A group of animal control vigilantes known as Doghunters have taken it upon themselves to control Russia’s stray dog problem. They believe that their actions–the poisoning and shooting of homeless canines–provides a public health service that Russian authorities can’t seem to manage themselves. Indeed, Russian cities do have a large populations of stray dogs, who travel in packs and feed on scraps from outdoor markets. The AFP reports that over 13,000 people are reportedly bitten each year in Moscow and 400 people have been killed by stray dogs in Russia between 2000 and 2010. Still, the Doghunters’ methods of dealing with this problem, and the way they boast about the killings online, has drawn the ire of animal rights groups. Those opposed to the Doghunters’ activities have labeled the group “Zoosadists” and say they kill dogs for enjoyment, not public good. And, because Doghunters bait their prey by leaving poisoned meat in public parks, pet dogs often fall victim, even those on leashes.
Online, Doghunters do admit they enjoy killing dogs and testing out various methods. They gleefully swap tips and congratulate each other on big kills on their website, which greets visitors with the words, “We are glad to greet you, human, at this portal dedicated to protection from dangerous animals.” The code of conduct for Doghunters, displayed on their site, states that Doghunters must be cold-blooded and confident in their actions, but that the Doghunter must not desire to make the dog suffer. Rather, the code states, any pain or suffering on the part of the dog must be regarded as a necessary evil. The code urges those who find themselves becoming fascinated or aroused by animal cruelty to seek psychiatric help.
Though the Doghunters’ stated goal may be safety, the problem of body disposal raises a public health issue. Though the Doghunter forums are full of information about how to kill dogs in public places, how to deal with critical coworkers and how to cook up poisonous treats, there seems to be very little concern for what to do with the dog once its dead. Presumably because the Doghunters are operating illegally and want to avoid detection, they leave the canine corpse where it is.
There have been few legal repercussions for Doghunters. Those whose pets have fallen victim to their bullets or poisoned sausages have fought to bring Doghunters to justice, but their cases often fall between the cracks. In 2009, the case of one Doghunter named Dmitry Khudoyarov, who two family dogs with an air rifle from the window of his car, killing an adult dog and disabling a puppy. Khudoyarov was charged with cruelty to animals and destruction of property and faced six months in jail, but the case was returned to the prosecutor for further investigation. Eventually the case was closed after the statute of limitations expired.