By Michele A. Berdy
As every jogger, dog-walker, driver or pedestrian in Moscow knows, the city is filled with thousands of homeless dogs and cats. Some are born on the street, some are tossed in garbage bins at birth, some are lost by careless owners, and some are abandoned when the owners no longer want to care for them. Expats also contribute to the problem: every year dozens are put up for adoption when their owners don’t want to take their pets to a new overseas posting.
For over 20 years, Muscovite Ekaterina Volkova has been rescuing and finding homes for abandoned, sick or hurt animals. She and her fellow dog and cat lovers nurse them back to health, neuter and vaccinate them, and keep them in their apartments and dachas until they find them new homes. At first she and her friends – an informal group that included doctors, university biology professors, teachers and linguists — paid out of their own pockets to feed and care for the strays. They needed money, time and ingenuity to handle the dozens of animals they were caring for. “At one point we kept them in houses that had been emptied of tenants for demolition,” Volkova says. “We Russians are inventive.” But in the 1980s prices jumped and they realized they couldn’t manage on their own. They first founded a non-profit so people could provide donations, and then in 1998 re-registered as the Regional Charity Foundation for the Support of Homeless Animals. They have become a real force for advocating humane treatment of Moscow’s fourlegged homeless: helping to draft legislation, holding roundtables, advocating for neutering, and organizing dozens of charitable concerts and other events to raise funds.
Five years ago, Barbara Spier of Allied Pickfords movers, got involved when one of her clients asked a simple question: How do I take my dog to Hong Kong? Finding the answer to that led her to a husband- andwife veterinarian team, Yuri and Valeria Shishmaryov, who find homes for strays and provide free veterinary care to the non-profit shelters. Barbara started producing leaflets on pet care and adopting homeless animals and then started an annual Christmas pet food and donation drive. Yuri and Valeria put her in touch with Ekaterina, whose informal shelter is supported by these campaigns. “We are not an organization or a shelter,” Spier says. “We’re a group of volunteers, expat and Russian, who are trying to save these animals and find them new homes.”
All these efforts got a boost when the Mayhew Animal Home in England offered to sponsor a web site for Moscow with sections on pet care, local services, animal export and – most importantly — Pet Personals: “Young black Labrador seeks owner. Love to run in the park, swim, and hang out on the couch watching soccer. Age, nationality not important. Dacha a plus.”
Want to help? Check out the site: www.moscowanimals.org. You can make a donation by credit card online, or get information on how to become a volunteer, organize fundraising events, put a collection box in your office or store, donate pet food and supplies, or sponsor an animal until a home can be found.
Or, best of all, you could help by adopting one of the adorable pooches and pusses featured on the site or kept in one of the affiliated shelters.