Company contracted to exterminate stray dogs in Sochi before Olympics

SOCHI, Russia (AP) - Thousands of stray dogs have been living amid the mud and rubble of Olympic construction sites, roaming the streets and snowy mountainsides, and begging for scraps of food.

But as the games drew near, authorities have turned to a company to catch and kill the animals so they don't bother Sochi's new visitors — or even wander into an Olympic event.

Alexei Sorokin, director general of pest control firm Basya Services, told The Associated Press that his company had a contract to exterminate the animals throughout the Olympics, which open Friday.

Sorokin described his company as being involved in the "catching and disposing" of dogs, although he refused to specify how the dogs would be killed or say where they would take the carcasses.

The dogs have been causing numerous problems, Sorokin said Monday, including "biting children."

He said he was stunned last week when he attended a rehearsal for the opening ceremony and saw a stray dog walking in on the performers.

"A dog ran into the Fisht Stadium, we took it away," he said. "God forbid something like this happens at the actual opening ceremony. This will be a disgrace for the whole country."

The strays tend to gather near construction sites where they have gotten food and shelter from workers. Dogs have even been able to get inside the Olympic Park and accredited hotel complexes and villages, in the coastal cluster of arenas and venues up in the mountains.

A pack of at least a half-dozen healthy-looking dogs roamed around a loading zone of a gondola, 400 meters (1,200 feet) above the Gorki Plaza in the mountain venues for the Olympics as construction work continued late Sunday.

Shooting stray dogs has been common practice in many Russian regions despite activists' efforts to push for more humane ways to deal with the issue.

The campaign to kill stray dogs is putting Olympic organizers on the defensive.

The International Olympic Committee says only sick strays in host city Sochi are being exterminated, and others are just being taken away so they can't disrupt the Feb. 7-23 games.

IOC spokesman Mark Adams, pressed about the campaign, said the dogs are being "taken into custody" and only the sick or dying are being killed.

Humane Society International sent a letter asking President Vladimir Putin to stop the culling.

And a Scottish member of Parliament said the killing "stains the snow of Sochi with blood." Struan Stevenson said that while Putin cuddled a leopard in a show of environmental concern this week, he should have used some of the billions spent on the Olympics on animal shelters.

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