Watch the interview on YouTube (in Russian)

Georgi, thank you for having agreed to give an interview for the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum. As we can see, you are dealing with animal rights protection. Is this a relevant topic in Russia? Is your voice heard? Do you manage to catch people’s attention about what you are trying to promote?
The topic of animal welfare is relevant not only for Russia but for the whole world. However, there are countries where the situation with animal protection is bad on the state level, and public non-profit organisations have to step up. Russia is one of such countries; therefore, the activity of the NGOs in the field of animal welfare is high here: Rallies and public events dedicated to the protection of animal rights are the second largest events in numbers after political ones.
In some cities and regions, the practice of so-called “shooting” of stray animals is widespread. “For the Animal Protection” knows how to work properly with homeless pets. Tell us more about it, please.
What I am going to talk about is not our own invention, but rather the essence of international experience. First, with regard to homeless animals who just live on the streets, the most effective method is sterilisation, that is, depriving them of the possibility of further reproduction. Mostly, the claims of the people refer to dogs, whereas the lifetime of a stray dog is rather short – 2-3 years on average with maximum of 7 years, if the dog is taken care of by the people. During this time period, one stray dog can give birth to many puppies. Despite the fact that the survival rate is quite low, a separate flock of 10-15 animals can already form from several litters. The most effective action here would be to restrict the reproductive abilities, because it is biologically impractical to withdraw the dogs from the environment. There are many scientific works on the matter written by scientists from all over the world. The Perm State University undertook a study about it as well.
The withdrawal from the environment provokes, firstly, the growth of the population and, secondly, migration. For instance, if all the stray dogs are removed from Perm, dogs from the Perm Region will come instead, and dogs from the Perm Region will be replaced with the ones coming from other territories. In this case, there is a high risk of rabies outbreak: After all, homeless dogs represent a kind of a biological barrier between forest animals, which often act as carriers of diseases, and an urbanised territory that forest animals want to enter but are unable to.
We are talking with you in Perm, where on 1 July a meeting was held against petting zoos. What is wrong with them?
In my opinion, petting zoos are a cruel entertainment, which is now practised everywhere, as it is an affordable business in terms of organising it. There is a demand coming from a certain part of the population, which does not quite understand what is happening there. However, from the point of view of animal rights activists who are closely watching the work of such zoos, it becomes clear that the animals are kept under terrible conditions, constantly in contact with people. Typically, animals, except dogs and cats, do not need to communicate with people. Moreover, such contacts are dangerous for wild and farm animals. Therefore, when people touch puppies, kittens, chicks, they do not tolerate it and die. Finally, the animals are poorly cared for, that is, they are left without food or water for a long time, and without proper veterinary examination. As for wild animals, and there were cases when even Red Book species were kept under such conditions, they were not provided with the environment close to natural, not even on the level of an ordinary zoo.
How successful is your activity? It is known that in Russia the animal protection law has been discussed for a long time, and you also participated in the discussion.
We can talk about successful activities only in terms of what is completely up to us. Let’s say that we have a rescue centre here, about 350 animals passed through it last year, and we consider our work to be successful. If something depends on external factors, for instance, the deputies of the State Duma, from the local legislative assembly, the situation is not always optimal. We indeed made attempts to change the legislative regulation of the treatment of animals, wanted to include all the positive world experience there, so that homeless animals would cease to be a problem. Unfortunately, we cannot boast of any significant results. We have been interacting with the State Duma to work at a draft law on the responsible treatment of animals, but it has not yet passed the stage of the second reading. We tried to propose a bill at the level of the Perm Region; it was highly appreciated by a number of experts, but it has not yet been adopted either. Nevertheless, we do not plan to stop these attempts.
Tell us about a successful case, the “Matroskin” Animal Shelter.
For a long time, we had been engaged in helping animals by organising volunteer groups who worked in other shelters or temporarily took care of animals, but at some point, we decided that it would be easier for us to create our own shelter, because from time to time we had to keep 70-80 cats simultaneously. At the beginning, the shelter welcomed 20-30 animals, and then the number of its guests gradually increased. Due to dead owners or owners that abandon their pets, our shelter has been constantly replenished. There are so-called “grandmother’s apartments”, where elderly people keep many animals at the same time, and the animals have to be saved after their owners are dead.
The NGO “For the Animal Protection” is a member of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum. Why was it important for your organisation, for you personally, to become a part of the Forum?
As I said, there is a big cultural and practical gap in terms of animal protection between Russia and many EU member states; therefore, I would like to get an opportunity to interact with organisations that are engaged in animal protection in the European Union, to gain experience that, in my opinion, is many years ahead of the Russian one.
What would you like to wish to Forum member organisations?
I would like to wish them to actively interact with their colleagues. After all, even if the direction of their work does not coincide with the activities of another organisation, the Forum is a unique networking tool that allows for establishing personal professional relationships. The probability that through the first, second or third handshake you will find exactly what you are looking for is very high.

The interview was shot on 2 July 2018 by the Secretariat of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum in Perm, Russia.