THOUSANDS of stray dogs are believed to have been rounded up and slaughtered in the Russian city hosting this year’s Winter Olympics.
A pest control firm has been hired to kill the mutts ahead of Friday’s opening ceremony in Sochi amid concerns they will bother visitors or even wander into a sporting event.
Alexei Sorokin, director general of pest control firm Basya Services, said his company have been involved in “catching and disposing” of dogs.
Mr Sorokin said the stray dogs have caused numerous problems in the past including biting children.
He would not elaborate on how the dogs would be killed or where the bodies of the animals would be taken.
Mr Sorokin said he was shocked when a stray dog last week walked in on a rehearsal for the Winter Olympics opening ceremony.
He said: “A dog ran into the Fisht Stadium, we took it away.
“God forbid something like this happens at the actual opening ceremony. This will be a disgrace for the whole country.”
Residents said many of the dogs previously seen in Sochi have disappeared while some of the animals have been found dead in the streets.
Tatyana Leshchenko, an animal rights activist, said: “The city authorities are paying for the murder of each animal but this does not solve the problem.
“This money should be provided for sterilising animals and building shelters.”
The organisers of the Winter Olympics are reluctant to discuss what has happened to the stray dogs and whether they have been culled.
Alexandra Kosterina, a Sochi spokeswoman, said: “There is a service that catches the dogs and the city authorities handle this.
“The city has a special shelter for them.”
Nadine Kincaid, an Olympic volunteer from Portland in America, said she was surprised by the amount of stray dogs she had seen in Sochi.
She said: “There’s a lot of dogs everywhere. Right behind where we’re staying, there’s a whole legion of dogs.
“I come from a town where there’s leash laws and everyone has to pick up after their dogs, so that’s unusual to me to see that.”
Ms Kincaid said she would be upset if the dogs were being poisoned in the cull.
She said: “As an animal lover, for me that’s sad. But if they’re like stray cats, they can keep breeding and cause more problems. So I can see, maybe, why.
“It’s sad, but what do you do if you can’t control them?”
It is the latest controversy to surround the event after celebrities such as Stephen Fry urged a boycott of it over Russia’s ‘gay propaganda law’.
The law, which was passed last June, fines people for providing information on homosexuality to people under 18.
The ruling was blasted by gay rights campaigners who have asked nations to boycott the Sochi Winter Olympics.
Many foreign leaders like Prime Minister David Cameron and US President Barack Obama will not be going.
Security fears have also surrounded the event with Chechen rebels threatening suicide bombings during the event.