He also cited examples of similar deportations in other cities where dogs from outlying regions moved into the city, filling in the empty ecological niche.
Moscow's City Hall says it spent some $45 million (1.3 billion rubles) on dog shelters, sterilization, and other programs to deal with the city's huge stray population between 2008 and 2009. But critics say much of the money has gone unaccounted for.
The proposal to ship the dogs far away appears aimed in part at avoiding criticism for harshly efficient dog-control measures like those seen in Bishkek, the capital of the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan. Authorities there say they don't have enough money to build shelters, so they shoot strays — officials said this year that they expect to kill some 10,000 dogs.