Streetwise Professor

September 28, 2011

The Dogs That Do Bark

Filed under: Russia — The Professor @ 12:48 pm

Some time back I told a story about my encounter right near Red Square–adjacent to St. Basil’s actually–and a pack of stray dogs.  The one where the Italian professor I was walking with freaked out because she’s afraid of dogs, and the other Italian professor I had dined with hid behind me because he was afraid of dogs too.  Anyways, one commenter, Ostap Bender, called bullsh*t on my claim that there are packs of wild dogs roaming Moscow.  Several other commenters took my side, one (an extreme Putinophile, actually) saying that Ostap must indeed have been on a bender.

I bring this up because of a story in today’s Independent about the wild dogs of Moscow.  The article states that there are an estimated 25K dogs on the streets, and 12K more in shelters.  There is a plan afoot to move the sheltered dogs from Moscow into a huge new facility in Yaroslavl.   As I recall (and I don’t have time to go back and verify now), previous plans to build a megashelter in Moscow were beset by rumors of corruption.  (In Russia?  In Moscow?  Go on.)  My memory is that a Luzhkov relative was involved.

If the plan goes forward (officials claim that it has been scrapped, but leaked documents suggest otherwise) this would take care of the 12K dogs already in shelters.  What about the other 25K.  You know, those ones  that exist only in my imagination, according to Ostap.  (Who has been scarce around here lately–although maybe only under that name.)

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  1. Oh, yeah, lots of stray dogs, a lot of them in scary packs. And because the city doesn’t do anything about them, there are lunatics who poison them or shoot them — and end of killing a lot of pets in the process.

    But there are also other good lunatics, who pick them up, pay the vet to give them shots and neuter them, and then find homes for them. Or run private shelters. They run sites like and (My dog — who is the absolute best dog in the world — came from there.) It’s another example of the bizarre (heartening? weird? encouraging?) parallel government here. “We’ve given up on you guys actually doing something, so we’ll just ignore you and do it ourelves.”

    Comment by mossy — September 28, 2011 @ 2:24 pm

  2. @mossy. Interesting. So perhaps it would be better if civil society in Russia actually did go to the dogs.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — September 28, 2011 @ 3:04 pm

  3. It’s a dog’s world out there.

    Comment by Sublime Oblivion — September 28, 2011 @ 5:31 pm

  4. Anyone who says there aren’t packs of stray dogs in Moscow is a lunatic and has no clue what they’re talking about. Stray dogs are all over the country for that matter. Moscow is probably actually better in that regard. For whatever reason, I never had a problem with them. I always heard stories about aggressive behavior but never experienced it myself. They always let me pass by without a problem. The only altercation I witnessed was between two packs of dogs fighting over turf. A bunch of us couldn’t cross the street because of it, but technically, they weren’t after us.

    As for what to do about it, they have a tough set of choices. The sheer number of them makes it impossible to deal with in a “civilized” way, if you know what I mean. If they want to neuter them bit by bit, it will take years to pare the numbers down. To do it any faster speaks of culls which are sad and brutal, but obviously effective. Still, they’d need to maintain a process that deals with this for the long-term or they will simply see the population come back. Government can’t do it all, civil society has to step in. I’ve seen signs of it occur, but, well, it always gets complicated there, doesn’t it?

    Comment by Howard Roark — September 28, 2011 @ 11:55 pm

  5. Wild dogs? Pfft.
    Stray dogs in Moscow? By the tens of thousands.

    It was my observation after many years in Moscow, that dogs who behaved badly and were threatening….didn’t last long. Most of Moscow’s strays keep to themselves. As with everything in Moscow even the dogs know that as long as you mind your own business and don’t stir up trouble you can survive.

    Every Metro station has its own cadre of dogs. If you use the same Metros day after day you will soon begin to recognize the local resident dogs. They sleep in front of the door heaters of the Metro station in winter and eat scraps donated by commuters. They generally keep a low profile. Sometimes they ride the escalators down to the train platforms and get on the Metro, sleeping on the seats in the warm Metro wagon, riding round and round on the circle line. Just like the bomzhi. Nobody bothers them.

    Red Square has its own group of dogs. They rarely leave the area, why should they? There are so many Metro tunnels and stations with heaters and food kiosk donations in the area. They often sleep in the little bit of yard in front of St. Basils. They live their own lives. They are not wild, they are just unowned.

    I used to take bags of actual dog food to my local Metro to give to the dogs. They didn’t like it. They had never seen dog food before. They were used to living off of tasty bits from Stardogs and Kroshka Kartoska and Teremok. Dog food was off their menu. (the rats liked it though)

    If you want to concern yourself with wild hungry animals in Moscow, you’d do better to look at the poor Russian Army draftees with their sunken cheeks and oversized uniforms, begging for food. They are really sad and pathetic. Everybody gives them something, they are so pitiful. Moscow’s dogs are better off than the heartbreaking youths in Russian army uniforms.


    The kazillions of stray cats in

    Comment by gardener1 — September 29, 2011 @ 12:30 am

  6. No, unfortunately some of the packs go bad and attack not only little old ladies’ nice lapdogs, but people, too. Sometimes they take over territory, like in a public park, and defend it.

    There was a program to sterilize the dogs, but that didn’t work too well. There was also a scandal about money for shelters that “disappeared.” Some public money goes to the private shelters. And people donate a lot to them, too. It’s a big problem that won’t get truly solved for years, but for it to be solved at all — well, can you say corruption? Graft? Kickbacks? Misuse of public funds?

    And then the attitude towards animals is very schizo. On the one hand, every fall the city is filled with young dogs who are abandoned. People take on a puppy at the dacha in the summer, and then they abandon it when they leave. Or — and I’ve seen this — they drive up to a park with a lot of dog walkers, shove 6-month-old Fido out the door, and drive off. Last year we rehomed four dogs abandoned that way.
    But on the other hand, the other part of the population rescues them, takes them in, pays for medical care, takes photographs and puts them on sites, and gets the dogs new homes. And they feed them on the street. Every Mom, dog-walker, and old lady brought so much food for a stray in the park that she started turning her nose up at rice and beef in gravy. She prefered chicken:)

    Comment by mossy — September 29, 2011 @ 3:18 am

  7. “There have even been instances where Muscovites have been killed by packs of dogs.”

    The fact that Russians treat these dogs kindly or feed them hardly proves that they are not brutalized by them. Stalin was and still is beloved by the Russians, even though he brutally murdered more of them than any other person who has ever lived.

    This is Russian barbarism unbound.

    Comment by La Russophobe — September 29, 2011 @ 3:58 am

  8. Before reading your comment, Howard, I was curious as to whether this was an issue in many cities, or primarily in Moscow. To clarify, I didn’t consider the dogs I encountered in Red Square to be dangerous: it was my brave Italian compatriots who were freaking out. I just yelled scat loudly a couple of times and they veered away and loped off down the street.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — September 29, 2011 @ 6:15 am

  9. The dogs are even worse in other cities in Russia (and Ukraine, too.) Honestly, Moscow is always the best compared to the provincial cities. If you see something bad in Moscow, you can usually assume it’s worse elsewhere.

    Comment by Howard Roark — September 29, 2011 @ 11:19 am

  10. I had friends staying in a hotel on way outside Moscow who were awakened one night by a noisy pack of dogs on the street. Someone must have called Police-there were a few shots and then silence.

    I walked into a store one time with a guy afraid of dogs and a Great Dane was laying on the floor out of the way. This guy was scared and I told him not to worry Great Danes are big lap dogs. I am a dog person and I started to approach the Dane. When I was about three feet away he bared his teeth and gave a blood curdling growl. I backed slowly away and told my friend I was mistaken-definitely not a big lap dog.

    I remember a dog who would have won Westminster if they had a Bizarre category. His head was on sideways-one eye looking at the sky and one eye looking at the ground.

    Comment by pahoben — September 29, 2011 @ 5:20 pm

  11. Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk is full of stray dogs.

    Comment by Tim Newman — September 29, 2011 @ 11:32 pm

  12. I’m in Moscow now and there are tons of strays. They are well behaved mutts.

    Out in the ‘burbs it’s a different story. A pack attacked a little boy outside our gated community last winter. The guards came to our door one snowy night shortly threafter and started with “Radi Bogu…” (you know it’s going to be serious when they start with “Radi Bogu…”). My translation of what they said, “For the love of God, don’t be outside your house tonight after 2am. And be sure to keep your pets in too.” I agreed and, being a curious sort, made sure that I was up at 2. Sure enough at about 2:15 just outside our gates I heard a very distictive “pop-pop-pop…pop-pop-pop…pop…pop-pop”. The next day, shockingly, there were no stray dogs in the area.

    Comment by Swoggler — September 30, 2011 @ 3:10 am

  13. Can’t speak for Moscow, but I can speak for Bucharest in the late 90s. Stray dogs everywhere, most of them pregnant, and they all looked alike as inbred dogs eventually do. Some vicious, but most of them pitiful. I understand there are periodic efforts to eradicate them, but haven’t been back to see how things are now.

    Comment by DrD — October 2, 2011 @ 6:22 am

  14. I saw a dog get on our subway car once, in Moscow in January. Very well-behaved, quietly walked up and down the car and sat down near an older lady. She eventualy pulled out a big piece of sausage and gave it to the dog. A young couple at some point gave it parts of a candy bar. The dog was threatening at all, indeed it was much quieter and more polite than most dogs on leashes. The person who wrote “not wild, but unowned” in reference to Moscow’s dogs was correct. I find Moscow mutts to be generally attractive dogs: well-fed, furry (short-haired dogs wouldn’t make it through winters). Googleimage the “Eurasier” breed and some of them could be Moscow street dogs.

    This isn’t something unique to Russia: I’ve heard that Buenos Aires also has packs of stray dogs. They probably don’t look as nice as the Russian ones, though.

    Comment by AP — October 3, 2011 @ 11:59 am

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