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Moscow - City Hall Accused of Animal Cruelty.

(Fonte: The Moscow Times)

Moscow dogcatchers resorted to poisoning and beating stray dogs to death as they followed orders from City Hall to clean up the streets ahead of the Eurovision Song Contest, animal rights activists said Wednesday.

Ecology for Human Rights, an animal rights group, has received about 50 complaints since last fall about the inhumane treatment of stray dogs at dog shelters, said Yelena Nadyozhkina, who organized a rally of about 70 people to protest the issue near the Pushkinskaya metro station on Wednesday.

She said dogcatchers often beat the animals to death and feed them poison that can cause them to choke to death.

"We are against inhuman treatment of animals and their killing," Nadyozhkina said.

Mayor Yury Luzhkov "recently" issued an order "reinforcing the catching" of stray dogs, said Olga Veldina, spokeswoman for the prefect's office in Moscow's central administrative district.

Veldina said she had no further details about the order and no information about methods used to catch and deal with stray dogs.

City authorities have allocated 3 billion rubles ($93.8 million) for stray dogs in 2009, including for their catching, neutering and vaccination, said, citing a May 7 City Hall order.

Moscow authorities removed stray dogs from the city ahead of the 1980 Summer Olympic Games.

Mikhail Dolbnya, an official who deals with stray dogs at the prefect's office in the Eastern Administrative District, said he had not heard about the City Hall order.

"Our brigades are working as usual," Dolbnya said.

He denied that stray dogs were treated inhumanely, calling such allegations "rubbish," and he said the dogcatchers save people from dog bites.

There are some 30,000 stray dogs in Moscow, and the city plans to build 15 shelters to house them by the fall, said.

Animal rights activists who attended Wednesday's rally — from teenagers to pensioners — said they hoped that Eurovision would draw the international spotlight to their cause.

Protesters held signs in Russian and English that read, "Murder in the Name of Eurovision," "A City Without Dogs Is Music Without Notes" and "Eurovision, Defend Animals From Cruelty."

Anna Bogomolova, an 18-year-old student carrying a sign that said "Eurokilling 2009," accused authorities of illegally clearing the streets of dogs "just because some foreign guests might not like them."

Animal rights activists are not the first to use Eurovision to promote an issue. Gay rights activists plan to stage Moscow's first gay pride parade on May 16, the final day of the contest, despite a ban by City Hall.

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