As a Russian-American, I am familiar with the culture that values expensive furs and leather boots well above the rights of the animals used to make the products. The furs are a status symbol and an asset. Leather is used because it’s more durable and reliable, a leftover of the Soviet Era when a month’s salary would buy you a pair of leather boots-if they were in stock. With such a love of animal products and until recently, a surprising disregard for the welfare of animals, it is no wonder that Russia has been notoriously slow to develop anti-animal cruelty legislation, falling far behind the EU and the United States. However, over the last decade small changes have started setting a trend of animal protection. For example, in 2007 legislation was put forth to protect small forest animals such as hedgehogs from being hunted or having their habitats deliberately damaged.
Over the past few weeks, another exciting development in anti-cruelty enforcement in Russia has emerged via the prosecution of Dmitry Hudoyarov in Moscow. Mr. Hudoyarov is accused of shooting and killing two dogs that were people’s pets. He is also believed to be responsible for shooting and killing around 30 stray dogs with a high-powered air rifle. The story is being closely covered all across the Russian news stations because this is the first time a person has been put on trial for killing stray dogs in Russia. If found guilty, Mr. Hudoyarov could face two years, a fine or a combination of the two. Animal rights activists are calling for the two year sentence since most of these types of crimes result in the perpetrator paying a fine.
In a country where dog fights are still legal in some parts, a maximum sentence for the shooting and killing these dogs would set an example for would-be offenders and be a step towards eliminating dog fights and other forms of animal cruelty which are still the norm in Russia. The outside of the courthouse is flooded with animal rights activists, people passionate about the protection of animals and others disgusted by the brutality of Mr. Hudoyarov. The public outcry, protests and empathy this case shows an increasing sign of awareness and public concern over the safety of animals. A concern which will hopefully be the foundation for greater protection of animals and maybe one day the elimination of an animal product based culture.