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Russian billionaire sponsors shelter to house Sochi's stray dogs

By Mike Singer | CBSSports.com

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At least one shelter is working to gather up Sochi's stray dogs. (USATSI)

Faced with the prospect of hundreds of dead dogs as the Olympics approach – a result of Sochi's City Hall ordering the extermination of stray dogs – a dog shelter backed by a Russian billionaire is stepping up its efforts to save the animals.

Russian authorities claim these dogs are wild and potentially dangerous and have thus hired a pest removal company to exterminate them. A refuge, backed by billionaire Oleg V. Deripaska, has deployed a “dog rescue golf cart,” according to The New York Times, to find and rescue the dogs.

“We were told, ‘Either you take all the dogs from the Olympic Village or we will shoot them,” said Olga Melnikova, an organizer for the effort.

The cart is reportedly searching frantically for dogs to deliver to the local shelter. The shelter, described as a shantytown for dogs on the side of hill by the Times, is already housing 80 dogs. Many of the animals were displaced as a result of the venues built for the Olympics.

The dog-removal effort has been going on since October, but only recently came to light as thousands of journalists descended on Sochi for the Games.

In light of the latest negative attention, the IOC said that no healthy dogs were being killed.

“It would be absolutely wrong to say that any healthy dogs will be destroyed,” said Mark Adams, an IOC spokesman.

The shelter's volunteers have administered medical vaccinations to the dogs and are hoping that some of the Games' visitors will consider adopting the animals.

Deripaska donated $15,000 to get the shelter up and running and has pledged $50,000 per year for operating costs.

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