Vladimir Putin signs “Law on Responsible Treatment of Animals” into effect
MOSCOW, Russia––Possession and handling of pit bulls and other dogs of dangerous breeds is to be strictly regulated throughout Russia, under a new national “Law on Responsible Treatment of Animals” signed into effect by Russian president Vladimir Putin on December 26, 2018.
The new “Law on Responsible Treatment of Animals” also includes reinforced prohibitions on dogfighting.
Introduced in 2010 into the State Duma, the lower chamber of the Russian parliament, the “Law on Responsible Treatment of Animals” took final form after eight years of study and debate.
Reports for English-speakers emphasized other aspects
Summaries of the “Law on Responsible Treatment of Animals” broadcast by the English-language channels of the Russian news agency TASS and the government-owned RT (Russia Today) television network spotlighted many other provisions of the legislation.
Among the many provisions of the “Law on Responsible Treatment of Animals” are “requirements for ownership of pets and service animals, as well as for their use in cultural and entertaining events,” summarized Russian presidential news service representative Alexei Nikolsky.
Zoos & circuses
Under the heading of animal use in cultural events and entertainment, the “Law on Responsible Treatment of Animals” regulates the Russian equivalents of roadside zoos, petting zoos, and privately owned traveling shows featuring either exotic or domestic species.
ANIMALS 24-7 will soon examine, in a separate feature, the effect on circuses of the “Law on Responsible Treatment of Animals,” which entirely prohibits exhibiting animals in bars and restaurants.
Meanwhile, the focal purpose of the “Law on Responsible Treatment of Animals,” Nikolsky wrote, is to clarify “the rights and responsibilities of federal, regional and municipal authorities” in regulating the possession and use of animals other than livestock, wildlife, and those used for scientific research.
Updates animal care-&-control methods
The law “defines the legal status of animal shelters and sets rules for establishing, keeping and using them,” explained Nikolsky, adding that “From now on, the capturing of stray animals must be recorded on cameras and information about them must be made public.”
The “Law on Responsible Treatment of Animals,” added Evgeny Biyatov of RT, “also outlaws shooting or poisoning stray dogs and cats, which has been happening in many Russian cities in recent years. Homeless animals are to be captured, sterilized, vaccinated and released” with microchip identification.
But the aspect of the new “Law on Responsible Treatment of Animals” most welcomed by Russian citizens may be the emphasis it puts on the obligation of animal owners to avoid threatening or inconveniencing other people and other people’s pets.
No dogs off leash in public
The “Law on Responsible Treatment of Animals” states that animals may not be allowed to run at large in proximity to traffic and pedestrians, may not be unrestrained in elevators and “other areas of common use in residential buildings, as well as in shared yards, recreational areas, playgrounds and athletic fields,” according to the TASS summary.
Dog and cat owners are now required to remove excreta left by their pets in such areas. Communities may ban animals entirely from places where their presence may be problematic.
Extends breed-specific legislation across most of Asia
Most significantly, the “Law on Responsible Treatment of Animals” establishes breed-specific legislation for public safety over approximately an eighth of the land surface of the world, including a ninth of the human residents.
Together with the breed-specific legislation already in effect in China and many other Asian nations, the new Russian law means that breed restrictions will soon protect about half of the human population of the world.
The“Law on Responsible Treatment of Animals,” explained Nikolsky, “stipulates that dogs of potentially dangerous breeds can take walks only in a muzzle and on a leash. The only exception is when a dog walks on within a fenced territory belonging to the dog’s owner and marked with a warning sign.
List of “dangerous breeds” yet to be published
“The list of those dangerous breeds will be compiled by the Russian government” at a later date, Nikolsky said, but an April 2006 scientific conference on dog behavior held at the Moscow Institute of Evolution & Ecology, under the auspices of the Russian Academy of Sciences, appears to have established the regulator parameters.
Cherepovetsk State University researcher Irina Smirnova presented a comparative study of the behavior of 150 dogs when exposed to situations in which they could either react violently or await a behavioral cue from a handler.
Among the breeds represented were three pit bull variants: American Staffordshire terriers, bull terriers and American pit bull terriers. Other dogs included in the same experiment included English bulldogs, mastiffs, German shepherds, Caucasian mountain dogs, Central Asian shepherds, fox terriers, and Welsh terriers.
Pit bulls compared to other breeds
One purpose of the Smirnova experiment was to find out whether the behavior of pit bulls significantly differs from that of the Ovarchkas, Caucasian mountain dogs, Central Asian shepherds, Kangals, and other mastiff derivatives used in traditional Central Asia dogfighting––which is more like canine wrestling than a fight to the death of the loser.
In traditional Central Asia dogfighting, the dogs used were historically the same dogs used by the fighters to herd and guard sheep or goats.
In more recent times, dogs have been bred and trained specifically to win fights, before large audiences of gamblers. But the winner is still the dog who first knocks the other dog off his feet, at which point the fight is stopped.
German shepherds were most “disciplined”
Smirnova found that German shepherds were the most “disciplined” dogs in her study, most inclined to await a handler’s cue before reacting.
Pit bulls of all three varieties Smirnova tested, however, “reacted to the stimuli in 100% of cases,” she reported. Pit bulls “reacted immediately and violently to other dogs, food and a ball, by barking, rushing, and if possible, by attacking.”
Seeing other dogs “caused their strongest aggression,” Smirnova said.
Ten percent of the pit bulls Smirnova tested did look toward their handlers, she said, but “did so not for the purpose of waiting for a command, but from fear of being punished. Four percent of the pit bulls were totally uncontrollable, and only the lead saved the situation.”
“Pit Bull” gang terrorized Krasnodar
Smirnova presented her findings four years before the “Law on Responsible Treatment of Animals” was drafted. They came to be incorporated, in principle, into the draft law after a series of pit bull attacks beginning in the southern Russian city of Krasnodar, near the Black Sea.
Formed in February 2007 as a nonprofit organization, a Krasnodar-based street gang calling itself “Pit Bull” terrorized members of ethnic minorities for about three years before founder V.A. Gmyrya was convicted in September 2010 of “inciting social, racial, ethnic or religious hatred.”
To what extent the “Pit Bull” gang actually used pit bulls to “inflict grievous bodily harm” of the victims of attacks is unclear from the language of the sentence rendered by the Soviet District Court of Krasnodar, which was upheld upon appeal by the Judicial Board for Criminal Cases of the Krasnodar Regional Court.
However, the “Pit Bull” gang appears to have operated in emulation of the Ku Klux Klan, whose tactics included releasing “white dogs” trained to attack people of color in newly integrated neighborhoods. Pit bulls were the dogs most often used.
Convicting Gmyrya and dissolving the “Pit Bull” organization did not end the trouble in Krasnodar. Only two months later, in November 2010, an 85-year-old Krasnodar woman lost both of her arms and was left in a coma after her neighbor’s two pit bulls mauled her in her own yard, then attacked and badly injured the first police officer who tried to come to her rescue. Other police officers shot both pit bulls dead––a common event in the U.S., but at the time almost unheard of in Russia.
In October 2015, with the “Law on Responsible Treatment of Animals” apparently stalled in the Duma, Moscow Times reported that “Russia’s children rights ombudsman Pavel Astakhov called for introducing licensing for ‘fighting dogs’ after investigators reported two pit bulls killed a 2-year-old boy in Stavropol,” about 180 miles east of Krasnodar.
Left sleeping while his mother met his older sister coming home from school, the two-year-old apparently woke, wandering out into the yard of their home, and was fatally mauled.
Duma foreign affairs committee chair Alexei Pushkov went further than Astakhov, warning via Twitter that dog attacks would continue “until the owners of such dogs start facing trial — for murder.”
Attacks near Moscow
The event most influential in pushing the breed-specific aspects of the “Law on Responsible Treatment of Animals” appears to have been a series of attacks by eight pit bulls who ran amok in March 2018 in Kursakovo village, just 50 miles northwest of Moscow, the Russian capital.
The first victim, 18-year-old Oleg Shushunov, was reportedly found dead by a woman who wondered why a pit bull was sitting on a park bench. Shushunov and her girlfriend were expecting a child.
Four hours later the same pack inflicted “horrific” bites to the head and face of mother-of-one Kristina Rostova, 24, who lost half her scalp and an ear in the attack, according to Daily Mirror Russian correspondent Danya Bazaraa.