It should have been a concern the day after Sochi won its bid for the Winter Olympic Games several years ago.
It is reported that authorities or private contractors are taking the street dogs off the streets in Sochi, in preparation for the Olympics, which start tonight. A friend of mine was living in Athens for the weeks before the Summer Olympics there, and she told me that authorities did the same, and that included summary executions, of the dogs, where they were found.
This has sparked outrage, of course.
I do have to wonder why the decision is made to remove these dogs, and in thinking about this, an obvious question emerges: Why are these dogs there to begin with? That, of course, raises another question: Why are there almost no street dogs in the United States?
When I was a kid dogs that needed to do their business were let out the front door as often as the back. Your dog would run around on the streets for a while and then return. It was not uncommon for a dog to hang out on the front porch, if it was shady (in the summer) or a warm spot (in the winter). If you saw a dog on a leash it was usually a puppy being trained to heel. Also, puppies did not know how to not run in front of cars or, for that matter, find their way home. So, unless you had an older dog in the household that could teach the little yelpers how to be a dog, human owners would take on this task.
In fact, if you saw an adult dog on a leash, chances are that one was a biter, or in some other way, badly behaved.
Then leash laws started to pop up in various communities, and spread, and now they seem to be everywhere. Dogs still run free-ish in rural areas. There may be enclaves in the United States where town dogs run free. Let me know if you know of any. I imagine such enclaves to be in more remote areas, more common in the South. Or Alaska.
If people’s dogs can run free, then now and then a dog can liberate itself entirely from human bondage and become a street dog, or in rural areas, what is clumsily referred to as a “wild dog.” Also, people let dogs go or dropped them off in remote areas when they were done with them, and free-running dogs would, of course, reproduce. In this way populations of wild dogs, city-dogs, and the in-between junk yard dogs became a thing.
I shall disabuse you now of a notion that may come to mind but that I think is false. This is the idea that in a state of tradition or nature (neither term works well), in pre-Western or pre-First World societies, dogs ran wild like they do in many cities around the world today. In traditional societies, dogs do not necessarily run wild. Well, they run around in the wild, but they are owned and curated by the humans and controlled. The wild city dog is a thing of cities or larger villages, a post-agriculture, post-peasant society thing, generally of recent centuries. Street dogs are not part of our Enviornment of Evolutionary Adaptedness (or we’d probably be immune to rabies!). This is based on ethnographic information and my own personal observation living in various “traditional” societies. It may look like the dogs are running around like Sochian or Athenian street dogs, but they are not.
Neutering and spaying and leash laws, together, have transformed the American dog into a different beast and we don’t really have street dogs any more. This is true for many “First World” places, but I do not assume this to be a qualifying characteristic of First Worldness. There are probably plenty of First Worldy places that have street dogs in the cities. And, of course, in the US there are wild dogs in the woods in may areas.
So why are they taking the dogs off the street in Sochi, and why did they do that in Athens, and why will they presumably do it in Rio?
Perhaps it is this. The Olympics is a First World phenomenon. You clean up your city and the nearby country side to be real nice for all the people to come and participate in the games as athlete or watcher. You remove some ramshackle neighborhoods and route traffic around others. You clean up the downtowns and pretty up the inter-urban routes. You fix the transit system or even install a new one. And you remove the dogs. And cats, much of this applies to cats too.
This means irony happens. The outcry, justified of course, over mass rounding up and extermination of innocent canines is itself a bit of a First World thing. And the rounding up and extermination itself is a product of First World sensibility conflicting with the rest of the world which is, indubitably, mostly not First World.
I think people involved in the outcry should realize this. Even though you would personally not agree to this, the cleanup is being done on your behalf. By no means does this justify the killing. But it does mean that your complains are tainted. There is probably not much you can do about the dogs in Sochi at this point, but Rio is two years away. If you want the officials there to not round up the dogs and put most of them down, this would be a good time to start working on that. Complaining about it after it starts will actually not help the dogs even a little.
But what would you do? I suppose one possibility would be to change the culture in Rio so that dogs are routinely spayed or neutered. I suppose you could agitate to get Rio to leave the dogs alone and let this particular Third World Thing alone during the pre-Olympic cleanup. Perhaps a combination of the two.
When you do that, of course, you will run smack into a different problem. You will be spending valuable first world resourses and demaning others to do the same to save the dogs, right before the wide sad eyes of starving children living in rags on the same streets. Or, at least, it is going to seem that way. Perhaps getting international funding to hire sad-eyed starving children to work with officials to manage the dog problem would be a good way to go. Perhaps something like that would start to change the culture of human-dog interaction in that particular city. Whatever solution is attempted, however, will have to be done at a massive scale. Rio is whopping big. In retrospect, it might have been a good idea to have started something like this in Sochi the day after the decision was made to have the Olympics there. That would be more of a bite size project. Also, it is probably, simply, too late for Rio. Two years is not enough time.
Pyeong Chang 2018?