BARANKOVA, Russia — Dogs rescued from Olympic Park who have been living in pens with mud floors and exposed to the elements now have a much better temporary home.
A metal structure with a concrete floor — about the length of a football field — has been built on the side of this mountain about 30 minutes from downtown Sochi. The building can house up to 250 dogs, some of which were moving in on Thursday.
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This is PovoDog, a dog shelter funded by Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska, who has nine dogs himself. Nadezhda Mayboroda, who heads the shelter, said that, long after the Winter Games are over, she hopes to continue working to find homes for the dogs at this shelter.
The problem is not something that the shelter can fix," she said. "We need more education (about the stray dog problem.) But that takes time."
There are two other shelters at this location, one operated by the Russian government, and another by an animal activist, Gontareva Ekaterina.
As for PovoDog, which currenly has about 100 dogs and takes in about 5 per day, the main objective is to place as many dogs as possible with Russians, said Irina Pashinkina, a shelter volunteer.
"We are really eager to find more people in Russia who would like to have our dogs. We do want the dogs to stay in Russia because they are used to the climate and it is quite difficult for them to travel such a long distance," she said. "But until people (here) want our dogs, we will do our best to shop the dogs anywhere in the world."
All dogs at the facility are in the process of being vaccinated, Pashinkina said, which will make adoption in foreign countries easier. She said that PovoDog is working with Humane Society International and plans to ship about 100 dogs to the U.S., where they will be distributed to Americans looking to adopt.
Social media has also helped the organization get the word out.
"We started a Facebook page, and had about 4,000 likes in two weeks," said Anastasia Markitan, another shelter volunteer. "We are really trying to use social media channels."
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As things progress with PovoDog, Mayboroda said she will increase her staff from five to at least 10. There are many volunteers who are helping as well, including an animal specialist who has been administering vaccinations.
Though several Olympic athletes have adopted stray dogs from Sochi, none have rescued any from PovoDog. The communications director for the U.S. bobsled and skeleton team adopted a mixed-breed dog from the shelter on Friday.
On Saturday, Vanessa Mae a professional violinist who competed in the ladies giant slalom competition (she competed under the name Vanessa Vanakorn), visited the shelter and spoke with Mayboroda as media followed the pair around. Though Mae, a dog owner, did not adopt any, she picked out two dogs for a friend.